Westminster soccer coach Mike Freace builds his teams from back to front, with the belief that scoring goals is secondary to stopping them.
The philosophy has worked for the Wildcats in the past and it held Tuesday at Augusta Prep. Westminster shut out its rivals for a 2-0 victory and the early edge in GISA Region 1-AAA.
"My belief is, you want to win championships, you got to keep balls out of the net," Freace said. "That's typically how we've done it."
The rivals have typically been each other's prime competition for the region crown each season, with Augusta Prep winning its first in 2008. They split the regular season meetings last season, with the Cavaliers taking the title based on goal differential.
First-year Cavaliers coach Tom Norton said his team could still be in the hunt at the end of the season. The Cavaliers dropped the first meeting last season, but won at Westminster.
They meet again Oct. 6.
"If we played as well as we could tonight and it was 2-0, that would be a different story," Norton said. "But we didn't play anywhere close to our capability."
Westminster (8-4) scored its first goal at 24:42 in the first half on a 15-yard dead-on blast from senior Will McCartney.
Other than that, Cavaliers keeper Daniel Hull was stellar, making several diving stops and finding the ball in traffic.
Hull, a senior, said he knew all of the Wildcats' attackers by name. He dove and got a hand on McCartney's penalty kick from 8 yards in the second half, but the ball rolled inside the left post with 16:21 left. The Cavaliers (5-3) dropped a pair of backs and pushed forward after that, creating several opportunities, but weren't able to punch one in.
"We weren't really thinking about what we needed to be doing," Hull said. "We were more focused on the rivalry and intensity."
The Wildcats were able to maintain their poise. Westminster's goalie collided with a teammate midway through the first half, leaving the net empty. Junior defender Heath Robinson dropped back in the net and stopped two shots.
"It's always a close game against Prep," McCartney said. "I think we played really well."
Reach Stephen Fastenau at (706) 863-6165, ext. 116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.