haverhill girls soccer

After a disappointing open to the 2010 season, a 0-5 loss to Central Catholic, the Hillies girls returned home to face the Sachems of Pentucket High Thursday afternoon.

Home sweet home.

Led by sterling goaltending by freshman backup Kelleigh Cokely, who made 20 saves, including four sprawling stops on clear breakaways, the Haverhill girls won their 2010 home opener, 1-0, to bring the team's regular-season record back to .500, at 1-1.

It certainly wasn't easy, though.

In a game that featured the Pentucket sweepers venturing frequently as far up as midfield, the Hillies spent the majority of the first half chasing speedy Pentucket forward Haley Desrosiers, as she and the Sachem offense had opportunity after opportunity - to the tune of 15 shots - to send one past the busy Cokely.

But to no avail.

"Kelleigh was phenomenal," Hillies Coach Fred Tarbox said. "In that first half, she stopped, what, four breakaways?"

Outshot 15 to 1 in the first half, Tarbox knew he had to make strong halftime adjustments to counter Pentucket's offensive firepower.

Along with the usual starting defensemen, senior Nicole Evancha and senior co-captain Cassie Lefevbre, Tarbox sent his midfielders, junior Kaleigh Fitzgerald and Cicely Menter, back into the Hillies zone to put more pressure on the Sachem offense.

It worked.

"Once we adjusted," Tarbox said, "it prevented any more breakaway opportunities."

Thirty-five minutes into the second half, in one of the rare moments in which the Hillies pressured the Sachem defense, senior co-captain Shannen Styrczula found herself in the right-hand corner and pounded a crossing pass that senior midfielder Molly Gleason one-touch passed Pentucket goalie Sam Bomba, giving the Hillies a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

The 2010 girls soccer team has fought through much adversity already, with a multitude of injuries, forcing the coaching staff to adjust and give more playing time to underclassmen.

"They all played excellently," Tarbox said.

On the first day of practice, starting defenseman Jazmine Hussein broke her foot, ending her junior campaign. Starting goalie Meghan Gulbransen has been out since the second day of practice with an injured ankle.

Senior forward and co-captain Molly Fitzgerald is battling leg injuries.

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