BANGOR, Maine — His team was dominating in the offensive end, generating quality shots on net, and controlling play soundly.
Still, Bangor girls soccer coach Joe Johnson wasn’t exactly comfortable with a slim 1-0 lead throughout most of Tuesday’s Class A quarterfinal with Morse of Bath.
Senior striker Eliza Estabrook calmed her coach’s nerves a little bit, giving second-seeded Bangor some insurance with 8:57 remaining in the second half as the Rams defeated the No. 7 Shipbuilders 2-0 in a game that could have been even more lopsided.
The win set up a Saturday semifinal showdown with defending state champion and third-ranked Waterville, with whom Bangor split during the regular season.
“We definitely wanted to get a [good] start. It didn’t really go as planned,” Estabrook said.
Well, it sort of did, thanks to freshman Grace Maclean, who scored 2:59 into the match.
Denali Graham sent a perfect pass from the center of the field to Maclean, who ran down the left flank, outmaneuvered her defender by going back to her right, and slammed a hard shot high inside the right goalpost.
“Grace is really good at getting the ball where it has to be,” junior forward Kim Jordan said.
That would be all the scoring until Graham sent a perfect through-ball to Jordan, who crossed it over to Estabrook from the right corner and Estabrook one-touched it home.
“I could just tell [Kim] was going to pass it back, and I was just kind of waiting for it,” Estabrook said.
The Rams take a 13-1-1 record into Saturday’s semis while Morse finishes up 9-6.
Even though Bangor generated a number of high-percentage scoring chances, the Shipbuilders used a 4-4-2 (four backs, four midfielders, two strikers) alignment to clog up the middle of the field and try to knock the Rams’ attackers off the ball, but the hosts had a 34-5 advantage in shots.
The problem was, they had trouble finishing.
“You can’t make every shot you take, you have to have some bad ones,” Jordan said.
A couple of shots from Jordan — one in each half — went just wide of the net, while an Ashley Robinson strike sailed just high at the 19:10 mark of the second half. Also, Morse goalie Kate Thibodeau (12 saves) made some outstanding stops, including a point-blank thwart on a Robinson drive in the middle of the penalty area 15:35 before halftime.
“It’s tough. When you have point blank shots and kick it right to [the keeper], it’s tough to score,” Johnson said.
Having played against top-ranked Brunswick twice — a team that attacks the net just as well as Bangor does — Morse coach Steve Boyce knew his team would have to play a defense-oriented style.
“We basically wanted to play them the way we play Brunswick,” he said. “We played a 4-4-2 with two aggressive strikers and hoped that they could do something for us.”
Bangor’s midfielders controlled play throughout and the Shipbuilders struggled to counterattack.
The Rams came out with a lot of fire and intensity, a rematch with Waterville on their minds.
“We wanted to get another shot at Waterville, but we also had to take the first game and beat [Morse] before we got to that point,” Jordan said.
Mia Smith came up with two saves for Bangor.