HAMPDEN, Maine — The Richmond High School girls soccer team practiced penalty kicks a few times during the postseason and coach Troy Kendrick felt uneasy.
The limited practice paid off, though, as the Bobcats outscored Washburn 3-1 in penalty kicks to defeat the Beavers 2-1 and win their third straight Class D state title Saturday night at Hampden Academy.
“We had practiced PK’s throughout the postseason and I always thought we would be in trouble if it ever came down to that because we were not successful in practice,” Kendrick said. “The girls were scared to death, but luckily they sucked it up and did what they needed to do.”
“I’ve been in some tight ones before, but never have I seen it come down to penalty kicks in a game like this,” Kendrick added.
Richmond grabbed the 1-0 advantage when senior forward Noell Acord ripped a shot from the top of the box and found the top-right corner of the net at 24:24 in the first half.
The score would remain that way until late in the second half, due in part to strong efforts from the goalkeepers, Washburn’s Rayah Saucier and Richmond’s Kelsie Obi.
Obi would not claim sole ownership of her efforts, citing her teammates as being the real factor.
“The girls gave me a pep talk before the game and we all came together out there ready to work,” Obi said. “I did the best I could today because of my team.”
The efforts of Obi and the Bobcats defense were overshadowed by the offense during the regular season, but Kendrick did not let those efforts go unnoticed in the game.
“We were on the attack a lot during the regular season, but Kelsie and the veteran defense were always there for us. They matched them play-for-play today and really came up big,” he said.
After a slew of back-and-forth play, Washburn would finally tie things up with just 12 minutes left in regulation. Sophomore forward Mackenzie Worcester took a leading lob pass to the middle of the box and sent a header over the head of Obi to tie the score at 1-1.
Kendrick had hoped the one-goal advantage would be enough for his team, but was also well aware of Washburn’s abilities.
“We had heard all the stories about Washburn and boy were they everything they were built up to be,” Kendrick said.
Both Richmond and Washburn were unable to capitalize on corner kick opportunities in the closing minutes of regulation, so the game went into overtime.
The Bobcats had three consecutive corners to open the first extra period, but were turned away each time by Saucier and the Beavers defense.
Neither team would find a better opportunity after that, as the game would be forced into a second overtime.
Kendrick praised Washburn’s defensive effort, which came up big when the the Bobcats put the pressure on.
“At the end of regulation and through the overtimes I felt we were really knocking on the door, but they are just so tough in the back and Saucier is an outstanding ’keeper,” he said.
The opportunities would be few in the second overtime, which ended with no winner, meaning penalty kicks would decide the champion.
Obi had varying emotions knowing exactly what was at stake if she did not rise to the occasion.
“I was scared and nervous with it being our first time in penalty kicks,” she said. “I was still very excited, though, knowing that the outcome would rest on me.”
Richmond would get goals from two of its first three shooters as Amber Loon and Acord found the back of the net. The Beavers kept pace with a goal from Catelyn Coloumbe to make it 2-1 after three shooters.
After the teams exchanged failed attempts, Richmond’s Brianna Snedecker bent a shot to the right of a diving Saucier for the game-clinching score.
The Bobcats finish the season at 16-0-1 and the Beavers at 15-2-1.
Richmond had eight of 11 starters returning from the 2011 championship team, which gave Kendrick hope for a chance at a third straight title.
“We kind of rounded back into shape early in the season and that really gave me hope for us to get here,” he said.
Kendrick felt the team’s success in getting to this point had been aided by pedigree and experience of his players.
“This group of girls has won championships in a variety of other sports, which just goes to show the parcel of athletes we have here,” he said.