Stellar goaltending and defense led the Saugus High girls soccer team to a 3-1 season-opening win against Oak Park on Friday afternoon at Saugus High School.
Goalkeeper Hailey Billesbach, a senior, had 10 saves in the win as both Saugus (1-0) and Oak Park (2-1) struggled all afternoon to make long passes in windy conditions.
Given the tough conditions, turnovers and errors by both teams played a large role in the game.
In the opening minutes, Saugus applied early pressure to Oak Park and forced the Eagles deep into their defending third. Then in the third minute, several Centurions crashed the net and came away with a funky goal.
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Oak Park goalkeeper Courtney Ahdoot appeared to stop the first shot, which bounced off a goalpost and then bounced off the bottom of the crossbar — but did not cross the goal line. After more jostling between Ahdoot and several Centurions, the ball hit the crossbar again. Officials ruled, though, that the ball crossed the goal line and credited Aubrey Finicle with the goal as Saugus took a 1-0 lead.
Oak Park pushed back though. Just seven minutes later, Billesbach made her first save of the afternoon when she dove to her left and pushed a high shot out of play. Oak Park had several more great chances in a first half it dominated, but that save proved to be the Eagles’ second best chance to score.
“I was thinking about catching it, but it was kind of a lofted ball,” Billesbach said. “I knew that if it had more power I’d be able to catch it, but it didn’t so I had to just tip it over.”
Oak Park had just two corner kicks in the first half, while Saugus had four. Oak Park’s corners provided some of the Eagles’ best scoring chances, though.
About midway through the first half, Oak Park kicked a corner kick from the left side that Saugus tipped out of bounds. On their second try, Oak Park lofted another ball into traffic near the net, but the ball hit a head and bounced harmlessly out of play.
“We worked a lot on defending corners this week,” said Saugus coach Aly Drake. “I know the wind doesn’t help with that, but I wanted to make sure we were first to the ball every time and make sure we were moving on our toes.”
Oak Park’s Alyssa Abrams did net a late first-half goal in stoppage time that slipped past Billesbach, but the Centurions dominated the second half.
In the 42nd minute, Saugus freshman Breeana San Lucas caught up to a ball dumped in near the top of the 18-yard box.
San Lucas thought Ahdoot would pick up the ball as she sprinted out of the safety of the net, but instead Ahdoot tried to dribble the ball with her left foot.
When Ahdoot stumbled and the ball skittered past her, San Lucas easily kicked the ball into the empty net to put Saugus up 2-1.
“I noticed she kept trying to kick it out, so I knew if I rushed her she would mess up on her shot and I would have an easy little trap,” San Lucas said.
Brooke Chambers also added an insurance goal with an assist from San Lucas in the 68th minute to make the score 3-1. Saugus will play next at Santa Paula on Dec. 6.