WASHINGTON TWP. – For the opening 15 minutes, the Washington Township girls’ soccer team dominated the play in an Olympic Conference American Division game against Shawnee, but didn’t have much to show for it in a scoreless game.
The Minutemaids are built around a savvy group of upperclassmen who are fully aware of what type of game the Renegades possess especially after four seasons chock full of hard fought battles. Within two weeks late last season the teams split a pair of games, a win for Township in the Coaches Tournament semifinals and a Shawnee victory in the Group 4 tournament.
“This wasn’t going to be a four or five goal win,” senior center back Breana Winder said. “This wasn’t going to be a game we dominate from start to finish or at all. Every game we play in this league and especially against Shawnee is a hard battle. We’re not going to shy away from anything, but we know that nothing will come easy. We don’t want it to be, we want to earn everything and right now we feel confident about our ability, and where we are as a team early in the season.”
Of course Washington Township has another aspect to its game many teams are missing, a stable of younger players that can contribute all season. In particular, freshman Amanda Attanasi who has wasted little time putting her own personal stamp on the Township attack.
Attanasi scored two goals, the third straight game she’s achieved that mark as Township beat Shawnee 2-0 on a sun swept afternoon at Washington Township High School. Attanasi scored one goal in each half as the Minutemaids improved to 3-0 on the year and 2-0 in the American Division. More to the point, the win sets up an early season showdown at Eastern (2-0, 2-0) on Thursday in a game of unbeaten and unscored upon programs.
“Amanda has done a really good job of raising her game to the speed and physicality of varsity high school soccer,” Minutemaids head coach Bill Alvaro said. “She’s mature for her age and she has a great understanding of the game. I’ve never been afraid to play underclassmen and that’s never going to change. I do have to say, I’m lucky to have the type of senior leadership that can take the pressure off my younger players, especially early on in a season.’
“I definitely have gained confidence over the first three games,” Attanasi said. “I knew a lot of the girls before the season began so when practice started I think I was already comfortable. But you learn from every experience and every time you practice or play a game, and I think if you look at this team and the upperclassmen, it’s hard not to build on your confidence knowing you have their support."
Township opened the game confident in their positioning, and used the entire field to open up the Shawnee (2-2, 1-1) defense, but struggled to put the ball on net. The Renegades countered with a strong back line that moved the ball well, but time after time failed to get the ball out of their half of the field. It took the hustle and hard work of sophomore Giovanna Castrorina to prevent a clearance which she followed with a win of a confrontation at the top of the 18 to get the ball to Attanasi. The freshman continued across the 18 and struck a pure right-footed shot for a 1-0 lead.
The goal had an odd effect on the remaining 20 minutes as Township played a little less aggressively and Shawnee began to assert itself more physically.
“That’s a quality team and they started to take it to us,” Alvaro said. “That’s going to help us down the road as we have to understand that this is a physical league and you can’t play passively.”
Shawnee’s aggression led to a much better style in the second half and Township started chasing the ball. So much so that Shawnee opened the second half with a bulk of the possession and looked to tie it on a blast by sophomore Kiley Endres.
The shot from just outside the 18 looked destined for the top left hand corner, but Township keeper Jordyn Stafford elevated perfectly and got her right hand on the ball to deflect it over the net to maintain a 1-0 lead.
“That’s an awesome save and really changed the momentum,” Shawnee head coach Drew Wagner said. “It’s not often you can say there is a lot of positive in a 2-0 loss but there is a lot of positives my team can take out of this. That shot, I can’t put into words just how fantastic that save was, could have changed the entire game. But it didn’t and give them credit they came back at us.
“But I’m proud of the way we battled today. We never quit and both teams had their chances. This is something we can definitely learn from.”
The save seemed to settle Township as it gained momentum over the final 20 minutes of play. The Maids had a few chances but it took Attanasi to drive home a header off a corner kick with 7:50 to play to settle the afternoon.
“I didn’t know what to expect before the year started,” Attanasi said. “I’m just happy to contribute and right now I have a lot of confidence. I think this whole team is just gaining momentum and confidence. I know we have a tough schedule and I’m still learning the teams we play and how to play at the high school level. But right now, I think we all know we can play with anyone at any time.”
Two days from now, Attanasi and Washington Township will certainly be ready for their next test and Eastern will certainly be ready for an early season contest that will provide a leg up in the division race.
Minutemaids 2, Renegades 0
Washington Twp. 1-1--2
Amanda Attanasi 2. Keepers: Sierra Sansom, S. Jordynn Stallard, WT