HAMPDEN, Maine — On Friday night, Presque Isle High School girls soccer coach Ralph Michaud asked his players if they thought they were a better team than they were when they lost at home to Hermon 3-2 on Sept. 10.
The rematch was Saturday afternoon on the artificial turf at Hampden Academy since Hermon’s field was waterlogged.
“To a man, they all said yes. They just wanted a chance to prove it,” said Michaud, whose Wildcat girls did just that with an impressive 2-0 triumph over the Eastern Maine Class B points leader.
Early second-half goals just 28 seconds apart by junior striker Chandler Guerrette and junior outside midfielder Megan Ireland supplied the Wildcats with their ninth straight win and improved their record to 11-1-1.
It was their 11th shutout and it marked the first time Hermon had been shut out this season.
Hermon, which had averaged 3.2 goals per game, had its nine-game unbeaten streak snapped (8-0-1) and the Hawks wound up the regular season at 11-2-1.
Presque Isle hosts archrival Caribou in a 7 p.m. Monday game that contains substantial seeding importance. The teams battled to a season-opening 0-0 double overtime tie in Caribou.
Presque Isle moved from fourth to second in the Heal point standings with the win and trails Hermon by 14.5 points. Caribou is third, six points behind Presque Isle.
Influential senior sweeper Chelsea Nickerson turned in a flawless performance while anchoring the Presque Isle defense in front of junior goalkeeper Meredith Stewart, who made four saves on nine shots.
But she was required to make only one difficult save as she parried Claire Petersen’s long-range effort over the cross bar in the opening minutes of the second half.
Backs Karlee Bernier and Hillary Albert did an excellent job marking dynamic Hermon sophomore striker Kaitlin Saulter and the Wildcat strikers and midfielders continually broke up Hawk attacks by back-tracking tenaciously and with purpose.
“We have a saying, ‘When we aren’t on offense, all 10 people defend,” said Michaud.
“We played our best game of the year,” said Nickerson. “We had to make sure we knew where their strong players were all the time.”
Saulter said Presque Isle didn’t allow Hermon much time and space with the ball. She also felt the Wildcats benefited from the fact they practice and play their games on artificial turf while the Hawks have a grass field.
Hermon coach Adam Leach said Presque Isle did a “beautiful job putting extra midfielders out there to clog things up.
“Nobody was going to beat them today. They played a fantastic game. Hats off to them,” added Leach.
Guerrette opened the scoring with 34:31 left in regulation, moments after Stewart made her key save.
Kayla Richards played a long ball over the top and Guerrette was able to free herself from a couple of defenders and slide the ball to the right of onrushing Hermon goalie Mikayla Treadwell.
“We knew their goalie was really aggressive so if we could get a touch on the ball, we could get it by her because she comes out so far,” said Guerrette.
“I was trying to get it to [Guerrette]. She’s always up pretty far on their defensive line and she’s pretty aggressive so I thought she might get it,” said Richards.
Just 28 seconds later, Abbie Carrier sent a high ball to the top of the penalty area and Richards headed it to the far post where Ireland raced on to it and tapped it home.
“I had to make sure I wasn’t offside,” said Ireland. “Their goalie was coming across but I was able to put it between her and the [near] post.”
The Wildcats protected the lead with confident efficiency as they swarmed the ball and made smart, safe plays with the ball to frustrate the Hawks, who had the strong wind in the second half after Presque Isle enjoyed the advantage in the first half.
Treadwell finished with two saves on 13 shots.