Before Tuesday's matchup at home against Manchester Valley, Westminster boys soccer coach Bird Brown gathered his group in hopes of lifting their spirits. The Owls were still reeling from an 0-3 skid — including their most recent defeat at Mount St. Joseph, a shutout, the day before.
Brown likened his team's tough times to those of the Ravens, whose three-game losing streak to open the NFL season ended last week. And just like Baltimore's football team, the fourth game was the charm for the Owls.
Calling it a "gut-check night," Brown's squad was ready to put the losses behind them.
"We came out intentionally high pressured," said the coach, whose team blanked the Mavericks, 5-0. "We wanted to score."
Aside from their most recent defeat, the Owls also dropped games to South River and Liberty. Defender Dan Rampolla said the team has stayed true to its theme of "brotherhood" all season, even through its difficult stretch. It's been important to them to have each other's backs, he said.
On Tuesday, the Owls (3-3, 1-1 county) got goals from five different scorers in the victory.
"I thought it was just a great team win overall," Rampolla said. "Everyone was just jelling and working together. We were moving the ball well."
The majority of the Owls' scoring in the first half was done in a matter of just three minutes, as the home team went from a scoreless tie with the Mavericks, to ahead three goals.
The first of the day came courtesy of a Westminster set piece sent deep into the box. After the ball was kicked around from its initial descent, it found the foot of Justin Buberl, who made a quick pass to Rampolla to finish for the goal.
Roughly a minute later, Buberl connected with Brad Walsh for the team's second score of the game.
Caleb Bissonnette took a pass from Ben Ebert two minutes later, dribbled around a defender to find some space, and then hit a point-blank shot at the top of the goal for the third time of the half.
While the Owls were having little trouble finding the back of the net, Manchester Valley (1-6, 0-3) — which seemed to have found its offensive momentum despite losing to Francis Scott Key in its last game — had little luck.
"We went with the same sort of game plan," Mavericks coach Tom Goretsas said. "We played a really good back four today, played a really, really tough back four. So I've got to give them credit for that. Didn't have nearly the opportunities that we had against Key."
In the second half, Buberl got a score of his own, followed by a Ryan McManus goal that gave the Owls five for the night. While Buberl was the Westminster's top point-getter, Brown was proud that everyone stepped in to contribute almost in equal fashion.
"We work all year long on not focusing on any one person," the coach said. "It's their job to step up, and if the opportunity creates itself, they have to make something happen."
Westminster's remaining slate features four consecutive county games, which gives the team a chance to make up for its recent losing ways.
Rampolla said Tuesday's performance is a good start to what could be a turnaround for his team. Noting how important it is that they continue to jell together, the senior was confident in his surrounding group the rest of the way.
"A win like that definitely boosts your spirits a little bit," Rampolla said. "And you can take your pride in everything, keep it with you."
Goals: W-Dan Rampolla, Brad Walsh, Caleb Bissonnette, Justin Buberl, Ryan McManus.
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Assist: W-Justin Buberl 2, Sam Schoberg, Sam Annulis.
Saves: MV-1 (Griffin Potter); W-3 (Joey Conklin)
Halftime: Westminster, 3-0
JV Result: Westminster, 4-1