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ROCKVILLE — The Wootton Patriots opened their season Thursday evening with a 1-0 home victory over the Churchill Bulldogs in boys varsity soccer.
“Tonight, were we perfect? Of course not, but it was a noticeable improvement,” said Wootton coach Doug Schuessler. “We’re not always going to have the best players on the field when it comes to their skill levels and the ability to connect passes.”
The match began with both teams having equal possession and exchanging shots on goal. Midway through the first half, the Patriots earned a penalty and took the lead. Churchill went in search of an equalizer but the Patriots held on to claim the victory.
“We came out here fought hard … the first 15 minutes were a little rough,” said Wootton senior defender and captain Devansh Mishra. “I thought we exceeded our expectations.”
Looking to take an early lead, the two teams pressed each other early. Churchill midfielder Jack Yoon created one of the earliest opportunities but his effort sailed over the bar.
Wootton junior midfielder Andy Ram latched onto a pass down the center of the field but his shot went just wide of the post.
Minutes later a foul brought down Wootton junior forward Alek Wroblewski in the penalty box with the referee promptly pointing to the spot. Junior midfielder Francis Meyer stepped up and scored past Churchill senior goalkeeper Grant Greenberg.
Wootton continued to press forward with Wroblewski and senior striker Greg Garcia connecting to create opportunities.
The visitors responded by going on the attack, forcing the home team to compress to defend their goal.
Exploiting open spaces on the left flank, Churchill senior winger Jackson Resnick provided crosses but his teammates failed to connect.
Churchill senior midfielder Tommy Young created several opportunities but his efforts were promptly saved by Patriots junior goalkeeper Matt Kopsidas.
Starting the second half with a slim 1-0 lead, the Patriots’ back line remained firm and organized.
“They’re definitely faster than us [and] more explosive,” Mishra said of his opponents. “But we fought like hell and that’s what separated us from them.”
Looking to score an equalizer, Churchill went on the attack for most of the second half. Senior midfielder Shawn Diboti found space but his shot sailed wide of the Patriots’ goal.
The Patriots responded with a late counterattack but the Churchill backline led by senior center back Andrew Ferrer promptly acted to clear the ball.
“I think … we didn’t get the result we were coming for because we didn’t do as well finishing,” said Churchill coach Arnold Tarzy. “I thought we had the more dangerous chances and just didn’t get it done … perhaps we lost a little bit of patience in the second half.”
“I thought we played well but obviously didn’t finish,” added Churchill midfielder and senior captain Jack Yoon.