DARIEN -- Jess Laszlo has a routine lining up set pieces, a sequence that resembles a golfer lining up a putt.
Only with a greater degree of difficulty.
"First I take the ball and put it down," said Laszlo, the outstanding sophomore forward on Westhill High School's girls soccer team. "I like to take my time. I focus on where I am going to shoot the ball. I get up and take six steps back and two to the left or right, depending on what side it is. Then I just whack it. Nine out of 10 times I hit the target."
Laszlo maintained her high average Monday afternoon, drilling a perfect shot from 25 yards out on the right side into the top far corner of the net, providing an insurance goal in the 57th minute that was the talk of the Vikings' 2-0 win over Darien.
"She's a game-winner," Westhill coach Dave Flower said. "She practices it. None of this is luck. She hits most of them clean."
After a sluggish first half by both sides in which play was mainly limited to the center of the field, the Vikings struck twice in the second half to improve to 2-2-1 in a game they felt was pivotal to their season.
"I look at this as a turning point for us, and hopefully it will be," Flower said.
Laszlo was on the creating end of the best scoring opportunity in the first half, when she set up Alex Maciejewski in the 6th minute. Macijewski struck the ball well, but Blue Wave goalkeeper Phoebe Taylor came off her line and was able to deflect the shot off the crossbar.
Government officials with secret service protection are not as well guarded as Laszlo, who until the break was well contained by Darien sophomore Kendra Fitzpatrick.
"They did a good job in the first half and we moved her a little bit and got a little bit of luck," Flower said.
Laszlo's seventh goal of the season was set up in part by the Vikings' well-executed and overshadowed first score, in the 44th minute.
"We made a decision to do more attacking once we went down," Darien coach Leigh Parsons said. "Certain things in a game change the game. The first goal killed the momentum. That affected us. You play good throughout and a goal like that happens and your mindset changes."
The two goals blinded a sturdy performance by a Westhill defense that has just one senior starting. Zhenna Stewart, the team's new goalkeeper, has been one of the biggest surprises to date, Flower said.
"I'm as happy with Zhenna as anybody," he said. "She knew she was going to play there for a year and has worked hard."
With only a win over Trinity Catholic, the Vikings felt the test against a solid Darien team was critical going forward.
"We had a rough start," Laszlo said. "We'd always pass really well for the first 10 to 15 minutes and the other team would counterattack and score and we'd drop our heads," Laszlo said. "This game means so much to us. It gives us the confidence we'd been lacking the last games. It puts us right back in the running for FCIACs and states."
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WESTHILL 2, DARIEN 0
WESTHILL 0 2--2
DARIEN 0 0--0
Records: Westhill 2-2-1; Darien 2-3
Goals: W--Anna Rogers, Jess Laszlo. Assists: W--Nicole Pellicano. Goalies: W--Zhenna Stewart (4 saves); D--Phoebe Taylor (6 saves). Shots: W--15; D--11.