ORONO, Maine — Laura Martel of Lewiston became the school’s first ever America East Striker of the Year earlier this week.
The University of Maine senior lived up to it Thursday afternoon.
Martel converted a Carolyne Nellis cross into her 13th goal of the season just 1:46 into overtime as the third-seeded Black Bears survived a scare from sixth seed New Hampshire 2-1 in their America East soccer quarterfinal.
Maine, 9-5-2 overall, will take a five-game winning streak into Sunday’s 1 p.m. semifinal at No. 2 Binghamton (N.Y.), 9-6-1. UNH ended up 4-14-1.
Maine freshman goalkeeper Meagan Price-Leibenzeder made six saves on 11 shots while UNH’s Ally Yost had eight stops on 23 shots.
Gorham’s Kelsey Wilson staked Maine to a 1-0 lead with an unassisted goal in the 35th minute but UNH’s Shaunna Kaplan equalized off a Morgan Keefe pass with just 7:59 remaining in regulation.
UNH kicked off for the overtime but Maine quickly gained possession and Veronique Fleury angled a pass to Nellis down the left flank.
“I was wide open and I beat my first defender. They gave me the serve [cross] and I took it,” explained Nellis. “It went over the goalkeeper and then I saw [Martel] come in and finish it.”
“It bounced [once], I ran it down and side-volleyed it in. I put it back to where it had come from,” said Martel. “It was kind of at an awkward angle. It was a pretty powerful shot. I was actually surprised how much I was able to get behind it.”
Yost said she got a piece of the cross and then got her hands on Martel’s low shot while she was still on the ground.
“It barely rolled over the goal line,” said Yost. “I was diving backwards into the goal so I didn’t have any momentum to push it out.”
New Hampshire coach Mike Jackson said, “when we got the equalizer, I was hoping we could capitalize on that momentum but the conference striker of the year told us otherwise.”
Wilson had opened the scoring with her third goal of the season when she blocked a UNH clear-out, took a stride and rifled a 16-yard shot that tailed into short-side corner.
Each team had a glorious chance in the evenly-played first half but Yost scrambled out to smother Martel’s break-in off a Fleury pass and Price-Leibenzeder did likewise to rob Kaplan off a Meg Wiley feed.
Maine pressed for an insurance goal in the second half and spent most of the half in the attacking third, generating the half’s first 11 shots at goal.
Martel broke free and ran on to another Fleury through ball only to hit the far post.
The stellar Yost was positioned well and made several good saves while also snaring potentially dangerous crosses.
The Bears often crossed the ball too close to her, failed to connect on the final pass, shot right at Yost, or missed the net.
Their inability to extend their lead temporarily proved costly when an unattended Kaplan took a diagonal pass from Keefe at the top of the penalty area and curled a perfectly-placed shot over Price-Leibenzeder for her third goal.
“That was a great goal she hit,” said Maine coach Scott Atherley. “I told our players after regulation not to be discouraged. That’s just the nature of the game. We played exceptionally well. We weathered the storm, Carolyne made a great service and you saw why Laura Martel was the striker of the year.”