WINDHAM – Get the ball in your opponent’s penalty area, soccer coaches love to preach, and good things will happen.
In Westbrook’s case on Monday night, those good things included two second-half goals for a 2-1 victory over Windham in an SMAA boys’ soccer match.
Owen Gillis scored the winning goal, collecting a loose ball in the Windham box and driving a left-footed shot from 12 yards into the center of the goal with 4:29 to play.
“It was off a scramble, and the ball came to my feet and I put it away,” Gillis said. “We started a little rusty, but we turned it around at the end.”
The goal regained the lead for Blue Blazes, who with 21:22 to play fell victim to Spencer Hodge’s beautiful, 30-yard kick from near the left sideline, which curled inside the far post to tie the score at 1 for Windham (1-1).
Kaleb Kent gave Westbrook a 1-0 lead about 10 minutes into the second half when he knocked in a shot at the goal line. The play was set up when Luther Williams, playing a long throw-in into the Windham box, headed the ball toward goal. The ball fell into a scrum, where Kent got his right foot on it.
“We’re young and inexperienced, and we make some mistakes at times,” Windham Coach Wally Leblanc said. “Having said that, I think our squad played to the best of their ability. We need to limit some of those scrum balls, clear those out and not feel that pressure when the ball is back there.”
Leblanc, who teaches health at Westbrook High, is very familiar with the Blazes players, and he was eager to see how his squad would match up. The game Monday had an early-season feel to it, with frequent turnovers preventing either team from stringing together more than a few passes.
Windham held the edge in shots (18-14), and Westbrook had four corner kicks to Windham’s three. Each team had shots carom off the crossbar in the first half. Both teams also drove balls off the posts as well.
With about eight minutes left, Gillis’ low direct kick from 25 yards slipped past Windham’s wall, hit the near post and bounced out of keeper Tyler Connors’ (seven saves) hands and out of bounds.
“We haven’t played since last Tuesday,” a 5-2 win at Biddeford, said Westbrook Coach John C.L. Morgan. “We were a little rusty in that first half; the second half was better. Both teams had numerous quality chances, and it was a game that definitely could have gone either way.”
Rusty or not, Westbrook is off to an impressive 3-0 start after finishing 2012 at 0-13-1. Morgan credits returning players’ experience and an infusion of new players for his team’s turnaround.
Both teams face a busy week, with four games in six days.
“It’s rough to have a loss on the first one of four,” Leblanc said. “This is going to test our character to see how we respond. I’m looking forward to it. It’s OK to test character and see how we can build throughout the season.”