Boys’ soccer: Merrimack Valley’s season ends with a whimper
|Published: 10-25-2023 12:08 PM
PENACOOK – Merrimack Valley’s season has been one of head-scratching outcomes, both good and bad.
On Tuesday against No. 11 Plymouth (8-7-2) in the preliminary round of the playoffs, the No. 6 seed in Division II turned in dud. For a team that took down previously-unbeaten Lebanon, 1-0, on Oct. 5 and took Bow, the No. 2 seed, to double overtime in the final game of the regular season, the 3-0 loss on Tuesday reflected a disappointing end to the up and down season.
“When we play together as a team, we play well, and we can beat the top teams on any given day,” head coach Ken Fuller said after the loss. “You can’t show up half the time and expect things to happen.”
In the first half against the Bobcats, MV generated some chances, but the Plymouth defense stayed locked in from the opening whistle. Then in the 36th minute, Plymouth midfielder Chance Twomey scored to put the visitors ahead. When the Bobcats’ Dylan Webster added another goal 30 seconds into the second half, any remaining fuel in the fire seemed to dissipate for MV. Twomey’s second goal of the afternoon in the 63rd minute was merely icing on the cake.
Injuries forced the Pride (9-7-1) to play without three players key to the team’s success throughout the season when they were healthy: sophomore midfielder Vuk Korasic, junior defender Carsyn Perkins and goalkeeper Trevor Simonds. As a result, sophomore Jacob Baggett – who hadn’t played with the varsity team all season – was thrust into the starting goalkeeper role. He made several key saves, especially during a frantic sequence around the 15th minute when he turned away three chances, but the offense didn’t help him out.
“We just couldn’t put the passes together to move forward with the ball and take advantage of any of the chances we got,” Fuller said. “But kudos to Plymouth’s defense. They locked us down, and we couldn’t figure out how to break through it. They countered when they needed to and capitalized on mistakes.”
While Tuesday’s loss was an upset based on seeding, the performance mirrored the inconsistent nature of the Pride all season long. Entering the offseason, Fuller said, the returners will need to figure out how to improve some of the intangibles.
“We’ve struggled all season with teams that come out and just have the passion,” he said. “That’s something we lacked a majority of the season was having a full 11 that had that drive and that passion to come out and play hard and want to win.”
Change can’t wait until next fall, though, to be effective.
“I think it’s just creating a mindset and changing the mindset of what we currently have and building it starting in the offseason in the spring getting the work going and then continuing through the summer,” Fuller said. “Hopefully it will continue into the season, so we’ll see what happens with it.”