End of the road
MERRIMACK – The Merrimack High School girls soccer team had a strong entry into the playoffs, but on Wednesday, Concord ushered it out of the first round.
The No. 12 Crimson Tide took down the No. 5 Tomahawks 4-1 in the first round of the Division I playoffs.
The Tide (8-9) started rolling early with three straight goals in the first half. The first came four minutes in, when Caroline Andy beat Merrimack goal keeper Paige Gibson to the left corner of the net, and 15:40 later, Claudia Roy tacked on a second Crimson Tide goal on a breakaway shot that soared over Gibson’s head.
The Tomahawks (10-5-2) seemed to settle down a little bit with the 2-0 deficit, but the third Concord goal went in when Gibson mishandled a save sending the ball bouncing behind where Jessica Nelson knocked it in.
“It was a tough loss,” said Merrimack coach Eleni Floras. “I think that the girls were a little nervous at the beginning. They weren’t playing their game.”
The Tomahawks seized momentum with 5:18 left in the first half when freshman Rachel Mack beat Concord’s Rebecca Weld for a score.
“I changed the formation and that helped, but some tough shots in the end, didn’t help,” said Floras. “We had our opportunities, but we just couldn’t put the ball in the net.”
Lauren Goodspeed was put between the pipes for Merrimack in the second half. But 4:10 into the frame, Concord got its final tally when a bad bounce got the best of Goodspeed and the ball trickled into the net before the Merrimack defense could salvage it. Danielle Rossetti was credited with the score.
The Tomahawks’ offense finished strong with eight shots on goal in the latter half, but the Concord defense stood tall and Weld was ready to make some dynamic saves.
“I think we came out a bit stronger than they did in the first half,” said Concord coach William Nardino. “We have a lot of depth so we were able to continue to put more players in and I don’t think they were quite as deep. Some of their best players had to run a lot today and we did that on purpose to make them wear out.”
Weld made nine saves on the day while Gibson had four. Both teams conducted four corner kicks each, but none converted.
The Tide will travel to Nashua to take on No. 4 Bishop Guertin in the quarterfinal round on Saturday.
Despite the disappointing exit, the Tomahawks have had plenty of reasons to hold their heads high. Along with a 10-5-2 overall record, they wrapped up the season winning five of six games, including a 1-1 tie with No. 2 Pinkerton. In addition, Merrimack accounted for three of the five goals scored all year against No. 1 Exeter in a 5-3 loss on Sept. 24.
The Tomahawks will lose nine seniors including both goalkeepers.
“Nine very dedicated and great student athletes all around,” Floras said. “That’s the type of player you want to have.”