(written, shot and edited for Somerville Patch)
Newton South girls’ soccer players Katherine Cullen and Tori Swartz each scored twice, and dominant midfield play by Newton South led to the Lions beating the Highlanders, 5-0, Friday afternoon in Newton.
Newton South stayed on the offensive throughout the first half thanks to dominating midfield play. The Highlanders defense just could not clear the ball, with the Lions always playing the ball up to their strikers almost as soon as the ball had been kicked away. Swartz, a junior, anchored the Newton South midfield, making sharp passes and out-muscling opponents for loose balls.
Somerville freshman goalie Alyssa Hachey was under a near-constant barrage of shots Sunday, and the Lions finally converted midway through the first half. Swartz fired a shot on net that Hachey barely deflected away. Freshman Cullen immediately moved in to shoot again. Hachey blocked the first shot, but Cullen collected the rebound and scored from point-blank range.
Cullen scored again two minutes later, this time dribbling around and through the Highlander defense before scoring a tight-angle shot to put the Lions up 2-0.
“We work on possession,” Newton South coach Doug McCarthy said. “It doesn’t always happen the way we design it, but today it did. Our girls were able to control that center part of the field, and doing so, it opened up everything else for us.”
Because of strong midfield possession, the Highlanders did not get a shot off in the first half, with Lions goalie Emma Friedman only needing to leave the net four times to collect overpasses. The Lions, meanwhile, got off 11 shots.
For the Highlanders, senior defender Jesselyn Vasquez remained unfazed by the extra pressure from Lions strikers. Vasquez never stopped sprinting, angling and jostling with strikers for loose balls.
“Jesse’s always full of energy,” Somerville coach Jason Lenicheck said. “She’s really, really quick. She’s able to cover ground really, really well.”
Vasquez’s unceasing effort may have backfired 32 minutes in the first half, when her knee bent the wrong way after fighting with a Lion for control of the ball. Vasquez did not return in the first half, and Lenicheck used her more sparingly in the second.
Without Vasquez’s energy, and despite strong communication by senior captain and center defender Kellie Hagerty, the Highlanders immediately struggled against the Lions’ attack in the second half.
A 25-yard pass to Swartz resulted in one goal, then a corner kick to Swartz led to another on a nifty shot off Swartz’s head that made it 4-0 Newton South just a few minutes later. McCarthy said Swartz’s header did not surprise him.
“If you watch her in the middle of the field, even, she’s up on all of those balls coming up, those goal kicks, those punts from the keeper,” he said. “That’s really a strong part of her game.”
A banking shot off the right goalpost by freshman Elizabeth Barry midway through the second half made it 5-0 Lions, but the Highlanders offense responded with improved and aggressive play to finish out the game.
Both Ella Tyler and Milla Maia put shots on-goal, and sophomore Rachael Berry at one point dribbled the ball deep into Newton South territory. That single Somerville scoring opportunity ended, however, when no other Highlanders ran to back up Berry.
The Lions finished Friday’s game out-shooting the Highlanders, 14-2. Still, Lenicheck said the game could be a positive learning experience for Hachey.
“The big thing I hope for her is that she’s going to learn how to direct people,” Lenicheck said. “As a goalkeeper, if you’re sitting behind everybody, you can see the whole field. You can put one of them a little bit more left, one of them a little bit more right, and you can command where they’re going to be and organize your defense.”
With the win, Newton South improved to 3-4 overall, including 2-3 in the Dual County League. Somerville fell to 1-4-1 overall, 1-2-1 in the Greater Boston League.