ORONO, Maine — They went 2-12 last season, and this preseason some figured the Central girls soccer team would be again watching the postseason from the sidelines.
But the Red Devils from Corinth made a big statement Wednesday on the road against defending Class C champion Orono.
Central took a 1-0 lead into halftime, watched the Red Riots tie it 37 seconds into the second half, but Hannah Pray and Katie Day scored second-half goals as coach Mike McHugh’s club emerged with a 3-2 victory in a physical, well-played match.
The Devils not only avenged their only loss of the season — a 2-0 setback in Corinth on Sept. 21 — but gained some valuable Heal points in improving to 8-1.
Orono falls to 7-2.
The Riots were ranked second and Central third in the Class C standings entering play Wednesday.
The Red Devils played outstanding defense against Orono’s crisp passing attack, using a 5-4-1 (five defenders, four midfielders and one striker) to help thwart the Riots’ penetration into the middle of the field, while employing strikers Max McHugh and Brianna Speed in the back on occasion.
“We know that Orono’s a really strong offensive team, so we had two sweepers in the back and three [fullbacks],” said Day.
Both teams missed opportunities to score late in the first half, as a wide-open shot by Central’s Miranda Prescott and a direct kick by Orono’s Analies Dyjak struck the crossbar two minutes apart.
The Devils finally struck gold 7:17 before the half, as freshman McHugh, the coach’s daughter, broke in unmarked along the left side and sent a high, curling shot into the far post and out of the reach of Orono goalkeeper Elizabeth Fox.
That goal gave Central, which was a tad apprehensive coming in, more reason to believe.
“They realized at halftime they could play with these guys and they came out with even more confidence,” said Mike McHugh.
That might have been dimmed just a bit when the Riots’ Ruth Mares tied the match with an unassisted tally at the 39:23 mark of the second half, and Orono applied even more pressure on Central’s back line after that.
But the Devils’ defense kept the Riots at bay, and goalkeeper Samantha Brownell made some solid saves.
“We are really lucky to have Sam as a goalie,” Day said.
Hannah Pray put Central back on top with 23:11 remaining as McHugh crossed the ball from the right flank across the penalty area, and when the ball bounced over Fox’s head, the unmarked Pray one-touched it into the open net.
Day gave the Devils some insurance — which they would need — with 8:02 to play as she blasted home a shot from 30 yards out just over the outstretched arms of Fox.
“I never thought that would’ve ever gone in,” a bewildered Day admitted. “I thought it was going to go over.”
Central was going into the wind in the second half, and it knocked the shot down slightly.
Orono climbed back within one as Chloe Paul redirected an Alex Crocker pass home with 4:48 to play, but once again, Central’s back line, led by fullback Day, met the challenge.
“That’s probably the best teamwork we’ve had all year,” she said.
Both teams were fairly even, as Orono had a 14-12 edge in shots. Fox had five saves in goal for the Red Riots while Brownell came up with seven for Central.