FALMOUTH — Just when Van Buren had reason to believe a comeback was possible Saturday, the Richmond Bobcats smothered it. They scored two goals in a 37-second span to hold off the Crusaders 4-1 and win their second straight Class D girls soccer state championship.
Van Buren had finally broken through with 3:49 left in the match when Natasha Bourgoin scored on the rebound of a Parise Rossignol shot to cut the gap to 2-1.
But with the Eastern Maine champions continuing to press the attack, Richmond responded with a title-clinching counterattack.
First, Noell Acord scored with 2:32 left to restore a two-goal cushion the Bobcats had maintained since the first eight minutes of the match. She gained control of a loose ball along the right wing and scored with a 20-yard shot that Van Buren goalie Ashley Wilson blocked, but could not control as it trickled across the goal line.
Thirty-seven seconds later, Danica Hurley beat Wilson to a loose ball 25 yards out and scored her second goal of the match into the open net.
“When they put that one in at the end I got a little nervous because they were all excited and we were kind of disappointed so they could have punched another one in and it would have been a tie ballgame,” said Hurley. “But us adding another and then another took the stress off.”
Richmond (15-1) finished with a 25-10 shots advantage, with Lindsay Hoopingarner making four saves.
Wilson, who kept the 12-6 Crusaders within striking distance with several point-blank saves earlier in the second half, finished with 12 stops.
“She’s had four great years for us,” said Van Buren coach Jay Edgecomb. “Those three or four saves she made in the second half, most goalies don’t make those saves. She’s kept us in games all year.”
With a stiff wind at its back in the first half, Richmond outshot Van Buren 14-1. Most of that damage — and two goals — came during the early stages of the period.
“We didn’t come to play the first 10 minutes,” said Edgecomb. “Had we come to play in the first 10 minutes like we did the rest of the game, the wind issue would be a nonfactor.”
The Bobcats took a 1-0 lead exactly four minutes into the match when Clapp headed in Sadie Gosse’s corner kick from the right of the goal. Gosse’s kick went to the center of the goalmouth, where Clapp headed the ball down but it trickled into the net just inside the right post.
Gosse then set up Hurley to make it 2-0 four minutes later. Van Buren briefly had the ball in its offensive end, but Gosse gained control in the midfield to start a Richmond counterattack.
The sophomore midfielder dribbled the ball into the offensive end, then sent a through-pass to Hurley on her right near the 18-yard line. Hurley grounded a shot back past Wilson and into the left side of the goal.
“Our game plan was to come out and really try to score early,” said Hurley, who finished her senior season with 37 goals. “Because we knew if they scored first they’d bunker up and that wasn’t going to work to our advantage.”
Richmond kept the ball in its offensive end for the next 10 minutes, but Van Buren gradually began to even up the play in the latter stages of the period, getting its first shot on goal with 9:10 left on a 35-yard direct kick by Rossignol.
Van Buren had the wind at its back after intermission, but could manage no better than a stalemate with Richmond for most of the period as the Bobcats continued their physical defense against Rossignol, the Crusaders’ sophomore striker, who entered the match with 33 goals.
“It was the most physical defense we faced,” said Rossignol. “We knew what to expect from playing them last year, and I think a lot of people weren’t really ready for that.”
The Crusaders had their first good scoring chance of the day midway through the final period when Rossignol placed the second of two straight corner kicks from the left side at the near goalpost where teammate Haley Lizotte hit a sliding shot from close range only to have Hoopingarner stationed perfectly to make the save.
Gosse had three strong bids within a minute later in the period, but Wilson came up big in the Van Buren goal. The third was a clean breakaway where the senior goalie came out of the goalmouth to smother Gosse’s 15-yard attempt from the center of the penalty area.
Moments later Gosse sent Hurley behind the defense, but again Wilson came out to block the shot to keep it a two-goal match.