It was the sort of play that a season can be built on.
In the closing moments of Judge Memorial's first boys soccer game of the season, junior goalkeeper Andrew Matthews was playing solely on instinct. A Ben Lomond striker tried to cross it for an inevitable header. With players crashing in front of him, Matthews took flight, intercepting the ball and crashing to the turf while palming the ball.
The Bulldogs held on to the lead, winning 1-0.
"It was way sweet," sophomore midfielder Luc Steffen said. "He was up in the air, had a hand on it and came down super hard. It was super impressive 'cause there were a ton of guys in his face."
Matthews and the backline of the Bulldogs' defense form the foundation that Judge is building on for a successful season. The Bulldogs are relying on their defensive domination and trying to improve their offense.
Judge is a young squad. Coach Kelly Terrill's starting line features five sophomores and a freshman with only three seniors. Despite their youth, Terrill said his team is made up of talented players, and he's counting on captains Steffen, Matthews and senior Alex Jensen to lead the way.
"Luc is one of our best players," Terrill said. "An essential midfielder, he is a solid player all the way around."
Terrill describes his defense as "extremely stingy" and believes he has one of the best backlines in the region. The problem has been offense, and he is counting on Steffen and Jensen to take control and feed the ball up front.
"Our defense is the solid point," Terrill said. "They do a great job. We need to work on getting some goals because [the defense] keeps us in every game."
Jensen agrees. He thinks the Bulldogs are able to stop almost any team, but they need to improve on scoring goals. As a senior, Jensen is a vocal leader on the field, directing traffic and trying to execute Judge's offense. He barks plays and warnings to his players as they feed the ball to the forwards throughout games.
"I'm always talking out there," Jensen said. "You got to let people know where the ball is and when we need to go. This is how I lead by example."
Steffen loves playing the midfield because he's always involved in the play.
"Making that sweet pass that leads to the goal and having the assist is the best," Steffen said. "It's not about getting the credit but knowing that you set it up."
The Bulldogs won their first two games of the season but suffered a defeat against Highland. They lost 1-0 off an own goal, but Matthews isn't too discouraged by the loss. He said that game woke up the team and will be used as an example to never underestimate any opponent.
"It proved that we're not immortal," Matthews said. "We need to learn from our mistakes and build from them. That's the only way we'll ever know true success."
Judge Memorial hosts Union on Friday. The Bulldogs overlooked the Cougars last year, so Matthews and company are excited about making their mark, proving that they have the talent to compete and play at a high level.
"If we're going to be taken seriously this year, we need to play our best every time we take the field," Matthews said. "There are so many talented young players that I know we're going to be successful this year."
Coach Kelly Terrill describes Andrew Matthews' goalkeeping as technically sound with an emphasis on positioning. He has big reach and is excellent going side-to-side.
Judge Memorial is a young team with five starting sophomores and a freshman.
The Bulldogs are rejoining region 10 after competing in region 11 last year.