WALLA WALLA - The Whitman College women's soccer team is off to a good start on its trip to England, winning one of its first two games by a 2-0 shutout.
Whitman notched its victory on Wednesday, blanking the Havant & Waterlooville Football Club (HWFC) by a 2-0 count.
Earlier in the week, Whitman dropped a 3-2 decision to the Yeovil Town Reserves.
In an email report, second-year coach Heather Cato said the win over HWFC is the "best I have ever seen this squad play. The girls grew as a team. We were communicating and creating opportunities that weren't there last season.
"In just these two games I can see how competitive we can be by the start of our Northwest Conference season," she said. "If we continue to play like this, it's going to be an incredible ride this fall."
Wednesday's game, played on what Cato called an "immaculate pitch" in a stadium built in the mid-1800s, started with HWFC pressuring Whitman's defense for the first 10 minutes.
"HWFC was very right-sided for much of the game, which (senior defender) Claire Westcott handled very well," Cato said.
"Our first goal was brilliant," she added. "As we knocked the ball around as a team, Hallie Swan found Julianne Masser on the far post for a great slotted goal."
The home squad opened the second half by "throwing three forwards at us," Cato said.
"That caused us a bit of trouble for a few moments, but Libby Watkins and Kate Potter recognized it and worked things out for us in the back."
Senior goalkeeper Lauren Brougham also helped stem the onslaught with an "incredible one-on-one save ... that changed the tone of the game," Cato said.
Whitman notched its second goal when MacKenzie Hughes played a ball forward for Amy Hasson, who "finished from 25 yards out, over a defender and the keeper."
The earlier 3-2 loss to the Yeovil Town Reserves, which Cato described as a "semi-pro" squad stocked mostly with players from the club's first team, does not give a true picture of how the game played out, she said.
"Our girls dominated the majority of the game," she said. "We were more fit and more physical, and we played more as a unit.
"We just made two mistakes that led to two of their goals. It was our first game after just two training sessions together, and we were playing on limited sleep, so I was pleasantly surprised that we played as well as we did."
Whitman tallied its first goal when a hard-working Hasson beat the keeper and played a ball to Hughes, who finished under pressure.
"Our second goal came off a beautiful ball from Taylor Thomas to Liz Clagett, who composed herself and beat the keeper one-on-one," Cato said.
After Monday's game, the team followed a light jog and stretching session with a trip through the city of Bath, where the group is staying.
"Some of the girls went to the Roman Baths while others walked the town markets," Cato said.
After Wednesday's game, the Whitman contingent took a day off from soccer to visit Weston-super-Mare, a seaside community that was home to Whitman men's coach Mike Washington before he came to the U.S. in the 1980s.
Washington, who has taken his men's team to England on three different occasions, is also traveling with the women's team this month as an assistant coach.