By Gianna Addario
---- — HAMILTON — As the regular season winds down, the Hamilton-Wenham girls soccer team is using games against the best competition to prepare themselves for the upcoming state tournament.
The Generals’ approach to the remainder of the season is to treat each contest as if it were a playoff game. They certainly did so in yesterday’s Cape Ann League matchup against a stingy, undefeated Newburyport team.
Despite the 1-0 loss, the host Generals hung around with the CAL’s top team after giving up an early goal. It wasn’t exactly the outcome head coach Alvi Ibanez was hoping for, but he was able to find pieces that his team can build upon moving forward.
“I liked this game because this is the type of team we’re going to see come tournament time,” Ibanez explained, whose team moved to 9-3-2 on the year. “I wanted to see if we were ready for that type of play.
“As the game went on, at times I thought we were ready and at times I thought we weren’t. So, we’ll continue to tweak the formations that we use and get better on our execution.”
The Clippers (13-0-1) notched their ninth shutout of the season, having given up just six goals. Their possession style of play can be frustrating for opposing defenders and results in their low goals-against average.
Carly Brand notched the game’s only goal and gave Newburyport, which outshot Hamilton-Wenham 6-0 over the first 40 minutes, the advantage early on.
“It was tough to give up a goal early like that,” said Hamilton-Wenham midfielder Suz Rose. “But I was proud of the way our team pressured them the rest of the way. Newburyport is a really strong team, especially in the middle, but we just had to work on keeping the possession.”
The Generals picked up the offensive pressure in the second half and moved to more of a possession-style like Newburyport. Instead of just kicking the ball upfield, Hamilton-Wenham tried to find the open player on the field to create runs.
Emma Beane, Jillian Kefals and Molly Eagar had some scoring opportunities and worked the ball hard along the sides of the field for the hosts. Phoebe Shaw and Carolyn Cook played exceptional defense and prevented many of Newburyport’s shots from ever finding keeper Cassie Vitale, who made eight saves.
When these two teams met earlier in the season Newburyport won 3-0, as the Generals were incorporating several new players into the system. This time around, Hamilton-Wenham was more poised defensively despite give up the quick marker.
“Newburyport is perhaps that best team in the league and have some very good forwards,” added Ibanez. “Giving up that first goal put us in a little bit of trouble, but the plan was not to panic and to adjust as they brought things to us.”