EXETER — For a team that’s struggled to score goals this season, Maddie Johansson’s tally just 2:05 into the game was a lovely sight for the Exeter High School field team.

With the way this team defends its own cage, an early lead tends to go a long way.

Alyssa Pietz added a first-half goal and the Blue Hawks held off Dover’s late flurry of pressure for a 2-0 Division I win on Wednesday at William Ball Stadium.

“I felt we had more control when we were out there,” Exeter coach Deb Grott said of playing with the lead. “We’ve been working on different mechanisms to move the ball along.”

Exeter improved to 4-5-1, but it still only has 10 goals scored in 10 games. The team’s relied on a solid group of defenders and one of the state’s best in goalie Kate Pigsley; they’ve surrendered just 13 total goals and never more than two in a single game.

“It’s one of our key components right now, is scoring,” Exeter junior center-midfielder Bri Petrucelli said. “Our defense is set. We’re solid on defense. We have the best goalie in the state. … I don’t know what we’d do without her.”

Multiple first-half goals sure make life easier.

After Johansson, a senior captain, tallied for the 1-0 lead, Pietz crashed the net and tipped home an initial drive from Emily Kane to make it 2-0 with 11:31 remaining in the first half.

“A couple goals can make the difference,” first-year Dover coach Sarah Richards said, “and especially in the first half, you’ve got to come out ready to win.”

The Green Wave dropped to 2-6-1. They forced the better offensive pressure in the second half, but their best chances were booted away by Pigsley, who made four saves feel like a lot more.

Dover had a flurry of penalty corners inside the final 5 minutes of regulation that Petrucelli played a critical role in clearing away.

It was just another notch in the belt for the Blue Hawk defense as a whole. Their last two wins were by shutout. Three of their four losses were by scores of 2-0, and the other was a 1-0 setback to Londonderry.

“Definitely the adrenaline,” Petrucelli said of what kept Dover out. “We wanted it to be a 2-0 game, not a 2-1 game. That was huge for us. We just had to take a breath, calm down and we did just fine.”

Exeter was confident coming off Friday’s 2-0 loss at Winnacunnet, playing the first-place Warriors tough in a scoreless second half.

Scoreless, though. The Blue Hawks are a different team when they put two or more goals on the board — 4-0 this season, to be exact.

“Our game is a passing game. We haven’t always been able to do it,” Grott said. “You’ve got to lift your head up and know where that ball’s going to go, and they’ve gotten better with it. They’re trusting each other more, working together more as a team.”