SOUTH CHINA — A pair of girls soccer teams expected to challenge for Class B North honors squared off in the season opener Friday and put on a pretty good show.

Erskine Academy came away with a 2-0 win over Waterville on the strength of a pair of goals from junior striker Haymanot Maynard, but the outcome was in doubt for nearly the entire second half.

“For the first game of the season it was a good start,” Waterville coach Mark Serdjenian said. “No one wants to start out with a loss but kind of our motto is better each day.”

Waterville’s Emme Ayers, left, and Erskine’s Mary-Jane Williams battle for a ball during a game Friday in South China. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Maynard scored on a penalty kick late in the first half after a Waterville player was called for an inadvertent handball while trying to clear the ball. She squeezed a shot past Purple Panthers keeper Jaycie Richard that hit off the left post and found the back of the goal.

“At first I thought I was going to kick it over,” Maynard said. “But my teammates kind of encourage and helped me know that I could do it. I just kind of looked at the side of the goal and kicked it there low.”

Most of the game was played between the penalty circles as both teams battled for control of midfield. The Eagles registered five shots on goal in the first half to Waterville’s two, but outside the penalty shot, neither team tested the opposing goalkeeper. Waterville’s best scoring chance came off a corner kick with 12 minutes left when Paige St. Pierre served a perfect ball across the goalmouth but no one got a foot on it.

First-year Erskine coach Mike Falla subbed frequently throughout the game, using 20 players.

“We go 20 deep on the bench,” Falla said. “That’s one of our strengths, being so deep and being able to play everybody and not have a letup. We all stay with the same system. Even when the subs go in, they know the system we’re playing.”

The Eagles came out quickly in the second half and nearly went up by two goals when junior Mary-Jane Williams got behind the defense and went in one-on-one against Richard, who came out 20 feet and smothered the shot on Williams’ foot.

“That’s been kind of an unsettled position,” Serdjenian said. “We knew it was going to be someone new but she did a nice job.”

The Eagles controlled the first 10 minutes of the second half, getting some nice outside runs from halfbacks Peyton Houghton and Morgan Presby.

“It’s a really hard team to play against with a flat-back four (defense),” Falla said. “So any strength we had was the outside runs.”

The Panthers came on stronger over the last 15 of 20 minutes of the game as the Eagles unconsciously retreated into a defensive mode. St. Pierre had a semi-breakaway near the top of the circle but put her shot squarely at Caitlin Labbe, who made the save.

Erskine’s Joanna Linscott, left, tries to follow up on a shot as Waterville keeper Jaycie Richard makes a save during a game Friday in South China. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

The outcome was in doubt until Maynard scored an insurance goal with 2:11 left. Hustling down the right wing she took a pass from Alana York and buried the ball into the left corner from 25 feet out.

“I’ve been offsides a couple of times today so I was a little nervous about it but it wasn’t,” Maynard said.

The Eagles return a veteran team that has been playing together for some time.

“A lot of these girls, seven to 10 of them, have played together,” Falla said. “Continuity is already there. They’ve played up through the travel ranks for many years.”

Waterville graduated a good group from last year’s 10-win team.

“We lost a good senior class,” Serdjenian said. “There are a lot of new players out there and I thought they responded well.”

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