Defense proved the name of the game when Westbrook visited Windham on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 15, and both goalies – the Blazes’ Kimmy Goddard and the Eagles’ Savannah Rice – stalwartly turned away the handful of shots they faced. After 60 minutes of regulation and a pair of eight-minute OTs, the teams went their separate ways with nothing but a 0-0 draw to show for their efforts.

Windham head coach Cory DiDonato looked on the bright side of the result, expressing happiness with it. “Absolutely,” she said. “[My girls] worked hard. I would’ve preferred to win, but I’m super-glad that they kept it a tie. It’s better than a loss.”

“Scouting on [Windham],” said Westbrook co-head coach Beth Murphy, “It sounded like they’ve got a pretty good crew – which, obviously, it was a pretty good game … I’m pleased; we’ll take a tie.”

The Eagles began the game looking strong: They controlled the ball a hair more and applied a hair more offensive pressure than did the Blazes. To their credit, Westbrook repelled Windham’s every foray and soon grabbed a share of the momentum, going on the attack for a long stretch. But neither could they capitalize.

“I think us dominating kind of sparked Westbrook, like, ‘Oh,’” said DiDonato. “I don’t feel like my girls started to play down, but I do feel like at one point we started to play a little frantic. We had to have a timeout, talk about, ‘Just pull it together, take a deep breath.’ Then they went back out there and picked it up.”

The Blazes’ surge caught the Eagles off-guard, as DiDonato confirmed: “I think so,” she said. “We were pushing offensively and it was great, then once Westbrook picked it up a little bit, [we] had to adjust, and it took [us] a couple minutes. But I’m proud; we had changes in the roster. I’m proud they picked it up and were able to work so well together today.”

“I felt we pretty much dominated,” said Murphy. “They got the first 10 minutes of the game, and I think our girls finally woke up and started playing their game. We just couldn’t finish. We had our opportunities; they were just wide of the goal.” 

Both outfits admirably tied up the midfield in attempting to thwart the opposition’s assaults. “Today we passed a lot better and we supported one another a lot better,” DiDonato said of the tactic. “We didn’t give up when things got hard; we continued to work together. Just trusting that one another were going to be there and using the passes helped keep it even.”

“No real good shots,” said Murphy. “And we didn’t have a whole lot of corners, I don’t think. That’s just good game out in the field. That’s a good sign, I think, for both teams.”

“Our midfielders knew they had to mark up on Windham at any free hit,” said Murphy. “We try to get our kids to move to the ball; don’t sit and wait for it, because they’re going to capitalize; she’s got some fast kids out there.”

Both squads generated chances as the game progressed, but the Blazes did the lion’s share of the attacking for much of the remainder. Westbrooker Avery Tucker earned a close redirect attempt around the three-minute mark of the second half, for instance, then a solid shot from the top of the circle with about 30 seconds to play. In both cases, however, Rice showed her stuff with impressive saves.

Similarly, Blaze Danielle Breunig dashed off a nice drive up the right side of the field late in OT1, but under tight coverage by Windhamite Taylor Tibbetts, could never curl centerward to pull the trigger on a quality ball.

“Some of those were pretty good shots,” said Murphy. “You just take what you can do. Luckily we held off and got a tie out of that.”

Murphy praised Tucker and Maddison LeBeau. “Maddison was my kid that was out there pretty much trying to control the game, with Avery. Those are my two younger midfielders. Tucker really played hard; she really kept the ball away from them. I would’ve hoped she might’ve taken it a little more herself, and not be so unselfish. If you want to win a game, sometimes you just need to take control and go in and take it yourself.”

“We needed to be more aggressivel offensively,” said DiDonato of her strategy heading into the game. “That’s something we’ve been working on all season and continue to work on. Our defense is really strong, we can carry it up the field, and our offense is really strong, too, but we just aren’t attacking the pads as hard we can be. Once that starts happening, things are going to change. We’re going to start scoring more. They play with it a little bit, they don’t get a quick shot off, and if there is a shot, there aren’t a lot of people there to get the rebound. So that’s what we’re working on.”

The nil-nil final moved Windham to 2-2-1 on the season. The Eagles dropped earlier games to Cheverus and Thornton, while picking up wins against Bonny Eagle and Biddeford. They fell 6-0 at Scarborough on Monday the 19th and were scheduled to host South Portland on Wednesday the 21st – after the American Journal’s print deadlines – and travel to Portland on Saturday the 24th.

Westbrook, meanwhile, moved to 3-1-1. The Blazes opened their schedule with a loss to Cheverus, but then scored Ws versus Deering, Bonny Eagle and Biddeford. They emerged victorious from a narrow bout with South Portland on Monday the 19th and were scheduled to welcome TA on Wednesdsay and visit Sanford on Saturday.

Windham’s Megan Griffeth shunts a ball forward as Westbrook’s Alexis Witham steps in to interrupt.

Westbrook Abigail Symbol does what she can to break the ball out under heavy Windham pressure.

Westbrook goalie Kimmy Goddard tracks the action as it closes in.

The Eagles’ Carlee Richmond blasts a ball forward.

Blaze Danielle Breunig and Eagle Taylor Tibbetts vie for control near the sideline.

Windhamite Julia Libby cuts cross the midfield vs. Westbrook.

Westbrooker Maddison LeBeau fires off a ball as an Eagle descends.

Windham keeper Savannah Rice earned a shutout vs. Westbrook on Thursday – but then, so did her Blazes’ counterpart, as the game ended in a 0-0 draw.

Windhamite Olivia Verrill charges forward up the right side of the midfield.

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