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Soccer Warriors hold off Mustangs, 2-1

Perhaps it told a lot that, just before taking the field last Tuesday night, the Westhill boys soccer team jumped in unison in a circle to fire itself up, while the Marcellus Mustangs just stood around.

That extra energy carried over into the first-place OHSL Liberty division showdown, and with it, the Warriors pulled out in front, then held on when Marcellus made its belated push.

By prevailing 2-1, Westhill seized control of the race for Liberty division regular-season honors and showed that having depth and all-around skills counted for a lot.

Going into the game with a five-game win streak, the Warriors were primed and confident, having proven its skills in road tests with the 4-1 victory it earned over Manlius-Pebble Hill four days earlier.

Early on, the Warriors attacked and made the Marcellus defense sweat. Twice, goalkeeper Kyle Blackmer had to make diving stops, and another good shot, by Jesse Hunt, banged off the left post.

Meanwhile, Westhill clamped down on defense, double-teaming Alex Rouse and making the other Marcellus forwards disappear. Tim Byrne, Aaron Hunt, Willie Fischer and John Pelligrini led this effort.

When the reserves showed up, though, Westhill took control. In the 36th minute, Ryan Spinek got open the middle and, against a soft resistance, flared a hard 25-yard shot past Blackmer.

Less than three minutes later, from nearly the same spot. Ben Owens got similar room to maneuver, and his low shot found the net to make it 2-0.

As Westhill relaxed at halftime thanks to this sudden burst, Marcellus seethed, with head coach Jennifer Griffin giving her players a sharp tongue-lashing.

It seemed to work, for in the second half Marcellus got much more aggressive. Rouse, while still double-teamed, broke loose for some chances, and his teammates followed, putting the Warriors more on the defensive.

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