Bears heading in the right direction

Avery Ayres of Coast Guard (12) heads the ball as Elisa Johnson of Mitchell College defends during the second half of Wednesday night's game at New London. Host Coast Guard won the non-conference women's soccer game 6-0.
Avery Ayres of Coast Guard (12) heads the ball as Elisa Johnson of Mitchell College defends during the second half of Wednesday night's game at New London. Host Coast Guard won the non-conference women's soccer game 6-0. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo

New London Coming off the program's most successful season in recent years, Coast Guard is riding a wave of momentum.

There's a postiive vibe surrounding the women's soccer team.

"I feel really good about the team...," junior Caroline Eastman said. "Just in general things have been going real well. People are really positive about the season."

Coast Guard is hoping that good feeling translates to more victories this season and a deeper run in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference tournament.

On Wednesday night, the Bears showed off their developing game with a 6-0 non-conference win over Mitchell College. Eastman scored two goals to fuel a potent attack.

The outcome was not a surprise.

Coast Guard (2-0) entered the game with a clear edge in experience and overall talent. The Bears improved to 6-0 in the series.

"Coast Guard is a nice team," Mitchell coach Damian Houlden said. "They're physically strong. They're well-coached and well-organized. There's a much higher level of maturity within that team than what we have at the moment. And they played simple. And they worked for each other.

"And that's something we have to do as we go forward."

Mitchell (0-1) is several marks lower on the growth chart than Coast Guard, which returned nine of 11 starters from a team that posted a 6-11-2 overall record and qualified for the NEWMAC tournament for the first time since 2003.

Still, the Bears led by just one at halftime on senior Liz Runci's breakaway strike before blowing it open. Sophomore Alyssa Sato, junior Sarah Hills and freshman Gabrielle Auzenbergs also scored for the Bears while senior Lindsay Duplessis finished with two assists.

Coast Guard exhibited more composure in the second half and its relentless attack eventually wore down a hard-working Mariner defense. The Bears finished around the goal better than they did in their opener when 25 shots generated just one goal in a shutout of Anna Maria. Goalie Holly Moore made just one save to earn her fifth career shutout.

The Bears are clearly headed in the right direction.

"Our upperclassmen are really doing a nice job and giving some direction to our younger players," CGA coach Susan Grant said. "Our captains are doing a fantastic job. And our back line of defense, we have a solid group back, which has proven to work out well for us in the last two games."

Their overall confidence is growing, too. Last year's postseason trip did wonders for the program.

"Now they can believe that this is actually possible, for us to make an appearance in the tournament...," Grant said. "There's a lot of momentum coming off last season. We had a real strong offseason in the spring and that helped push us forward to this season. We're looking forward to some good things this season."

The Mariners are still a long way from their desired destination. They showed a few positive signs on Wednesday. Goalie Shirley Palmer stopped eight shots.

Houlden wants his team to focus on being competitive rather than the outcome.

"It's not about trying to win every game," Houlden said. "It's about our performance. Are we being competitive? Are we trying to compete and trying to win the ball?

"They were working really hard, which is terrific. But they weren't working smart. This is a very, very young team. ... We have to develop leadership and get these guys talking. We have to get them continually working hard. But they also have to play simple.

"... We have a lot of work to do. We're healthier than last year and we've got better numbers than last year. We just have to put it together."

g.keefe@theday.com
Twitter: @GavinKeefe

Emily Matthews of Coast Guard, right, tries to control the ball as Lindsay Noble of Mitchell College defends during the first half of Wednesday night's women's soccer game at Coast Guard.
Emily Matthews of Coast Guard, right, tries to control the ball as Lindsay Noble of Mitchell College defends during the first half of Wednesday night's women's soccer game at Coast Guard. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo
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