It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it is a genuine treat.
When the Bangor High School girls soccer team met Scarborough for the state Class A championship on the artificial turf at Hampden Academy on Saturday, you hoped it would be a memorable affair.
More often than not, a game with such high expectations doesn’t turn out that way.
It was the third straight year they had met in the final, with Scarborough winning 3-0 two years ago and Bangor avenging that loss 4-0 last fall.
The game, won by Scarborough 2-1 in double overtime, turned out to be much more than anyone could have expected.
The soccer purists will probably say the physicality of the contest negated some of the finesse.
I beg to differ. The physicality made it special.
Every ball was contested by players who have developed an intense but respectful rivalry.
There was finesse. There was no shortage of skill on the pitch.
But it was difficult finding time and space with the ball to display that finesse because of the athleticism and tenacity of the opponents. Every ball was contested.
There were more collisions than a NASCAR race, but nothing nasty.
There were no sub-par performances from my vantage point. Everybody played up to their potential or even better.
And there were so many fascinating subplots.
Scarborough senior striker Sarah Martens finished off a remarkable run in the postseason by scoring her fourth game-winner. She scored all of her team’s game-winners in the playoffs and Saturday’s was a beauty as she calmly slotted home a precise through ball from Jessica Meader beyond the long reach of diving Bangor goalie Cordelia Stewart.
Red Storm goalkeeper Sydney Martin made a game-saving highlight-reel stop off Alli Boulier’s curling attempt with two minutes left in regulation.
Then there’s Bangor sophomore goalie Stewart. With virtually no soccer background, the standout basketball player became the team’s starting goalie late in the year and made 10 saves under the intense scrutiny of a state final. She played with terrific poise.
I’m sure she’d like to have the first goal back but that was about her only miscue in more than 95 minutes of soccer and that is very impressive. She has a bright future as she continues to learn the position.
And there was senior Jackie Veilleux, the Calvary Chapel student playing for Bangor High School for the first and only year after her school dropped soccer. The midfielder may have had more touches on the ball than anyone thanks to her skill and aggressive nature.
Unfortunately for Bangor, she wasn’t on the field when the game-winner scored because she had injured her tailbone in a collision just a minute before.
There was Scarborough’s back line of Katie Wahrer, Maria Philbrick, Ainsley Jamieson and Sam Sparda that had to keep dynamic Ram striker Grace MacLean (33 goals, 12 assists this season) from controlling the game.
MacLean is arguably the state’s best player and she is aptly named.
She combines speed and grace with a tenacity on the ball. Not to mention an ability to strike the ball with great pace with both feet.
One long-range effort stunned Martin.
“My jaw went numb. That was a bullet,” said Martin.
The well-organized Scarborough back line did a very efficient job double-teaming MacLean and trying to deny her the ball.
Even though MacLean didn’t score, she was still a constant threat.
MacLean finished with eight shots at goal and she made several dangerous crosses into the Scarborough penalty area.
Scarborough coach Mike Farley praised MacLean.
“She is so fast. She got to the outside and that enabled her to get herself in one-on-ones with our backs. If she would have tried to go through the middle, we would have had two backs on her and it would have been harder for her,” said Farley. “She did a great job getting down the wing.”
Farley also lauded Bangor senior center back Denae Johnson who, with fellow center back Anna Morris, constantly broke up Scarborough advances with well-anticipated interventions.
“Johnson was fantastic. She really pressured the ball to create turnovers,” said Farley.
Emily Brooking and Emily Smith were poised and effective as the outside backs for Bangor and Brookings was able to poke the ball away from the dangerous Meader in a one-on-one late in regulation.
Smith’s long throw-ins produced scoring chances for the Rams.
Both teams had great chances to win the game in the second half and the first overtime but failed to do so until Martens ended it with her clinical finish.
If you expect the cliche “there were no losers in this game,” forget it.
Scarborough won and Bangor lost.
But the real winners were those who witnessed the battle.
Two great teams and a marvelous showcase.