BANGOR — Nate Bach made the most of his high school soccer postseason debut Wednesday, as the freshman forward scored twice — including the game-winner with 13:10 left in the second half — to lift second-seeded Bangor past No. 7 Lawrence of Fairfield 2-1 in an Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinal.
The win advances the defending state champions, 12-1-2, to a semifinal at home Saturday against No. 6 Messalonskee of Oakland. Messalonskee, 11-2-2, upended No. 3 Mount Ararat of Topsham 1-0.
Bach’s second goal came on a counterattack after some sustained offensive pressure by Lawrence.
Senior midfielder Alex Shi cleared the ball from Bangor’s defensive end with a long lead pass that Bach tracked down in front of two defenders, and with those defenders in pursuit and Lawrence goalie Brad Mackenzie charging out from the goal crease, Bach directed the ball past Mackenzie and into the open net to give the Rams their second one-goal lead of the evening.
“When I got the ball and I could hear footsteps, so I tried to shoot it quickly,” said Bach. “I could tell they were gaining on me from behind and I saw the goalie coming out, so I put it past him as quick as I could.”
The quick-strike counterattack has been a staple of Bangor’s offensive arsenal this season.
“In general we really like to play direct as a team, we like to clip it over and hit our forwards streaking forward,” said Shi. “This time we won the ball in the midfield and I looked up and saw Nate streaking across center field. He’s like zero to 60 in three seconds, so I know if I just put it in front of him he’ll get it, and as soon as he sees my head lift up to look at him, he’s off.”
Lawrence’s best bid to re-tie the match came moments later on a high blast from the right wing by Zachariah Blomerth, but Bangor freshman goalie Liam Harrigan jumped to deflect the ball over the crossbar.
Lawrence finished with a 7-6 edge in shots, with Harrigan making four saves for Bangor and MacKenzie two saves for 9-7 Lawrence.
“What we’ve done all season is grind it out and play as hard as we can and try to match, if not beat, the other team’s intensity and it works out for us,” said Harrigan.
Bangor and Lawrence had split two regular-season matches, with Lawrence’s 3-1 victory at Fairfield on Oct. 4 ending the Rams’ 75-match regular-season unbeaten streak (70-0-5).
“We’ve had three close matches this year, each game really could have gone either way,” said Lawrence coach Bob Towne. “Tonight we didn’t find the feet of our forwards, we weren’t making the penetrating passes enough and as a result weren’t getting the shots that we like to see ourselves get.
“Bangor definitely is a hard-working team and they do a good job transitionally getting back on defense and closing things down.”
Bangor played this third meeting with Lawrence minus senior midfielder John Szewczyk, sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury.
But the Rams struck for a 1-0 lead 11:40 into the match when Lawrence was unable to clear the ball from its defensive end and Bach gained possession just outside the penalty area. He dribbled once to his left, then grounded a shot back to Mackenzie’s left and into the net.
That lead stood up until 8:06 into the second half when Lawrence senior captain Tim Dudley beat the charging Harrigan to a centering pass near the edge of the penalty area from Matthew Saunders, then eluded the Bangor goalie before scoring into an open net.
“I usually go out with my hands first and on that play I got turned around and went out with my feet first,” said Harrigan. “If I had been on the other side I would have been able to get to it.”
Lawrence maintained some momentum after tying the match, but Bangor used a lesson learned from its earlier loss to the Bulldogs to prevent that result from repeating itself.
“At Lawrence when we lost to them the same thing happened, we were up a goal and they scored two quick ones,” said Shi. “So this time we made sure we didn’t let up after they scored their goal. We just tried to refocus and play our game, and it worked out.”