AMHERST - Thirty seconds into the game, Westlake goalkeeper Stephanie Poeppelman was already feeling the heat.
She did exactly what she was supposed to do - keep the ball out of the net - but she couldn't help being surprised at how fast the Amherst Comets came out of the gate Wednesday night.
After breaking free from Westlake's defense following the opening kickoff, Amherst sophomore forward Brianna Shagovac launched a shot that was curving away from Poeppelman. The Westlake goalie stayed focused on the ball, dove at the right time and corralled the save.
It proved to be the spark the Demons needed.
Coming off a season-opening loss, Westlake got back on track with a 3-0 win. Amherst was playing its season opener.
"Normally, when they have that kind of angle, they have to go back stick because I've got front post covered," Poeppelman said.
"I just read the play and made the save. I was thinking, 'Oh, man, I hope we pick it up.' Then we did, so it all worked out."
It was a close call Westlake coach Scott Jones would rather not have his team repeat any time soon, however.
"We're going to have to look at the tape and see what we were doing in the back there," Jones said. "The girl (Shagovac) made a real nice run and Stephanie Poeppelman's one of the best goalies in the state of Ohio. She came up big right away for us, which we needed."
Had Amherst converted that early chance, it might have changed the tempo and tone of the game.
"I think it would have been the difference in the game if we had done that," Amherst coach Roseanne Kuncel said. "We definitely caught them off-guard and I think that definitely surprised them. It would have been good for our offense to feel like they can do that against this team."
Once the Demons were able to settle into their offense, they peppered Amherst goalkeeper Ashley Ferguson with shot after shot. On a potential breakaway seven minutes into the game, Ferguson came out of the net and collided with a Westlake forward.
Though she didn't receive a card, Ferguson's collision gave Westlake a free kick.
Only 20 seconds after missing on another free kick, Sarah Stachowiak sent a shot from just outside the box into the lower left corner of the net.
Four-and-a-half minutes later, freshman Lauren Hurst gave the Demons a 2-0 lead.
Hurst had a step on a defender, and though she didn't get a lot of power on her kick, it had enough juice to trickle past Ferguson's reach and into the net.
"She's learning every day and getting better every day," Jones said of Hurst. "She's fast, she's strong and she's helping make our team better. There's a lot of good days ahead for her. It's a learning curve for her, especially not playing at a U-18 level when she's used to the U-14 level."
The Demons got a third goal late in the second half when Kristie Prendergast's shot sailed high over Ferguson's reach and landed in the net.
"You're in one of these games and you're shooting, shooting, shooting and it's not going," Jones said. "Sometimes, especially with a high school team, they start to panic a little bit and then something bad happens. Getting the goals at the beginning did alleviate some of the pressure from us."
"When the offense is playing well and the defense doesn't get any action, I'm happy, they're happy, we're all happy and we're winning," Poeppelman said.
Contact Matt Florjancic at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Westlake 3, Amherst 0
• GOALS: (W) Sarah Stachowiak, Lauren Hurst, Kristie Prendergast
• SHOTS ON GOAL: Westlake 23, Amherst 4
• SAVES: (W) Stephanie Poeppelman 4; (A) Ashley Ferguson 20
• CORNER KICKS: Westlake 3, Amherst 2
• HALFTIME: Westlake, 2-0