Fleming’s speculative poke enough to shoot down Mercy

Karlin McIntyre has been an offensive force, producing six goals and three assists in five games for Bishop McGann-Mercy.

Maggie Fleming later admitted it was almost more of an afterthought than anything else. The senior forward saw a ball bounce her way, so she figured she might as well take a whack at it.

The East Hampton Bonackers are glad she did, too, because her toe poke resulted in an early goal that stood for a 1-0 victory over the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs in a non-league girls soccer game on Monday in Riverhead.

“I wasn’t really planning on shooting it, it just kind of came,” Fleming said. “I was like, ‘Oh, a ball,’ and I just kind of toed it in. It wasn’t a real shot.”

But it was enough of a shot to make the difference between a win and a tie.

Fleming’s third goal of the season at 9 minutes 6 seconds came after touches by Jamie Munoz and Raphaelle Franey.

Cole Brauer and Kathryn Hess split the shutout with one save apiece for East Hampton (3-1-2), which has won its first two games in Suffolk County League VI. McGann-Mercy is 1-4, 1-1 in League VIII.

Fleming is adhering to the advice of her coach, Mike Vitulli, who wants his players to feel free to shoot when they have the opportunity.

“She’s really taken ownership of trying to get goals, and she understands the concept that if you don’t shoot, you can’t score,” Vitulli said. “She gets hungry in the box and she looks to get her shots.”

Vitulli said his team, which played in a developmental league and lost seven games by one goal last season, wants to improve, particularly on the offensive end. In its previous game, East Hampton pumped in four goals against the Amityville Warriors, and Vitulli was hoping for that sort of an output Monday. Although the Bonackers held a 13-5 advantage in shots, they put only three shots on goal.

“I thought we played very well in the defensive middle third of the field,” Vitulli said. “On the offensive third, we created a lot of opportunities, but we weren’t able to convert on a lot of scoring chances. We still need to focus on shooting the ball and making good decisions on the offensive third.”

“We’ve been shooting pretty much every day,” he added. “We pretty much focus on striking the ball and shooting. It’s just a continuous process, and I hope we get better at it.”

Fleming concurred with her coach’s assessment of East Hampton’s play. “We know how to play the ball correctly, we just don’t know how to finish it, run through the ball,” she said. “We need to work on that.”

East Hampton came within inches of a second goal. In the 72nd minute, Maysie Makrianes struck a direct free kick from about 20 yards away that flew over goalkeeper Amy Boden and slammed off the underside of the crossbar. Paloma Tavera followed up on the rebound, but drove it wide of the goal.

East Hampton faced an improved McGann-Mercy team that has shown an ability to put the ball in the net. The Monarchs have eight goals from five games. Karlin McIntyre, a junior forward, has been an offensive force, producing six goals and three assists herself. McIntyre and another junior, midfielder Brieanne Bieber, cover a lot of ground and bring a good deal of skill to the field.

McGann-Mercy Coach Jacki Paton said McIntyre is “a difference-maker on the field as well as Brie Bieber. The two of them are all over the place, and they just create everything. Karlin draws three or four people to her every time she receives the ball, so if we play away from her a little bit once in a while, I think we’re going to be a lot more dangerous.”

Despite ankle injuries that sidelined four players, including Katherine Kalczewski, a transfer from New Jersey who would be a starting stopper, the Monarchs are seeing positive signs. Amanda Burriesci has been playing confidently at sweeper, reading plays and cleaning up through balls.

“We’ve definitely progressed a whole lot,” said McIntyre, who left Monday’s game briefly after a bug flew in her eye. “We are starting to work better as a team. Every game it’s getting better and better.”

Paton can foresee more goals coming down the line. “We’ve improved tremendously since last year as far as teamwork is concerned,” she said. “We get up front more. We get into scoring situations more, and if they continue to connect on one or two passes, they’re going to create more opportunities.”

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