Tomahawks show sense of purpose in win over BG

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Merrimack's Carson Papp, right, breaks to the ball ahead of Bishop Guertin's Matt McMahon during the Tomahawks' 3-1 win Tuesday in the season opener for both at Stellos Stadium.

NASHUA – Merrimack High School boys soccer coach Mark Papp had the perfect phrase to describe his team’s mindset going into the season.

“Perspectve brings purpose,” he said, adding he stole that saying from a former mentor of his. “We’ve got 12 seniors, and they know it’s now or never.”

To make the Division I tournament, that is, something the Tomahawks haven’t done lately. Well, they played with purpose through much of a 3-1 season opening win Tuesday over Bishop Guertin at Stellos Stadium.

“We’ve just kind of built a team culture and everything follows around that,” Merrimack senior forward Jay Wozniak said. “We just kind of help each other out, never put each other out, just keep looking for improvement, even with the win today.”

Wozniak felt that the Tomahawks prepared well for Tuesday, and it showed. They got two goals and an assisty by John Paulhamus and one goal by Connor Sherman, Sherman’s tally opening up the scoring nearly 10 minutes in on a header. The fact that the ‘Hawks had three corner kicks in the first 10 minutes proved Wozniak’s point, and Paulhamus scored his first goal six minutes later as the ‘Hawks went into halftime up 2-0.

“Two years in a row we had challenges,” Papp said. “These guys got together in the spring and said, ‘We’re going to change it for next season.’ We know it’s not going to change in a one-week preseason, it starts early. I thought we came out with the purpose.”

From their perspective. Bishop Guertin also didn’t make the tourney last year with just five wins, and have 13 seniors – but six came from the JV. The difference between this team and last year’s, which unlike Merrimack was still alive mathemetically for the postseason in the final week, may be pretty simple to see right now.

“I think it was the six seniors who graduated, all six they were really good,” Cards coach Valdemire “Rocky” Roque said. “But we’re going to get there.”

Roque figures that this was a learning experience for the Cards, who really didn’t snap out of their funk until a rush by William McGregor Shea with about 10 seconds left in the first half. But he was thwarted by ‘Hawks defender Dylan Heiser before his shot could reach Merrimack goalie Jack Goodwin (three saves).

But Guertin played much better in the second half, and finally got on the board 15:30 into the second half on a Connor Silloway goal, beating Goodwin to his left off a steal.

However, Paulhamus rocketed one by Cards goalie Mike Poublon (six stops) off an Eric Gonzalez feed, a bang-bang play at the 70 minute mark for the clincher.

“These guys all have goals of changing last year,” Papp said. “It shows in their work rate.”

Where will these two teams be in about seven weeks? Who knows, but it might be fun to find out.

Guess it all depends on your perspective.