Stephen Shaw of Dulaney and Fran McCullin of Westminster had few expectations of the season opener between their boys soccer programs.
What both coaches saw unfold was a well-fought battle of attrition that was decided when Dulaney sophomore midfielder Eric Frey scored a goal midway through the first half to give the No. 13 and host Lions a 1-0 victory in Towson yesterday.
For Dulaney, the season opener marked the beginning of a season-long defense of a Class 4A state championship the school shared with Winston Churchill.
"I think you saw a very spirited and determined Westminster squad that took it to us," Shaw said. "We didn't step on the field at where we need to be in the long term. We're still growing."
For the Owls, the game was a chance to wipe clear a disappointing 2-7-3 record from last season.
"You saw two very good defensive teams play today," said McCullin, who succeeded Mick Ferraro as head coach this summer.
"I would have liked to see us get more shots, but we played a quality team today on the road, and we played them tough."
Both squads had early opportunities to score.
Westminster senior midfielder Joe Geiman's right-footed redirection of a pass from junior sweeper David Long trickled wide right in the fourth minute of the game. A header by Lions junior forward Phil Stuart a minute later also bounded right of the net.
Two substitutions in the 12th minute by Shaw led to the only goal of the game. Reserve sophomore midfielder Sean Rush floated a pass from the right side of the field to another sophomore midfielder, Frey.
Frey, who entered the game with Rush, fended off Owls junior midfielder Kris Harford with his left arm and buried the ball in the bottom left corner of the net at the 18:53 mark.
"There was a man in front of me, and he slowed down," Frey said. "I got in there to knock it to myself."
Senior forward Jonathan Newton almost gave Dulaney a 2-0 lead with less then two minutes to play, but his bullet from about 20 yards rang off the crossbar.
Westminster took 11 shots, but couldn't solve Lions junior goalkeeper Nick Warner, who registered seven saves.
Warner said the team had some rust to shake off.
"I thought we came out a little flat in the first half," he said. "We can't afford to do that because every team coming in here is thinking that they can knock off the state champs."
While pleased with his team's defensive effort, Geiman said the Owls were disappointed about letting a win slip from their fingers.
"We had a chance to beat them," he said. "We had the opportunities, but we just couldn't finish them."