Girls’ soccer: Concord gets back on track, beats Manchester Central-West 3-0 on an emotional evening

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 09-27-2023 5:23 PM

CONCORD – On a night to celebrate the life of Kelsey Mayer, the former Concord High soccer player who died in March at the age of 18 in a car crash, the Crimson Tide did everything it could to turn a somber commemoration into a joyful event.

With Mayer’s friends, teammates and family all in attendance and many wearing black No. 12 Mayer shirts, Concord did not disappoint. Three first-half goals, from Ella Goulas, Anna Makee and Whitney Vaillant, were enough to sustain the Tide (4-3-1) in the 3-0 victory over Manchester Central-West (1-7-0) under the lights at Memorial Field on Tuesday.

The win snapped a mini two-game losing streak for Concord and catapulted the team back over .500. Here are three notes from an emotional Tuesday night:

Concord kept the pressure on: For much of the 80 minutes, the Tide’s offense played downhill. They controlled the ball, kept it in the offensive end and consistently fired shots toward the net.

All three goals came off of rebounds, with the goal-scorers standing in the right places at the right times.

“That’s something that we’ve told the girls all year: Press, press and press higher and follow your shots, because you never know what’s going to happen if the goalie pops it out in front, it hits off the post, bounces. You’ve got an opportunity to put it in,” Concord coach Andrew Mattarazzo said. “Our girls followed it and put the ball in the back of the net tonight, and I think that was good for us.”

Much of that stemmed from the Tide asserting itself as the more dominant team from the opening whistle. For a group that’s struggled to score for most of the season, it was a welcomed improvement.

“The best thing that I saw tonight was that we just stayed on the front foot, stayed attacking, and that’s the way we play,” Mattarazzo added. “We play a high-pressure system, and we just stay on the front foot, stay attacking. They did that from the word ‘go,’ and they did that the whole second half as well. …

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“You saw that with the three goals in the first half, which is good for us because we’ve had some trouble scoring goals this year. For them to get three in the first half, it’s huge. That was the most impressive thing, that they put their foot on the gas pedal and just started going.”

A much-needed bounceback after two losses last week: While no losses are generally “good” losses, Concord had a pair of so-called “good” losses last week, to Bedford (8-1-0) and Portsmouth (6-2-0). Both defeats, 1-0 to the Bulldogs and 2-1 to the Clippers, obviously stung. But they also provided a chance for the Tide to prove to itself that it can compete with the top teams in Division I this season.

“Just a couple touches here, a couple touches there, and it could go the other way,” Mattarazzo said of the two games. “I think that’s good for our girls to see and understand that you have to play the games on your schedule. So I think that’s the best thing for our girls is just to test and see where we’re at at that point. I think that was big. … Just flip the book and keep going.”

Community shows support for the Mayer family: In some sense, the game felt secondary. Photo collages of Mayer welcomed people to the field, players wore Mayer’s No. 12 on their jersey sleeves and attendees tracked down Kelsey’s father, Jeff, for hugs. Amidst the tears and melancholy, the wooden bleachers at the football field filled in to about 60% capacity and everyone – from high school and college friends to parents of former players who played with Mayer – showed their support for the cause.

“It was a great atmosphere tonight right from the start, just people coming in, seeing people here support the cause,” said Mattarazzo, who coached Mayer during her senior year. “That’s what I told my girls, that it was bigger than the Concord High girls’ soccer team, it was the Concord community and the soccer community of New Hampshire coming together for the cause and just doing the right thing and being in the right place. … That was the goal for us tonight, to bring that back and bring everybody together to celebrate it. I think it went very well.”

Read more about the night to commemorate Mayer here.

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