BANGOR, Maine — After Waterville generated 16 shots at goal in the first half — none of which found the back of the net — Purple Panthers’ girls soccer coach Ian Wilson made some adjustments.
The Panthers controlled the midfield in the second half, parlaying Wilson’s changes into three unassisted goals, including two from Stephanie Whitten, into a 3-0 victory over the Bangor Rams at the Bangor High field Wednesday night.
“We’re well accustomed to exploiting teams very well on the flank, and they closed that down for us so we kind of had to go to plan B,” said Wilson, whose club improved to 2-0 while the Rams were playing their season opener.
“We were lucky enough to get our kids do push [the ball] down the center,” Wilson added.
The Panthers mainly attacked on the wings in the first half and created some sound scoring chances with crisp cross passes, but Rams’ keeper Kortnie Hudgens was outstanding in net, turning away several Waterville chances.
“She was tremendous, that’s one of the best goalkeeping performances I’ve seen in a long time. Very, very impressive,” said Wilson.
Hudgens saved 10 of the Panthers’ 16 first half shots while finishing with 20 saves on 40 Waterville shots.
“If she’s not making all those saves, it’s a totally different game in the first half,” Bangor coach Joe Johnson said.
The most spectacular of the saves came near the end of the half, when Hudgens deflected a rebound away from the far post.
The Rams had a chance to break through in the 43rd minute, but Eliza Estabrook’s shot from just inside the penalty area sailed just wide, keeping the game scoreless.
Whitten finally got Waterville on the board in the 47th minute, blasting home a penalty kick just to Hudgens’ right.
Whitten was awarded the penalty shot when a Bangor defender committed a hand ball inside the penalty area.
“All we needed was a one-goal start and then we’re on a roll,” said Whitten, who struck again three minutes later, tucking a loose ball inside the near post from about eight yards away.
“Coach always tells us to follow our shots and it paid off,” she said.
The Panthers featured quickness in the midfield and up front — particularly that of midfielders and sisters Shelby and Kayla Tuttle as well as Paige Gardiner and forward Jordan Pellerin. The Panthers also showed off crisp dribbling skills, kept the ball on the ground and attacked the mid-field.
“We’re really lucky to have very fast wings. They were double-teaming us in the wing and we had to get it to the center,” Whitten said.
Pellerin capped the scoring in the 77th minute with an un-assisted tally from the top of the penalty area.
She was injured on the play, hurting a calf muscle, but Wilson doesn’t suspect it to be too serious.
“I think a defender’s foot hit the ball at the same time, [it was a] funny sort of double strike on the ball. It was a weird play,” Wilson said.
Both teams were aggressive, in particular the Rams’ back line, as most of the game was played in their end of the field.
“It was a really hard fought game, a lot of good, hard play with shoulders and hips and kids fighting for the ball,” said Wilson.
Panthers’ keeper Taylor Hart didn’t have to make a save on three Bangor shots.