The top of the northern box on Westbury's soccer field isn't exactly even terrain.
Jonathan Benitez knows precisely where the bumps are and how to play them. That does not surprise coach Chris Valentini, who watched as Benitez took a pass from Jonathan Guardado, dribbled left to right along the top of the box and fired a shot into the bottom right corner with five minutes remaining to lead Westbury to a 2-1 win over Syosset on Friday.
"After practice ends, I do my paperwork, I do whatever planning for the next day," Valentini said. "Then when I leave an hour later, he's still out here practicing PKs, dribbling through the cones, crossing the ball."
There were no cones to dribble through this time. But the bumps? They were there.
Benitez slipped into a sliver of open space after Guardado received a pass from Bryan Argueta, whose goal midway through the first half offset the one scored by Syosset's Sal Inglima.
"I saw the window between two players," Guardado said. "He was by himself. He asked me for the ball, so I just had to pass it to him."
Syosset's defenders were a step late, and Benitez made them pay, exciting his teammates who knew they were just a few minutes away from defeating a perennial county title contender. The Dragons, who haven't won a conference title since 2005, were ready to announce their arrival to the rest of the class.
"I think this is a great win for us because we're letting everybody know Westbury's back," Guardado said.
With the win in the AA-I/AA-III crossover, Westbury improved to 4-1-1 in AA-III. The Dragons are three points behind Plainview JFK (5-0-1) in league play. Syosset is 3-2.
"This win was a big boost," Argueta said.
A boost that Benitez thinks will only make his team work harder.
"Now we know what we're capable of," he said, "so I think if we keep going forward with our work ethic as a team and individually, as well, I think we could accomplish big things."
If Friday night's result is any indication, he may be right.