Girls’ soccer: Merrimack Valley finds offense in 2-0 homecoming win over Pembroke

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 10-01-2023 1:25 PM

PENACOOK – The Pride wanted to move the ball better through the middle of the field and create more opportunities inside the box. In the first minute, sophomore Izzy Navoy had her first shot on goal. In the third minute, her second attempt found the back of the net.

The Merrimack Valley girls’ soccer team played on the front foot most of the match and created several scoring opportunities, and senior Colby Magoon tacked on an insurance goal in the 71st minute as the Pride won its homecoming match, 2-0, over Pembroke Academy.

With a 7-1-1 record, MV currently sits in second place in Division II, and while the Pride’s defense has been strong all season, production in the attacking third hasn’t been a strength.

“I think the team really played together,” MV head coach Kylee Yam said. “We had sort of a rough week, but they bonded together. We tried to keep it simple, passing on the ground, give and go’s. …We’ve been talking a lot about movement off the ball. That’s helped us be more dynamic and have more opportunities. We’ve also been focusing on getting it in the box before we take a shot instead of taking it outside so much.”

The Pride took the coaches’ advice to heart and within the first minute, Navoy found herself alone on a breakaway in the box, bearing down on the Spartans’ net. Sophomore goalkeeper Laila Al Shawafi (nine saves) turned away the shot with a kick save, but it set the tone for the rest of the match.

Just two minutes later, Navoy received the ball from junior midfielder Corrine Palhof in the middle of the box, relatively unmarked and neatly tucked her attempt low and inside the far post for a quick 1-0 lead.

While Al Shawafi was kept busy all match, Pride senior keeper Hannah Verville only needed to make one save.

Yam credited senior midfielder Juliana Palhof with playing an especially big role in controlling the pace of the game and possession. Junior Taiylor Stinson also played well in the central midfield.

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“There were times (the match) became kickballish, but we were able to focus and have some composure,” Yam said. “I was really proud of them.”

Despite the more frenetic nature of the second half, the Pride strung together enough passes to produce another goal, with Stinson feeding Magoon, whose strike from just outside the top corner of the 18-yard box, clanged off the inside of the post, past the fingertips of Al Shawafi, before crossing the line.

While Saturday’s performance is a sign of consistency building within MV’s squad, the same can’t be said for Pembroke.

The Spartans now sit at 5-5-0, a record that has included close matches against the top teams in the division, but some lackluster, underwhelming ones as well.

“We didn’t look like we came to play, particularly in the first five minutes and in the last 10 minutes. That really hurt us,” Pembroke head coach Jess Kaufman-Desrochers said. “This week poses two more challenging games with top-level teams in the division and we have to be sharper. We played a really pretty game on turf earlier in the week (a 4-0 win at Kingswood) and that touch and that finesse, we didn’t see out here this morning and we have to get that back. The girls are capable of it, but they have to show themselves and the division that they can be more complete.”

More double local D-II girls’ soccer matchups are slated for this upcoming week as MV hosts Bow on Friday, and Pembroke hosts Coe-Brown and John Stark on Tuesday and Friday, respectively.

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