CARIBOU — There was a postseason-type atmosphere in northern Aroostook County Monday night, and rightfully so.
The Caribou and Presque Isle girls soccer teams were not only battling for bragging rights in their longstanding rivalry, but for the top spot in Eastern Maine Class B.
That precious spot went to the Vikings, as Jenna Selander scored a goal in each half while Morgan Swan played outstanding in goal as Caribou defeated Presque Isle 3-1 at the high school field.
Coach Todd Albert’s club finishes the regular season 11-2-1 and sews up the top spot in the Eastern B field.
Presque Isle, 10-3-1, can still finish as high as second but no lower than third depending on how today’s matchup between Medomak Valley of Waldoboro and Camden Hills of Rockport turns out.
The Wildcats put two shots on the goal in the match’s opening 20 seconds, only to have one sail just wide and another by Karlee Bernier go just high.
Even though Presque Isle controlled a majority of the play throughout the first 40 minutes, Caribou took advantage of its best opportunity.
Olivia Sleeper controlled a 50-50 ball off a goal kick, found an open Selander at the top of the penalty area and she placed a perfect, left-footed shot inside the left post to give the Vikings a 1-0 advantage with just over five minutes remaining until halftime.
“We try to do five-minute increments of just them not scoring and us scoring, coach came up with that and I think that represented (that) the best,” said Selander.
Presque Isle had plenty of chances to take the lead but were done in by some bad luck as a Shae Adler offering clanged off the crossbar with 31:05 left in the half while Swan smothered four other shots in the half.
“It’s a different game if our first shot in the first half (doesn’t) hit the crossbar and we go up 1-0,” Presque Isle coach Ralph Michaud said. “Caribou’s a tough team.”
Caribou pushed its lead to 2-0 55 seconds into the second half with Hannah Hebert sending a through ball to Olivia Sleeper, who took two touches and took a low shot that PI goalkeeper Meredith Sleeper got a slight hand on before the ball trickled across the goal line.
That goal represented a breakthrough of sorts for Olivia Sleeper, who was looking to give her team some insurance.
“I was just really glad because coach has been telling me to push it, take an extra dribble and go to goal,” she said.
It turns out that the goal was needed as the Wildcats, who outshot the Vikings 18-9, pushed up their attack and were rewarded with 26:07 left when Chelsea Nickerson set up Kayla Richards, who beat Swan to the left post to make it a one-goal game.
But the Wildcats couldn’t get the equalizer, with their best chance coming during a sequence with just under 10 minutes to play when they had four straight corner kicks, all by Nickerson, with the last landing right near the goalmouth, but the Vikings cleared the loose ball out.
“Caribou had it covered well,” Michaud said.
Selander scored her second goal with just over five minutes to go in regulation, taking a through ball from Ginger Kieffer along the left side of the field and it inside the far post.
“That ball Ginger gave to me, I didn’t even have to say anything, she saw (me),” Selander said. “I’m so proud of my team for playing their best game.”
Caribou honored its seniors prior to kickoff, and a few snowflakes were flying as the teams warmed up on a chilly night in which temperatures dipped into the low 20s.
“We thought of it as a big game most of the day, before the game we realized we have 80 minutes to do what we have to do, and the team, everyone, was here today, not just physically (but mentally),” Selander said.
Swan came up with seven saves in goal for a Caribou squad coming off a 2-1 loss at Fort Kent on Thursday.
“I think Morgan deserves a lot of credit, she is just so tough,” said Sleeper.
Stewart came up with three saves for Presque Isle.