The Merrill girls soccer team opened their season Thursday with a 3-2 win over Amherst.
Merrill’s Bri Grosskurth opened the scoring at 3:44 in the first half, assisted by Mae Litschauer. Amherst answered with a goal of their own at the 24:44 mark. The score stood tied at 1-1 as the first half expired.
Amherst took a 2-1 lead on a goal at 47:50 of the second half, but Litschauer pulled the Bluejays back to even with a goal at 56:30, assisted by Hunter Zecca. Grace Heldt netted the game winner off an assist from Litschauer at the 79-minute mark.
“I’m extremely proud of the girls for fighting back and grabbing the win,” said head coach Kyle Hahn. “We knew Amherst wasn’t going to be an easy opponent and that proved true when they went up 2-1 early in the second half. Credit goes to our girls for showing a lot of heart and determination to get back in the game and eventually find the winner.
“We had three different players score this game which is exciting to see. Bri, Mae, and Grace all took their goals really well and should expect to keep scoring this season.”
Merrill had 8 shots on goal to Amherst’s 7. Two Merrill goalkeepers split time in the net. Maria Lane had two saves in the first half, giving up one goal. Kaylee Bowe had three saves in the second half, giving up one goal. Amherst’s keeper had 5 saves.
Split in Green Bay
On Saturday, the Merrill girls traveled to the Green Bay Southwest Invite, where they were 1-1 on the day. The Bluejays opened with a 3-1 win over New London before taking a 3-0 loss to host Green Bay Southwest.
Against New London, Grosskurth got the Bluejays on the board first with an unassisted goal at 6:43 of the first half. New London evened it up with a goal at 35:16 to close the first half in a 1-1 tie.
In the second half, Litschauer gave Merrill the lead with am unassisted goal at 63:27. Another Litschauer goal, this time off a penalty kick at 76:32, gave Merrill the 3-1 win.
Merrill had five shots on goal. Bowe had nine saves in the net for the Bluejays.
“It’s never easy to play games on Saturdays and it showed in a pretty lackluster first half,” Hahn said. “However, I give the girls tons of credit for turning things around in the second half. They really seemed to absorb the halftime talk and executed the different points that Coach Bialecki and I emphasized during the break. Our passing game improved tremendously, everyone seemed to have more confidence and composure on the ball, and we found a way to stick two more in the back of the net and keep a second half clean sheet. Bri and Mae continue to show their attacking prowess and Hunter was right on the edge of getting her name on the score sheet, as well.”
A half hour later, Merrill ran into a tough Green Bay Southwest team in the second game of the day. Green Bay Southwest took a 1-0 lead at the half and tacked on two more in the second to take a 3-0 shutout win. Merrill mustered one shot on goal in the game and Bowe saved 13 for the Bluejays.
“Not the result we were hoping for, obviously, but a pretty good performance despite what the score line suggests,” Hahn said, “While I think the outcome of this game would have been a bit different if our girls had fresher legs, Green Bay Southwest does deserve a bit of credit. They kept the ball moving and were excellent at changing the point of attack.
“I think our girls did a great job of limiting their opportunities despite being so tired in this game. Our approach was tailored around the fact that they would have the ball for a majority of the game. We set up balanced defensive and midfield lines that proved tough to break down. Kaylee Bowe had an excellent game in goal and made some crucial one on one saves that kept the game from getting away. We had a couple players that needed to come out due to injury and fatigue, but that gave a good number of our role players an opportunity to get some solid minutes in. Overall, this was a good test in preparation for Everest and East this week.”