HAMPDEN — After an action-packed first half that could have easily produced a 2-1 halftime score, yet remained scoreless, both team’s coaches had the same feeling:
The first goal of the game would be the most critical, and maybe even the only one.
It wasn’t until one hour, two minutes and two seconds had elapsed in Saturday afternoon’s Class D state championship girls soccer game at Hampden Academy’s artificial turf field that the scoring drought was broken. Danica Hurley’s unassisted goal was indeed the only one of the game as her Richmond Bobcats edged Van Buren 1-0 for their first state crown since 2007.
Scores were hard to come by as Van Buren goaltender Ashley Wilson was turning aside all manner of shots the Bobcats could muster.
“We heard she was tough and she was everything she was built up to be,” said Richmond coach Troy Kendrick, whose Bobcats finish 16-1. I don’t care how good she is, if we keep the shots coming, one’s bound to get through eventually.”
One did, but it took a breakaway to do it.
With 17:58 left in the game, junior Hurley and fellow forward Noell Accord broke the ball out from Van Buren control after the Crusaders missed a shot off a scramble 15 feet in front of the goal. They raced downfield with only two defenders between them and the goal.
Hurley took control around the 18 and sprinted right. Wilson came out to cut down her angle, but got caught a little too far to the right side.
“They were beating on our side of the net, but Noell and I kind of hooked up and beat the last two defenders with our speed,” Hurley explained. “I tried to bring their goalie out toward me so I could tap it into the net.”
Hurley scored with a shot to the left corner.
“I thought she was going to pass the ball to the right of the field, but she shot and I was kind of off track,” said Wilson, whose aggressive style confounded the Bobcats most of the game.
The senior goalie finished with nine saves on 10 shots.
“She’s been a great goalie since her freshman year. There aren’t many girls who can stop the balls she does,” said coach Jay Edgecomb, whose Crusaders wind up with a 12-5-1 record. “We haven’t given up a goal all year from outside the 18. The only way we’re going to give up a goal is on a breakaway.”
Van Buren’s best scoring chance came off a corner kick by Chantal Rioux, who hit a perfect crossing pass from the right side to the center of the net with 24 minutes left in the first half. The Crusaders got off three quick shots but Richmond goalie Lindsy Hoopingarner blocked the first two and the third clanged off the crossbar.
Hoopingarner would save seven of eight shots.
The Bobcats did a good job of limiting freshman forward Parise Rossignol’s handling of the ball while also keeping the ball on the Crusaders’ side of the field more often.
“They’re tremendous at passing the ball, moving without the ball, and on defense they really went to the ball hard,” said Edgecomb. “They beat us with a little more team speed.”