As a freshman on a Westfield team returning the majority of its starters, Emma Kershner didn’t know how, if at all, she would play into the Bulldogs’ plans this season. But when starting midfielders Katherine Bukovsky and Carolyn Seltzer went down early in the year with injuries, Kershner ably stepped in and has become one of Westfield’s top scorers.

During the second half of Tuesday’s contest at No. 3 Centreville, with the No. 4 Bulldogs seeing shot after shot sail wide or long, Kershner again answered the call, netting the decisive goal in the final minutes to give Westfield a 1-0 victory in Clifton.

“At first, I wasn’t sure what my role would be; I just came in wanting to work hard and do my best,” said Kershner, who now has three goals on the season. “It’s humbling knowing that I’ve been able to come in as a freshman and help my team maybe even more than expected.”

The win marks Westfield’s second against a ranked opponent in the last three games.

Initially, the AAA Concorde District rivals appeared headed for a stalemate. Both teams saw at least two scoring opportunities sail wide, high or into the outstretched hands of the goalkeeper. Centreville’s Nastassia Tiangco came the closest, gathering the ball for a 10-yard shot in front of the goal that flew just wide of the left post in the 23rd minute.

Westfield (7-0, 1-0) came out stronger in the second half, controlling possessionand firing four shots on goal to keep the Wildcats (7-1, 0-1) off balance.

“Our mindset changed because in the first half, we weren’t playing with the same intensity that we usually do,” Bulldogs Coach Kristi Williams said. “The kids have been scoring a lot lately and that’s not always been the case, but clearly we have to work more on finishing our shots and passes better.”

In the game’s 75th minute, Westfield’s slight inaccuracy gave way to an on-target cross by Seltzer from the right side. As the pass sailed over the Centreville goalkeeper’s hands, in slid Kershner, who knocked the ball into the net for the score that would send Westfield to victory in the district opener.

“We came into the season feeling kind of like an underdog, so we’ve taken that and tried to build a chemistry and bring an intensity that will help us get that first banner,” Kershner said in reference to Westfield’s pursuit of its first district, region or state girls’ soccer title. “That’s what we’re all working for. Winning games like this are a step in the right direction.”