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Howland connects to beat Poland

HOWLAND — Malina Andamasaris finished off a great pass from Rylie Daniluk six minutes into the second half to help lead the Howland girls soccer team to a 2-0 win over visiting Poland on Saturday night.

It was a play that had Howland coach Greg Mitchell beaming with joy.

“We did a great job in the second half possessing the ball, and then the second goal was terrific,” Mitchell said. “We had been struggling connecting in the final third of the field. That goal was an example of the things we’ve been working on. We’re trying to get there and it was nice to see that work pay off for us.

“We don’t truly have one or two dominant goal-scorers, so we have to do it by committee, by sharing the ball and finding that open player who is making a run into the box and then finishing it all off. That’s the culture we want to create now, so that when people come to see Howland play, we want them to see a nice brand of soccer. So tonight was a step in the right direction.”

The Tigers, who improved to 2-3-1 with the non-league victory, were not pleased with their performance in the first half despite leading 1-0 on a goal from Kalliopi Gentis with 25:13 left before intermission.

“I felt in the first half we were out of sorts,” Mitchell said. “Even though we were, we were up a goal. And goals have been kind of hard to come by for us of late. So that was a positive, and we regrouped and got back to playing how we normally do in the second half.”

Howland finished with 10 shots, six of which were on target, as Poland goalkeeper Deena Kassawat made four saves.

In the first half, Poland had three shots and Howland had two. Both teams had one shot on goal.

However, Gentis made that shot on goal count, as she chipped the ball over the head of Kassawat, who left her line to cut down the angle.

“We got caught ball-watching on their first goal,” said Poland coach Joel Monaco, whose side fell to 2-3. “They did a really good job of pulling us in, making us watch and then they made a nice run behind us and (Gentis) made a real nice shot.”

Defensively, Howland was spot-on all night and helped keeper Gillian McMurray log a clean sheet with four saves.

“We were trying to find our footing in the first half and seemed somewhat passive on offense,” Monaco said. “Howland is a really good team. They move the ball very well and they’re excellent defenders with good goalkeeping. We knew it wouldn’t be easy and then we didn’t follow the game plan.”

Poland sought to attack from the outside but kept getting bottled up inside thanks to Howland’s hard work. The Bulldogs looked a bit hesitant in the first half, not taking shots three or four times when it appeared opportunities were present. They finished with seven shots.

“We wanted to feed the outside, but we kept getting stuck in the middle,” Monaco said. “We just couldn’t execute that game plan, especially in the first half.

“One thing we’ve been preaching is not to react, but to act. That premeditation of where the ball’s going to be, we want to be there. But today we were reacting instead of acting and being decisive. It’s like we were a step behind (Howland) everywhere on the field.”

McMurray was in control in goal, from her communication to her use in distribution.

“Gillian is great back there for us,” said Mitchell, whose team plays at Harding on Monday. “She’s like an extra player with her feet. That relieves a lot of pressure from us as well. We can use her to help possess the ball in the back. We stressed that in the preseason, getting her to use her feet more.

“It gives a nice rhythm to the game and we feel very comfortable using her. The possession starts from there. She’s also been a strong communicator in the back for us, just keeping us organized.”

Communication is an area Monaco believes his team must improve.

“We’re going to get together, get back to work, focus on executing our game plans and really work on our communication,” Monaco said. “Seeing the better teams and seeing how they communicate, that’s something we need to learn from. Howland had lots of communication. It’s tough because we have a younger team this year, but we’ve got to improve on that.”

The Bulldogs play at Hubbard on Monday and at home against Niles on Wednesday.

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