MANSFIELD, Mass. – Wednesday night’s Div. 1 South preliminary round matchup started with a spell of pressure from the visiting team, as Nauset put Mansfield on its heels for the first minute or two and earned the game’s first penalty corner.
The remaining 58 minutes were completely dominated by the Hornets, last year’s D1 South finalists. Mansfield rolled to a 5-0 win at Alumni Field with five different players getting on the score sheet and the Hornets forcing Nauset goalie Lucy McNamara to make 19 saves (14 in the first half alone).
When asked if this was the most dominant performance of the season, Mansfield coach Theresa Nyhan said, “We’ve played a few games like this, but it’s nice to be able to score some goals too. We reached our goals today. We wanted quick passes through the midfield and we wanted to get the ball deep right and put the pressure on.”
McNamara was forced into action early and often by the Hornets. Emily Ierardo started the onslaught in the third minute with a point-blank chance that the goalie kicked aside. Three minutes later Caitlin Whitman had a shot off a corner that was saved and three minutes after that it was Olivia Horn who had not one but two shots kicked away.
Another penalty corner in the 12th minute saw McNamara make another stop on Ann Maher’s blast from the edge of the circle and, despite the goalie’s heroics, it felt like the breakthrough was imminent.
The opening goal came on a rebound as Ierardo had another chance from close range denied but the ball skidded out to Amalia Todesco and the senior hit a low shot through traffic to make it 1-0.
Nyhan explained, “We went with our speedy lineup and we have to give credit to Emily Ierardo…she is relentless all by herself putting tons of pressure on. Everyone turned it up.”
McNamara was forced to stand on her head to keep the Hornets at bay and she denied Horn again in the 18th minute with a diving save then dove back across goal to make a second stop. Mansfield kept pressing and a third shot hit a foot of a defender on the line to give the Hornet a penalty stroke that Whitman coolly put away to double the lead.
The scoring opportunities kept coming for Mansfield, which forced 10 penalty corners in the opening half (to just three for Nauset) and saw goalie Molly Norton spend almost the entire 60 minutes as a spectator with little to do.
Nauset defender Madison Morris cleared a pair of chances off the line with seven minutes to go until halftime and McNamara closed the first half with a flurry, making stops on shots by Mariana Palanza and Heather D’Ambra.
“They kind of put a girl right on the goal line,” said Nyhan of the Nauset set-up. “They didn’t come out and pressure us either; it kind of worked for us.”
Any hope for Nauset was extinguished early in the second half when Mansfield tacked on a third goal just two minutes after the break. Kristina O’Connell played a ball into the crease that was tipped by Ierardo but saved by McNamara. The ball broke kindly for Palanza, who stepped up and tipped it into the empty net.
“Our talk was just to draw a couple corners early,” said Nyhan of the team talk at halftime. “Defensively they had a high percentage of their team in that circle, so it gets a little crowded. What we did today really was shooting the ball early. We were just firing it on goal.”
That plan continued in the 40th minute when Todesco ripped a shot from the right side and O’Connell turned it in at the near post with a clever deflection. In the 57th minute, Mansfield sealed the big win by adding a fifth, Mairead Dunn stepping up from her defensive position and firing a low shot through legs in front and into the bottom corner.
With the win, 13th-seed Mansfield (13-4-2) will travel to face No. 4 seed Sandwich on Friday afternoon in the first round.