Owls shoot for quality control

Girls soccer: No. 7-ranked Westminster is working harder for better shots rather than just more shots. It has resulted in a 3-0 record and high goals for the season.

High Schools

September 19, 2001|By Nathan Max | Nathan Max,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Westminster girls soccer coach Bryan Shumaker took an inventive approach before this season began: He told his players to take fewer shots.

"We've been more concerned this year with the quality of our offensive chances as opposed to the number of them," Shumaker said. "The finishing is an emphasis, but not so much just finishing, but how you finish and where you are going to finish from. We had games last year where we might have 25-30 shots, but no quality chances. I don't know if it's working, but I'm not going to argue with it yet."

So far, that approach has been working: The seventh-ranked Owls have won their first three games, outscored opponents 11-2, and have pulled off two upsets. Westminster defeated then-No. 4 Notre Dame Prep, 2-0, in the season opener before beating Patapsco, 7-1, and then-No. 8 Mount Hebron, 2-1. And although the Owls may be the area's surprise team to this point, no one in Westminster seems shocked.

"We set our expectations high from the beginning," Shumaker said. "When you play quality teams, you know those are games you can play a quality match and not get the result. I'm pleased that we have gotten the results, because we've played reasonably well. I certainly don't think we've reached our full potential yet."

Success is not new for the Westminster program. The Owls won the 1999 Maryland Class 4A title, but nine starters graduated from that team. A less experienced 2000 squad had difficulty scoring, finished 5-6-4, and was ousted in the first round of the state tournament.

Now, Westminster has nine seniors and eight returning starters, including two - senior midfielder Tirza Ridgely and junior midfielder Megan Mullins - who started on the 1999 state championship team. A third starter, senior defender Casey Brengle, was a major contributor off the bench in 1999.

"I think we have as much talent, although we might be lacking the physicality we had that year," Ridgely said when comparing this year's Owls with the 1999 state title team. "Last year we really missed those seniors who had graduated. We did OK; it just wasn't the same team. We lost a lot of games in overtime, which just came down to not being able to put the ball in the net. I think sometimes you can have experienced players, but if you can't get it in the net then it doesn't really matter."

Senior Nancy Hayes, the team's leading scorer, has joined Ridgely and Mullins in what has been one of the area's top midfields so far. Hayes has four goals in three games, Mullins has two goals and Ridgely, a Maryland State Olympic Development Player, has one goal.

On offense, seniors Angel Aversa (four assists) and Sharon Bowen (two goals, two assists) lead the Owls. Meanwhile on defense, four seniors - goalkeeper Carrie Serio and defenders Kate Arbuthnot, Laura Vigliotti and Brengle - along with sophomore defender Alexa Ashwell have allowed less than one goal a game.

"I feel like we're a much closer team this year," said Hayes, who scored the game-winning goal against Mount Hebron last week. "On the field and off the field, personalities - we're really cohesive as a team, which helps in communication. I think every practice we've gotten better. Regardless of who we've played or the caliber of the team, every practice we strive to be better than the day before."

Despite the fast start, however, Shumaker is aware his team is a long way from a November date at UMBC, site of this season's state championship games. But the Owls suddenly appear to be a favorite to claim one of the 4A East Region's top four seeds.

"Coming off last year I told the girls, `You're going to have to earn everything you get,' " Shumaker said. "I said, `We didn't do anything last season that would make anyone look at us as a serious threat.' The fact that we have three wins now doesn't mean anything. It's a great way to start, and we have some people's attention."

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