WASHBURN, Maine — His team not having not played a game in 10 days, Ashland girls soccer coach Peter Belskis was a tad apprehensive that his team would be a bit rusty.
It turns out the Hornets shook off the cobwebs fine and rode a strong defensive effort to a 1-0 victory over a tough Washburn team here Friday afternoon.
The Hornets’ back line was superb in front of senior goalkeeper Taylor Baker, especially after losing junior stopper Whitney Donovan to a head injury early in the match.
Donovan was injured going for a 50-50 ball with a Washburn attacker, and Belskis didn’t want to take any chances early in the season.
“We didn’t want to take a chance and put her back in with a good welt on her head,” said Belskis, whose club improves to 2-0.
The Beavers, who haven’t allowed more than two goals in a game yet this season, fall to 0-2-3.
Both teams were a tad tentative in the first half, as both the Hornets and Beavers found it somewhat difficult to penetrate into the offensive third, mainly thanks to the play of both teams’ back lines.
The Hornets finally broke through at the 27:20 mark as Jessica Jimmo sent a perfect through-ball to Kayla Cote along the right flank and the unmarked Cote raced toward the goal and beat Beavers goalkeeper Maegan Saucier inside the left post.
That would be the only offense Baker and the Hornets would need, as their stoppers and sweepers did an effective job of neutralizing the Beaver attackers and not allowing any second-chance scoring opportunities.
“It was kind of hard just because we lost (Donovan) but it worked out pretty well, a lot of girls stepped it up today,” said Baker, who made six saves on 11 shots.
It was Baker’s counterpart, Rayah Saucier, who minded the Washburn net in the second half. She kept the Beavers within striking distance in the second half with a number of point-blank stops with Ashland attackers looking for the knockout punch.
“She saved probably a 4-, 5-0 game, I think; made two, three saves at the end that probably should’ve been goals, but that’s soccer,” said Belskis.
Rayah Saucier split time in net with sister Maegan, who played the first half.
The Hornets had their chances offensively in the second half, but were a bit selective with their passes, which Belskis said resulted in part from the long layoff.
“We pride ourselves in our passing and today we didn’t execute,” he said. “I think that might’ve been (because of the) 10 days off.”
Washburn had its own chances in the second half as well, the best one coming on a direct kick by Rebecca Campbell, but Baker came up with the stop to keep Ashland’s lead intact.
“They were coming in pretty good and our defense stuck it out pretty well,” said Baker.
When the Hornets did establish scoring chances, they worked the flanks effectively and gave their forwards a chance to put the ball on the goal.
Even though his offense did struggle, Belskis knows the season is still young and there is plenty of time to iron out the kinks.
“We got the ‘W,’ and that’s the most important thing,” he said. “Nobody looks at how much won the game by but at ‘W’’s, This is a learning game for us.”
Belskis also pointed at Washburn’s tough back line, which gave Ashland all it could handle.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams (we’ll play) for sure,” he said.
The Saucier sisters collaborated to make nine saves on 17 shots for Washburn.