BANGOR, Maine — The Hermon High School girls soccer team loves to take full advantage of its speed and skill by possessing the ball and attacking with numbers.
But when sophomore stopper Maddie Page was assessed a red card for elbowing with 8:17 remaining in the first half, the Hawks had to shift their focus to defense since they would be a player short for the final 48:17 of their game against John Bapst of Bangor.
That’s exactly what they did and sophomore striker Kaitlin Saulter’s 11th goal of the season stood up as the Hawks won their fifth straight, 1-0, at Boucher Field on the Husson University campus Saturday afternoon.
Hermon improved to 7-1 while John Bapst fell to 4-2.
The tenacious Hawks’ superior speed was noticeable as they gave the Bapst players very little time or space with the ball and spent a healthy portion of the game controlling play.
Hermon finished with 25 shot attempts to John Bapst’s five.
Crusaders junior goalie MacKenzie Hayman finished with nine saves while Hermon senior goalie Mikayla Treadwell wasn’t required to make a save.
“I thought we played a good possession game. Even when we were a man down, we were still capable of controlling some possession,” said Hermon coach Adam Leach, who passionately disagreed with the red card call on Page. “The nice thing is when we do make a mistake, we have three girls right there to pick them up. That’s what we did well today, supported each other really well.”
Saulter’s goal may have been a fluke but it was well-deserved because the Hawks kept the Crusaders on their back foot throughout the game.
Jessica Allen gave Saulter a pass at the top of the penalty area and Saulter touched the ball to her right to create a shooting lane before letting the shot go.
“It deflected off one of their defenders and went into the side panel. We had a lot of chances to score and we finally got one in,” said Saulter.
Her shot was headed for the near post and Hayman was in position to make a comfortable save but when it deflected off the defender, it rolled across the goal mouth inside the far post to the left of the helpless Hayman.
It came with 10:05 remaining in the first half.
After Page received her red card 1:48 later, Leach pushed striker Saulter back into the midfield and moved attacking midfielder Claire Petersen back into Page’s stopper position.
“Once we scored our goal and Maddie got her red card, we packed it in on defense and I guess it worked for us,” said Saulter.
“They’re a real good team and they deserved to win,” said standout John Bapst sophomore midfielder Abby Pyne, who is a threat from anywhere on the field with her strong right foot but was marked closely by the Hawks. “They did a great job pressuring us. They’re very good defensively and they’re very, very quick.”
Pyne had two long-range efforts that sailed wide.
Allen, Saulter, sweeper Amanda Allen, Petersen and outside midfielder Mollie Roy turned in exceptional performances while controlling play for the Hawks.
“We really wanted this win and we were playing for Maddie, too,” said Jessica Allen.
John Bapst had one glittering scoring chance with 17 minutes left in regulation when Casey McGuire’s corner kick sailed over the head of Treadwell at the near post and was bouncing freely in front of the vacated net. The ball hit the hand of a Hermon player before being cleared out of danger.
Bapst players appealed for a handball, which would have resulted in a penalty kick, but there was no call.
“That was really close. I got nervous on that,” said Petersen who had to adjust to a new role as the stopper.
“I couldn’t really go up into the attack much. But I liked it,” said Petersen.
Despite spending most of the game on defense, the Crusaders defended valiantly and limited the number of high-percentage scoring chances created by the Hawks.
Casey McGuire turned in an impressive performance in the back for John Bapst and Laine Ferrill was also solid.
“They’re a great team but our girls did a phenomenal job keeping the score down,” said John Bapst coach Nikki Novak.