GARDINER — The Waterville boys soccer team found themselves in a tough position to open the season.

With a young roster and one of their top players out for the first four games, it would have been easy to assume the Purple Panthers may not open up the first few games of the season with a winning record.

But Waterville has fought the odds and did so again Friday afternoon, edging Gardiner 2-1 in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B game to improve to 2-1-0.

Waterville head coach Kerry Serdjenian said he’s been proud of the way his team has played. The Purple Panthers have six players who are gaining their first varsity experience. The team has also been without top player Danilo Guthro, who is missing the first four games of the season.

“We had six guys who had never played in a varsity game before the beginning of the season starting,” Serdjenian said. “They’ve had a little bit of a learning curve and I think as we go through the season, for some of them playing in (junior varsity) games their freshman season to playing against teams like Maranacook and Winslow, it’s a little bit shocking. But they’re adjusting.”

The Purple Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half, thanks to goals by Mike Oliveira and Ethan Cayer.

“Bridger (Holly) turned the corner, exactly the way coach wanted us to do,” Oliveira said. “Put it back in, deflected off a couple of people. It came out, I hit it at the keeper, he fumbled and it went in.”

“Those are sophomores connecting on those assists and goals,” Serdjenian said. “We’re really proud of them. There’s some young guys that we’re going to have for a couple, three years stepping up and doing a great job.”

Gardiner (1-2) put the pressure on in the second half thanks to a goal by Alex LaPointe, connecting off a pass from Peter Del Gallo to cut the lead to 2-1 with 24 minutes remaining in the second half.

LaPointe had two scoring opportunities later in the game. Eight minutes after his goal, LaPointe was on the receiving end of a near-perfect cross, but it was deflected. With two minutes remaining, LaPointe missed the goal when he tried a header deep in Waterville territory.

“Not our best effort,” Gardiner coach Nick Wallace said. “We started the game off slow. We had some chances but, in my opinion, we just didn’t show up to play today.”

Despite the near-scoring chances from the Tigers, the Purple Panthers did well to deflect and keep the ball away from the net throughout the game.

“Gardiner came out with some fire right there and we expected that,” Oliveira said. “We held on. The last 18 minutes were pretty hard, but we held on.”

Waterville plays Spruce Mountain and Maine Central Institute before a tough three-game stretch at the end of the month with games against Maranacook, the defending Class C champion, and Winslow. The Purple Panthers will play those games with Guthro and a little more experience gained for their youngsters.

“All of our games this year are going to be against bigger, stronger, older teams,” Serdjenian said. “We’re young and small. It’s a credit to our boys that we’re playing good soccer.”

Gardiner and Waterville meet again Oct. 7. Wallace said he looks forward to another shot at Waterville.

“(Waterville) is young with some very skilled players,” Wallace said. “They’ll get better when they get Danilo back. I look forward to playing them again. We’re a pretty good match with each other. They’re going to get better because they’re young now. We’ll get better and we’ll rebound. It was just an abnormality today.”

Dave Dyer — 621-5639

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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