SAUGUS — An early lead paid dividends for the Saugus girls soccer team Monday.
The Sachems scored the lone goal of the opening half and played ahead all the way en route to a 3-1 win over Northeastern Conference rival English at Anna Parker Field.
“We weren’t at our best out there, and we took a little while to get things going, but it was still a solid win,” said Saugus coach Chris Coviello. “We possessed the ball really well, but we didn’t make a lot of smart decisions. Luckily we were able to score a few times, but we have to take better advantage of our opportunities.”
Jess Carter scored two goals in the win for the Sachems, while Shaylin Groark scored one goal. Jessica Nazzaro had one assist.
The lone goal for English was scored by Melissa Zayas, last season’s leading scorer. Jullianna Perry, Anadia Whelton, Ravyn Rapley, Malaz Abdelrahman and goalkeeper Elysse Newson also played well in the loss.
“That was our best performance so far this year,” said English coach Ed McNeil. “We kept it close the whole game until the end, but we just couldn’t hold on long enough. But if we play like this all year, we’re going to be a challenge.”
It was a slow start to the game for both teams, although Saugus dominated possession from the early minutes on. Once the Sachems started to gain their footing, the passes became crisper and the ball movement became smoother. Eventually, with just under 25 minutes left in the first half, Saugus broke through. A loose ball that was bouncing around the box in front of the English net found its way onto the foot of Carter, who quickly knocked one into the back of the net to give Saugus a 1-0 lead. The Sachems continued to dominate in time of possession for the rest of the half and took that one-goal lead into the break.
Saugus came out quickly in the second half, scoring about 10 minutes into the second half to go up 2-0. The goal came on a great assist from Nazzaro, who slipped a pass through two defenders to Groark for the goal.
English wasn’t done fighting, however. Just over five minutes later, Zayas scored her fourth goal of the young season to put the Bulldogs on the board at 2-1.
But just five minutes after Zayas’ goal, Saugus delivered a crushing blow thanks to a free kick. After a Saugus player got taken down in the box, the Sachems earned a free kick and chose Carter to take it. She didn’t disappoint, placing a great ball just under the crossbar to make it 3-1 and effectively seal the win.
“Getting that third goal right after they scored was big for momentum,” said Coviello. “(English) scored that goal and started getting into it, so for us to come right back with a goal of our own was good to see.”
Despite the loss, McNeil’s encouraged by the Bulldogs’ play and thinks English can build on that positive momentum going forward. English (0-2) takes on Classical Friday (4).
“That’s been our problem in the past, not being able to carry our good play over from one game to the next,” said McNeil. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do that this time around.”
Saugus (1-1) visits Salem Wednesday afternoon (4).
“We’ve got to go to the ball harder,” Coviello said. “Salem is going to go hard to the ball, and they have some good players. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”