HUNTINGTON — The Huntington St. Joe girls soccer team had a different feel to it when it opened its 2019 season Saturday at the YMCA Kennedy Center, but the result was the same — a 3-1 win over visiting Boyd County.
The Fighting Irish (1-0) earned its first win under new head coach Tyler Smith and its first without star McKenzie Moran, who now plays at Gonzaga University as a freshman.
Smith, whose daughter Mina plays for St. Joe, took over as head coach after the departure of Nick Turner and his assistant Ben Eng.
"You can never be dissatisfied with a victory, but we got a long way to go," Smith said. "We're still trying to figure out who is going to do what this year."
The new coach has the advantage of experienced leadership on his team and a lot of talent.
It took St. Joe six minutes into the game to score its first goal when Abby Lee put a shot past the Lions' Graci Opell for a 1-0 lead. Laney Whitmore set Lee up for the goal to earn the first of two assists.
Whitmore, a junior, and senior goalkeeper Samantha Richbart played the role of on-field coaches, directing the Fighting Irish on defense and talking up their younger teammates.
When freshman midfielder Maren Muth stretched Huntington St. Joe's lead to 2-0 in the 38th minute, it was Whitmore assisting on that goal too.
"You can be a leader at any age," Whitmore said. "We lost some very good seniors, but I feel like this team plays really well together. We still have work to do. We have a ways to go, but I can see us getting there."
In the 47th minute, St. Joe added its final goal of the day with its talented leaders on full display.
Lee set up fellow senior Abi Hugh up for a final goal that gave the Fighting Irish a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Boyd County (2-1) entered the contest on the heels of wins over Johnson Central (3-2) and Lawrence County (2-1). The Lions had two days off to prepare for their second road game of the season against a St. Joe squad adjusting to a new coach and shaking off rust from the offseason.
"It just seemed like we were mentally out of it today," Boyd County head coach Franklin W. Kemper said. "We didn't get to balls quick enough."
St. Joe punished the Lions for their slow reaction, outshooting the visitors 13-4 overall and 12-2 in shots on goal.
The Lions ended the shutout when junior Isabella Caldwell scored with seven minutes to play.
Boyd County will be back in action on Monday for a home game with East Carter, while Huntington St. Joe gets another shot at fine-tuning its attack when it hosts Ashland at 8 p.m. Monday.
BOYD COUNTY 0 1 - 1
HUNTINGTON ST. JOE 2 1 - 3
H - Lee (Whitmore assist), 6:00.
H - Muth (Whitmore assist), 38:00.
H - Hugh (Lee assist), 47:00.
B - Caldwell (Parsons assist), 73:00.
Shots: BC 4; HSJ 13. Saves: BC Opell 9, HSJ Richbart 1. Corner kicks: BC 4, HSJ 3.