ORONO — On windy days, controlling the ball on the ground and playing a short possession game is key to a soccer team’s success.
That possession-minded style played to the Orono girls team’s advantage on a blustery Tuesday afternoon. Alex Crocker scored what proved to be the game-winner early in the second half while Ruth Mares added a goal and two assists to lead Orono to a 3-2 victory over rival Old Town.
The two-time defending Eastern Maine Class C champion Red Riots (7-0-1) led 2-0 at halftime while Old Town’s Katie DeShane scored on a penalty kick 3:33 into the second half after a hand ball in the penalty area.
But Orono regrouped as Mares and Crocker teamed up 1:03 later, with Mares setting up Crocker down the middle on a give-and-go to restore the Riots’ two-goal lead.
“That was really good, that was all for [goalkeeper] Jade [Keezer],” said Crocker. “Everything [Orono coach] Cid [Dyjak] has us practice has a point. We definitely kept possession of the ball a lot through passing.”
Crocker’s goal turned out to be crucial, since Ashley England scored for 3-4-1 Old Town on a breakaway set up by Samantha McLaughlin with 26:43 remaining, but the Riots’ defense buckled down from there.
Junior sweeper Caleigh Paul stepped in to thwart an England breakaway at the 9:25 mark while a DeShane direct kick sailed just over the crossbar with 50 seconds to go.
Orono controlled play throughout the first half with the wind at its back, outshooting the Coyotes 12-4 and using its disciplined style.
“That’s what we were sticking with, trying to play it on the ground and play it close and tight,” said Mares.
Mares, one of nine Riot seniors, opened the scoring with 27:39 left in the first half, breaking in unmarked down the middle and sending a low shot to the right of Old Town goalkeeper Annie Cashon.
“I waited for her to kind of decide where she was going and she went down before I kicked the ball, so you’ve got to be patient with that,” Mares said.
Mares set up freshman Hanna Renedo 7:48 before halftime, crossing the ball to Renedo, who was unmarked in front of the goal and subsequently one-timed it past Cashon.
“She timed that perfectly and hit it hard,” said Mares.
Playing into the stiff breeze in the first half, coach Chuck Neely’s Coyotes had trouble generating counterattacks.
“We struggled with the wind and getting the ball out of our defensive end in the first half, especially on goal kicks,” Neely said.
Old Town did have a golden chance later in the half, but a hard shot by DeShane hit the crossbar and deflected back into the penalty area, but a Coyote attacker couldn’t get a shot off.
The Coyotes, who have absorbed three one-goal losses this fall, didn’t give up in the second half.
“They don’t quit, there are days where we get sluggish at the beginning, but there’s no quit in this team at all, they’re going to fight you to the end,” Neely said.
But whenever Old Town penetrated deep into Orono’s defensive end, the Riots’ back line would be quick to clear the ball up to the midfielders.
“Orono has nice little short, quick passes and if you start lunging and stepping out of space you end up getting caught, and it caught us,” Neely said.
Cashon had nine saves on 19 shots for Old Town while Keezer came up with six saves on 12 shots for Orono.