FORT KENT, Maine — On a night when Fort Kent senior midfielder Taylor Boucher suited up in Warrior colors for the first time in six months, it was a freshman who paved the way for a victory.
Lexi Desjardins scored her first varsity goal with just more than 1:30 remaining in regulation as Fort Kent emerged with a 2-1 win over Houlton in a back-and-forth Class C girls soccer battle on a blustery Wednesday in the St. John Valley.
The teams went into intermission tied 1-1, and the Warriors took advantage of the tailwind, peppering the Shiretowners’ net. Houlton goalkeeper Madison Lezotte made several great saves, including a couple of point-blank stops, to keep the game tied, although Fort Kent’s attackers were dominating.
“Their goalie played an exceptional game, really all of them [did]. There’s some really great athletes on that team,” said Fort Kent coach Kevin St. Jarre, whose club improves to 2-0 on the young season.
It was Houlton’s opener.
The match seemed destined to head to overtime, but Desjardins put those visions to bed with 1:38 to play.
The quick freshman emerged unmarked down the left flank, took a few dribbles and curled a high, arching shot inside the right post and away from the outstretched arms of Lezotte.
“The nice thing about it was how patient she was as a freshman. It wasn’t her first touch, wasn’t her second touch. She looked before she shot, and she had pressure coming,” said St. Jarre.
Even though Fort Kent controlled the midfield and kept the pressure on in the second half, the Warriors were a tad tentative at times.
“We played good, but it’s the finishing that we need to [improve on],” said Boucher, who logged roughly 20 minutes of game time after returning from a knee injury suffered during basketball season.
“We work on it every practice. We need to be a little selfish and shoot the ball once in a while.”
The Shiretowners took advantage of having the tailwind in the first half and took a 1-0 lead at the 23:14 mark.
Chelsi Murray started the sequence by sending a high, arching corner kick into the penalty area and, after Warriors goalkeeper Carissa Pelletier made a couple of point-blank stops, Mikaelah Tracy pounced on a loose ball and sent it to Pelletier’s right.
Needing some momentum to go into halftime, the Warriors got it from Mary Grace Morris. She accepted a perfect cross from Gabby Naranja and chipped a high shot over the head of Lezotte.
“We might have come out flat if we come out of halftime down a goal … [but] tied up with the wind at our backs, psychologically [it was] a little edge,” St. Jarre said.
After St. Jarre told his club to go on the offensive in the second half, the Warriors got their attack in high gear, keeping the ball in Houlton’s end and allowing the Shiretowners only three shots at goal in the period.
But, coach Tim Tweedie’s club made Fort Kent work for every shot, with the Shiretowners’ backs making things difficult for the Warriors.
“I told the girls at halftime we can win it but it won’t be an easy win no matter what. Houlton is a good team,” said St. Jarre.
He also knew it was pivotal to come out with a victory in a match pitting two teams that expect to be in the hunt in Class C this fall, especially with an even greater test against another tough County foe on the horizon.
“We’ve got [Caribou] Friday, one of the better teams in Class B,” St. Jarre said. “Caribou’s just so fast.”
The Warriors’ back line also did a fairly effective job of containing Houlton’s Martha McPartland and Vanessa Sanderson, two of EM Class C’s top offensive weapons.
Boucher was certainly happy to be back. She didn’t play in the Warriors’ season-opening victory against Van Buren as her coach seeks to ease her back into the lineup.
“It means a lot to come back and play,” she said.
Houlton’s Lezotte came up with 12 saves on 22 shots in a valiant effort while Pelletier saved six of nine shots for the Warriors.