Tomahawks jump on Cardinal miscues for 3-1 win

Staff photo by TOM KING Merrimack's Mary Kate McMackin, left, scores the Tomahawks' second goal Wednesday as she beats diving Bishop Guertin goalie Jillian Bianchi in what ended up being a 3-1 Tomahawks win at Bedford's Global Premier Complex.

BEDFORD – It’s possible that the sight of the Bishop Guertin High School girls soccer team brings out the best in the Merrimack Tomahawks.

It certainly looked that way on Wednesday at the Global Premier Soccer Complex. The ‘Hawks took a stunning 3-0 halftime lead and held on for a 3-1 win, handing BG its first loss while evening their own Divison I record to 2-2.

“It’s always a good game with them, it’s a rivalry game,” Merrimack coach Rick Morgan said. “Actually, a lot of the girls know each other, they play club (soccer) together. Knowing each other I think made it a tough battle.”

Tough and physical, especially in front of both goals. The victim in Merrimack’s aggressiveness was Cards starting keeper Jillian Bianchi, who had five saves but was constantly being pressured. If the ball was loose in front of the goal, the Tomahawks pounced on it.

“I thought they did a really nice job capitalizing on our mistakes,” Guertin coach Pat Mulcahy said, his team now 2-1. “They were the better team today. They outworked us, they won all the 50-50 balls, so kudos to them. Well deserved for Rick and his girls. … When you don’t win those loose balls, that’s what’s going to happen.”

After a couple of missed Cardinal opportunities at one end, Merrimack took advantage of a Guertin turnover at the other, the Hawks’ Linsdsay Erickson firing a bullett past Bianchi in the 17th minute for a 1-0 lead after a Bianchi clear pass was intercepted by Abby Vance.

About 13 minutes later, Bianchi made a great stop on a direct kick but the ball bounced away to allow Merrimack’s Mary Kate McMakin to pounce on it and force it into the empty net for a 2-0 lead. And in the 35th minute, Riley Streeper scored on a blast that Bianchi had no chance on for the 3-0 lead. ‘Hawk assists on the day went to Morgan and Mary Vance.

The Tomahawks had four corner kicks in the first half.

“We’ve been struggling to find our rhythm,” Morgan said. “I think they found their rhythm, but the shots didn’t go their way and it was a little late. … But we’ve had trouble finishing, so it was nice to see the girls come out and do that.”

Tomahawks keeper Caitlyn Moran had nine saves as Guertin predictably put the pressure on in the second half. A Meghan Lord shot glanced off Moran’s fingertips about 10 minutes into the second half to make it 3-1, but the ‘Hawks held on. Guertin had other chances – senior forward Julie Nigro was constantly trying to get free – but came up empty.

“Caitlyn made some good saves, they were dangerous,” Morgan said. “It was almost the tale of two halves for the most part. It was very stressful even at 3-1.”

In that theme, second half Cards goalie Erin Morris made four saves to keep Guertin in it.

“I thought we played better in the second half,” Mulcahy said. “But obviously, when you’re down 3-0, it’s hard to come back. But I was proud of the way we fought back.”

Both teams are looking to bounce back from tough seasons a year ago. While Mulcahy said he’ll be interested to see how his team responds after this one, Morgan was happy to see how his team came back after a 3-1 loss to Windham Tuesday (familiar score, all of the ‘Hawks games have had that final thus far).

“We had a tough loss (on Tuesday), so mentally the girls were back into it for a good challenge,” Morgan said.

Especially after seeing green and gold uniforms on the other half of the field.