By Nick Curcuru
---- — GLOUCESTER— The Gloucester girls soccer team’s season opening match with Salem Tuesday night at New Balance Track and Field at Newell Stadium was a learning experience.
The young Fishermen came into Tuesday’s match returning very few players from 2012 and were facing off against a Salem team that is expecting improvements this season.
In the season opener, Gloucester turned in a performance expected out of a young team early in the season. The Fishermen certainly brought the effort and did not give the Witches anything, but because they are still trying to find their identity and grow comfortable playing with one another, they did not execute as well as their more experienced foes.
Gloucester hung around for a half, but Salem broke things open in the second half with a 5-1 win.
“We are a young team, and you could see at times that we are still learning how to play with each other,” Gloucester first year head coach Ali Walsh said. “Our main goal tonight was to go out and compete. I thought we did in the first half, now we will work on sustaining that for the whole game.”
Salem (1-1) controlled play from the opening whistle keeping Gloucester (0-1) on its heels for the vast majority of the 80 minutes of play. When Gloucester was able to play the ball out of harms way, the Witches midfield and defense was there to make sure there was no scoring opportunity.
“We played great in the midfield,” Salem coach Fred Day said. “We really wanted a good effort tonight because we thought we gave away our last game a bit and we did what we needed to do.The effort was there and the execution was there all night.”
The Witches got on the board eight minutes in when Freshman Tayla O’Leary scored on a nice re-direct off of a corner kick. Salem would threaten throughout the first half but the Gloucester defense held strong and the score remained 1-0 at the break.
Fishermen sophomore goalie Sabrina Maciel played a big role in keeping the game close at the half recording 13 of her 22 saves in the first frame.
“Sabrina had a very good game with 22 saves,” Walsh said. “The score doesn’t do any justice to the way she played.”
Gloucester was still in the game when the whistle sounded to start the final 40 minutes of play, but Salem quickly shut the door.
O’Leary picked up her second goal of the game just two minutes into the half taking advantage of a quick restart, driving to the net past the Gloucester defense and beating Maciel to give the Witches a 2-0 lead.
Just under 10 minutes later the freshman would pick up the hat trick with a perfectly placed snipe just under the crossbar from a few feet inside the box to give Salem a 3-0 lead.
The Witches weren’t done either as Deema Hijleh, the team’s leading scorer in 2012, put forth a great individual effort taking the ball more than half the length of the field blowing through the Gloucester midfield and defense breaking in all alone for the score and a 4-0 Salem lead.
Gloucester would finally get on the board in the 70th minute on a nice individual effort from Keyra MacLean, who fought through a pair of Salem defenders for the goal. MacLean’s goal would turn out to be Gloucester’s only shot of the contest.
Hijleh would add one more goal in the 72nd minute to cap the scoring at 5-1.
While the outcome was not what Gloucester desired, Walsh was still quick to credit several players including MacLean, Maciel and midfielders Tess Benson and Timia Buckley, who shadowed Salem’s best player Alix Bryant, who will be playing for the University of Hartford next fall, and did a nice job.
“There’s definitely a lot to work on,” Walsh said. “But we did some good things too. I thought Tess Benson played a great game and Timia Buckley played well on (Salem’s) best player. We will get back to work at practice this week to keep improving.”