(Amesbury MA) “MK (McElaney) gives great corners and they always somehow come to my head,” said Avery Hallinan.
Twice this afternoon in the first half, the Indians turned set plays into goals and defeated Manchester-Essex, 2-0, at Cashman Elementary School.
Avery ended up with an assist and a goal.
“This was the best we’ve looked for a while,” said Amesbury coach Adam Thibodeau afterwards. “We worked together as a team. We defended as a team. It was old-school Amesbury.”
Another tough outing for the Hornets (2-10-1).
Their inability to score goals this season has offset their hustle and strong goaltending (Madi Cook).
The Hornets have been limited to four total goals in this season’s thirteen games. In the last nine games they have scored only once.
ME had several glittering chances today (as my pictures will show) but came up empty.
Senior Emalia Collins had a break-in from the right late in the second half that Amesbury GK Zena Fitzgerald turned away.
A goal there and that 2-0 Amesbury lead would have been cut in half and the momentum would have shifted to the Hornets.
“A 2-0 lead is the scariest lead to have,” said Coach Baker. “We just needed a goal.”
“Zena has kept us in every game this year,” said Coach Thibodeau. “We have had a string of very talented goalies at Amesbury.”
Amesbury (6-6) had defeated Manchester-Essex, 2-0, over a month ago with two second half goals.
“It took us a while to score last time,” recalled sophomore Cali Catarius. “This time we scored early.”
Seven minutes into the first half, MK McElaney sent a deep free kick toward the ME goal. As the kick came past the far post, Avery Hallinan slid in between two defenders to head the ball.
I thought Avery had headed the ball into the net because of the instant celebrating. Wrong. Avery had indeed headed the ball but back toward the front of the net.
There stood junior Lidya Belanger. Off Lidya’s shinguard went Avery’s header and into the net.
“That first goal was almost mine,” said Avery, “but it’s okay. I’ll take the assist.”
“Lidya was in the right spot,” said Coach Thibodeau. “The best goals are when you don’t have to shoot.”
It was Lidya’s first career goal.
Near the end of the first half, MK McElaney lined up a corner kick.
“We noticed last game with Manchester-Essex that the back post was a little open,” said Coach Thibodeau. “We want to create chaos in front of the net.”
The Cashman field is narrow and reaching the far post for a strong kicker like MK is a regular occurrence.
This time Avery was in the midst of several Hornets defender but elevated to redirect MK’s corner kick into the ME net.
“We’ve gotten killed on set plays this season,” said Coach Baker.
In the second half, the Amesbury senior trio of Avery & McKenna Hallinan and MK McElaney put pressure on the Manchester-Essex defense several times.
“We’ve been playing together for probably ten years,” recalled Avery. “We work well together.”
Manchester-Essex GK Madi Cook was left to face Amesbury attackers alone several times but earned a second-half shutout.
Riley Doherty: “Defensively, we held our own.”
Cali Catarius: “I am okay with playing anywhere. (Cali had been a striker.) We played well through the middle. Our passes were better than in previous games. Riley and I are a very good team back there. We’re working on turning and playing the ball up the field.”
Coach Baker: “We have a great bunch of girls. It’ll get better. We just didn’t do as well in the final third of the field as we would like. Our passing was an issue and they capitalized on our mistakes.”
Avery Hallinan: “We were a lot more focused today. All of us hustled.”
Cali was part of the Amesbury softball team that lost the one-run heartbreaker to Turners Falls in the state finals in June. “That still is a sensitive subject,” said Cali when I asked her if she had gotten over that loss. “We’ll get them next year.”
Avery Hallinan: “I want to play basketball in college. I like UMass Boston (her sister McKenna is going there for soccer), Endicott, and St. Joe’s.”
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)