If there was anything Augusta Prep soccer coach Tom Norton could take from 100 minutes of scoreless soccer Tuesday at Westminster, it's that his Cavaliers team can be competitive.
Westminster, which beat Augusta Prep 2-0 earlier in the season, all but locked up the Region 1-AAA title and a home playoff game. But Norton was encouraged by his team's play during the second meeting.
"Hopefully, our guys will see they can play with anyone," Norton said.
A winner never emerged during a tense game in which both benches stood for the final 30 minutes and cheerleaders from each school lined one side of the field, but both teams left looking forward to what could be a rewarding postseason.
Coaches said both teams seem capable of advancing to the state Final Four in Macon on Oct. 22-24.
"The big thing was sealing the head-to-head (with Augusta Prep). ... If we do what we're supposed to do, we'll win the region," Westminster coach Mike Freace said.
To win the region, the Wildcats in the next week needed only to sweep The Weber School, a team that has already lost twice to Augusta Prep by a combined score of 13-1. The region title would allow them to play host to a state quarterfinal, Oct. 17.
Augusta Prep was encouraged by its second consecutive tie, having played state power Mount de Sales (Macon) to a 2-2 draw last week.
This time, the tie came with its third-string goalie.
An injury and a red card to the backup placed starting defender Jeff Salizzoni in the goal. He finished with six saves and bit of good fortune.
Westminster might have scored a half-dozen times had the goal been a foot wider on each side. Countless times a shot rolled just wide or deflected off the post.
The Wildcats also squandered 10 corner kicks.
"We must have hit the post six times. ... (The shutout) was a combination of good defending and being a bit unlucky," Freace said. "You have to give them credit. ... They are much improved."
Westminster's best scoring chance came in the second overtime, when a shot beat Salizzoni and trickled toward the goal. William Matheson slid from the middle of the box to knock it away at the last moment.
Josh Coleman stopped three shots to earn the shutout for Westminster, which extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games.
The Augusta Chronicle's Matt Middleton contributed to this story.
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