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October 25, 2013

Hilltoppers reach district boys final

As a squad, the Westmont Hilltop boys soccer team is all about possession. That philosophy would lead one to believe that the Hilltoppers are quite the selfish lot.

Not really.

While the top seed in the District 6 Class A tournament is strong in the possession game, the individual play of the Hilltoppers is about team.

That led to four different players putting the ball in net as Westmont Hilltop blanked Penns Valley 5-0 Thursday at Richland High School’s Herlinger Field.

The possession portion of the Hilltoppers’ game is one stressed by the team’s coach.

“That’s one aspect of the game that I am so critical on,” Westmont Hilltop coach Jason Hughes said. “It gives us more time with the ball to find passes and it obviously gives them less time with the ball, which in turn lessens their goal-scoring opportunities. That’s what we work on; nice, crisp passes to the feet and just hope a passing lane opens up and we can fire a shot on net.”  

That possession and teamwork then become goal-scoring chances for Westmont Hilltop.

“That’s one thing that we prided ourselves on is that there is no ‘I’ in this team,” Hughes said. “No player is bigger than another player. Every 11 players that I put out on that field, they have 110-percent trust in every single person and trust that they can get the job done.”

For the Rams (7-12), their possession game nearly matched the Hilltoppers early in the first half.

Then the chances happened for the Hilltoppers.  

The goals followed shortly after.

“(Westmont Hilltop) had a much better possession game,” Penns Valley coach Scott Case said. “They had a much better game of going outside.” 

After slanting the game into the Penns Valley end for extended periods of play, the Hilltoppers solved Penns Valley keeper Tiger Welch in the 17th minute when Lewie Buchovich headed a ball past the Rams junior.

In the 19th minute, Logan Blackburn added to the lead when he possessed the ball, worked around Welch and flicked the ball in the net.

Sam Whitlow increased the Westmont advantage in the 28th minute, striking a ball from distance to make it 3-0.

“Turf for some reason, I don’t know what it is about these guys, the first 10 or 15 minutes are always rocky for us,” Hughes said. “Once we got that first goal, it gave us confidence. It opened the floodgates and we kept scoring goals.”

Grant Gagnon punctuated the win with goals in the 47th and 57th minutes.

His first goal originated in the penalty area before he punched the ball past Welch.

His second marker saw him take a run with possession before sending the ball home.

“The amazing thing about Tiger is that he’s our third-string keeper,” Case said of his keeper. “After we lost our first- and second string keeper during the season, he took over with seven games to go and improved an amazing amount in those games.” 

Mitch Causer earned the clean sheet in goal, facing a small amount of shots from Penns Valley’s attack.

“To have him back there is such a sigh of relief,” Hughes said. “As a sophomore, even as a freshman last year, he’s a heck of an athlete. He mature for his age and he always comes to play.” 

Westmont Hilltop faces Bishop McCort on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

Shawn Curtis is a news assistant for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/shawncurtis430.

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