Mainland stays hot with win over Millville
LINWOOD — Alex Weidman's soccer style is to play possession, get the ball out to the wings and work the offense from the outside in. The Mainland girls soccer coach was pleased with the way his Mustangs executed that offensive plan against Millville on Tuesday in a fairly comfortable 3-1, Cape-Atlantic League American Conference win over the Thunderbolts.
Mainland (8-1-2, 5-0-1) got things going early, as in the 13th minute Georgia Schoen played a ball in to the box and sophomore Christine Napoli poked in a rebound to put the Mustangs up 1-0. The Mustangs added another goal before halftime, then pushed the lead to 3-0 early in the second half. Millville (5-2-1, 4-2-1) couldn't put much together offensively until the final minute, when Abby Daigle found some daylight and scored.
"This is the second time we've played them. We like to keep possession and I thought we did a pretty good job of doing that. They have some dangerous players up top and they are a good team, but I think we got into our offense pretty well today and tried to control the game as much as possible," Weidman said. "The concept of our offense is to just keep possession, and we try to break teams down that way. No one is faster than the ball, so we're going to try to move the ball as fast as we can. So, that is our concept, to move the ball through the midfield and out to the wings as fast as we can — keep it to one or two touches and keep possession."
"We dominated the whole game and kept possession. We probably should have had more goals, but we took it to them and played well," said senior Lexi Miller. "We do really well moving the ball and switching the field, and opening (the midfield) up to play the through balls and get some opportunities for crosses. We really dominated in the midfield, I thought."
With Molly O'Shea and Aly Nazarok holding things down in the back, that allowed midfielders such as Jules Cino, Sammy Williscroft and Schoen to push forward along with Miller, Napoli and Mary McLaughlin.
McLaughlin scored Mainland's second goal, albeit in an unconventional way. Napoli sent a cross in from the left corner and, trying to beat Millville keeper Megan Sooy to the spot, McLaughlin actually knocked the ball into the goal with her knee. That gave Mainland a 2-0 cushion heading into overtime, and the Mustangs salted things away in the 45th minute when Miller scored on a breakaway.
A long ball was sent through, and Sooy was kind of caught in no-man's land. If she came off her line she would have to beat Miller to the ball, but if she hung back, there were no defenders in the area to stop a one-on-one. Sooy chose to come out and Miller beat her to the ball, leaving a wide-open net.
"There have been other games when I've missed on shots similar to that," Miller said. "But throughout the season I feel like I've gotten more composed. Going into that run, I was hoping it would go over everyone, and then I just relaxed and tried to play it right into the goal."
Millville came into the game with a chance to tie Mainland for the lead in the CAL American, but the Mustang were able to corral what had been a hot offense. The Bolts came into Tuesday's game having scored 12 goals in their previous four games, but in their two meetings this season, Mainland has dominated, outscoring Millville 6-1.
Mainland has some winnable games in the next nine days before a very tough stretch to finish out the regular season, including games against Egg Harbor Township, Absegami and Ocean City. Those three teams have combined for 20 wins already this season.
"That's one of those things we've been talking about since the start. Some of these games coming up have been a goal for us for a while, so we've been gearing up for it and preparing for it," Weidman said. "So, hopefully that mental preparation is going to carry us through because there are going to be some good, tough games coming up. But I think we're ready for it."
"We just need positivity, and winning helps with that," Miller added. "We just have to keep it going, keep the energy up as a team. We just have to take it one step at a time and keep winning."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays