LINCOLN — One school is trying to build a team, the other is trying to build a program.
Both were highly competitive in their schoolboy soccer season opener Thursday, but Zach Averill scored two goals as Lee Academy built an early lead and held on for a 4-3 victory over Mattanawcook Academy.
“Zach is one of the quicker guys we’re going to feature this year, and probably one of the quicker guys in the Penobscot Valley [Conference], at least in Class C,” said first-year Lee coach Ty Thurlow. “He’s a senior, so he knows the game and knows what to do.”
Also among Averill’s responsibilities is a leadership role on a team that is blending some new international students with its returning players, a process accelerated by preseason work both on and off the field.
“Usually it takes some time but this year we’re doing something different,” said Averill. “We had two-a-days during the summer, which we had never done before, and our new coach has done a great job of conditioning us. We have to eat lunch together, too, so we have conversations and get to know each other and got more comfortable with each other before the season.”
Mattanawcook, meanwhile, is in just its second season as a varsity program, but after a winless 2009 campaign the Lynx believe they are improving.
“We’re 10 times ahead of where we were last year,” said MA coach David Ham. “We scored six goals all last season, and we scored three in this game. If you saw the program the last two years [the first as a club team] and saw how much we’ve progressed, you’ve got to believe that we’re not too far away.”
But Lee had the fast start on this day, jumping on the Lynx for a 3-1 halftime lead as Juan Herranz added a goal and an assist before intermission.
“I think the first half went very well,” said Thurlow. “We played as a team, and those three goals helped our confidence because we had two preseason games that were just ugly to watch. We scored one goal in the second game and it was a deflection off another player, so to see those three goals was good for us.”
Gavin Higgins scored amid a scramble in the goal crease with 4:40 left in the second half to draw MA within 3-2, but Lee’s Dustin Sawtelle answered 1:29 later by spinning past a defender along the left wing and lining a shot just inside the near post.
MA’s Patrick Kites then made it three goals in a 1:50 span, taking the ball deep along the right wing before turning and blasting a shot that nestled just under the crossbar and just inside the far post with 2:50 left.
Lee finished with a 21-14 advantage in shots. Goalies Devin Peters and Mike Gerrish of Mattanawcook — both first-time varsity starters — made eight saves each.
“For our first game I was really happy with the way the kids played,” Ham said. “There were a few defensive lapses, but overall we played hard. I was really proud of the way the kids came back, getting down two goals but then keeping the pressure on.”
Averill intercepted an MA pass deep in the Lee offensive end and went in alone on Gerrish to give the Pandas a 1-0 lead eight minutes into the match.
MA’s Jake Levangie-Thompson tied it at 1-1 with 23:15 left in the half on a 30-yard shot from the right wing.
Herranz gave Lee the lead for good with 8:36 left in the period on a 25-yard direct kick from the center of the field.
Averill made it 3-1 1:28 later as he took a pass from Herranz on a quick restart in the middle of the field and dribbled in before grounding a shot to the left of Gerrish.