HUNTINGTON -- A new era of girls soccer for Huntington High was ushered in Saturday morning with a 3-1 win over Huntington St. Joe.
The Highlanders entered the season opener on their home pitch after losing five seniors from last year's squad, three of whom are playing NCAA Division I soccer in college this season.
"We spent a lot of time coming into the season talking about that," said second-year head coach Paul Farrell. "You know, sometimes when you have seniors who are first-team all-staters, who are elite players, the rest of the players tend to do more watching than playing.
"This team has a better concept of having to play as a team, and I think we did a good job today as a young team."
Sophomore Elizabeth Conaty started the scoring for the Highlanders, after St. Joe keeper Rachel Lee ran off her line to try and stop a breakaway. The ball ricocheted to Conaty, who put a long shot from the left edge of the goalie box into the right side of the net in the 20th minute of the first half.
It was the only tally in the first 40 minutes, during which Huntington High got six shots on goal, while the Irish managed none.
Highlander sophomore Tanner McCoy had a breakaway opportunity with three minutes to go until the half, but was turned away by Lee.
Huntington High stretched its lead early in the second half, when Conaty sent a free kick over Lee's head. The ball deflected off Highlander sophomore forward Tory Shackelford into the net in the 43rd minute.
The Irish would tighten the contest five minutes later, when forward Becca Lee sent a free kick from the edge of the box sailing on goal. Huntington High sophomore keeper Erika Budd couldn't control the shot, and the ball went off her hands into the net.
The sudden shift in momentum sparked a series of offensive runs from St. Joe, though the Irish couldn't convert the buildup into scoring chances.
Huntington High counterattacked with aggression, keeping the St. Joe defense busy.
After a few high and wide chances, and a hard strike from McCoy that a diving Rachel Lee punched away, Conaty would strike again, slipping into the box and putting a pin-balling loose ball past the St. Joe keeper.
The final tally came in the 64th minute, and punctuated a transition from hesitancy early in the game from the Highlanders to crisp attacking.
"I think when you have as many freshmen and sophomores as we had out there today, there's the fear of making a mistake," Farrell said. "That was the biggest thing that we were trying to teach them is if you're not making mistakes, you're not trying hard enough. You have to go out there and play free and play loose and have fun."
The Highlanders next game comes at home against Woodrow Wilson on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
HUNTINGTON ST. JOE 0 1 -- 1
HUNTINGTON HIGH 1 2 -- 3
H -- Conaty, 20th minute.
H -- Shackelford (Conaty), 43rd minute.
SJ -- B. Lee, 48th minute.
H -- Conaty, 64th minute.
Shots: SJ 3 (1 on goal); H 21 (12 on goal). Corners: SJ 0; H 5. Saves: SJ 9 (R. Lee); H 0 (Budd).