STAMFORD—The first win in someone’s first time as a head coach on the high school level is always special and memorable.
The Westhill girls soccer team presented new coach Ryan Perkins that gift Tuesday as the Vikings blanked Central High, 5-0 before a pleased partisan crowd.
“It was time to step out on my own. Time to develop my own coaching style,” said Perkins, a teacher at Western Middle School in Greenwich who spent two years as the junior varsity coach at Greenwich High.
The Vikings roster is an interesting mix as Westhill is coming off a 6-8-2 season in 2018 and 5-9-2 in 2017.
Westhill has a pair of precocious freshmen with top travel team pedigree in Sofia Romero and Natalie Bacon.
Romero finished the day with three goals and one assist as she played both distributor and scorer from her midfield slot. Bacon had a number of good chances foiled by the Central defense.
Westhill also unveiled a new weapon in senior Niamh Keogh. She started the contest as goalie (two saves) before moving to the forward line midway through the first half.
Keogh responded with one goal late in the first half and a second tally early in the second half. Junior Aaliyah Taylor (two saves) took over in the Westhill net the remainder of the clash.
“Niamh (Keogh) is just a natural soccer player. We talked and she lobbied in the preseason about playing time at forward. It worked great today,” Perkins said. “I’m not opposed to moving Niamh to forward at times. She can be a secret weapon for us. She is a great leader (one of four Westhill captains) as goalie.”
Keogh is one of seven seniors for the Vikings. Other Westhill senior captains are Malina Lasicki, Rachel Weiner and Emma Whaley.
Now 1-1 on the season, the challenge grows larger for the Vikings and Perkins. Westhill faces FCIAC playoff teams in Wilton, St. Joseph and Trumbull in its next five contests.
“From my time at Greenwich High I know what to expect from the FCIAC,” Perkins said. “I’m still putting my twist on things while adapting to the kids we have. The Westhill administration has been very supportive. In my high school soccer days, I played for Conard High (West Hartford) and faced FCIAC opponents at state tournament time. Our girls have to always fight to hold a high standard. We’ll keep working and see where the season takes us.”
As for Central (0-2), the Hilltoppers are searching for their third victory in the last three-plus seasons. They have just one senior on their roster.
Freshman goalie Ciara Rodriguez (20 saves) was both busy and impressive. Sophomore Jocelyn Sandoval keyed the defense as most of the contest was played in Central’s end of the field.
“I want the girls to have fun. And improve over the course of the season,” said Central’s fifth-year head coach Tarek Hanaif, who played Division I college soccer at Long Island University (LIU). “But most important, be a class act on the field. Our program has won Sportsmanship Awards the past two seasons.
“About half our team are freshmen. We don’t have a junior varsity team so we are rebuilding each year,” Hanaif continued. “We’re young but our spirits are high. My job is to work on their soccer skill level.”