HAMPDEN, Maine — The Richmond Bobcats generated precious few scoring opportunities during Saturday night’s state championship soccer game against Ashland.
With their efforts focused on the defensive end against the high-scoring Hornets, the Bobcats nonetheless were able to take advantage of their chances.
Senior midfielder Destiny Anair turned in almost identical plays to set up first-half goals by Caitlin Kendrick and Bryannah Shea, sparking Richmond to a 2-1 victory for the Class D girls title at Hampden Academy.
Richmond mustered only three shots on goal in what was the fourth consecutive championship-game meeting of the two schools, but they made them count.
“That kind of typifies our season,” said Richmond coach Troy Kendrick. “We really struggled all year, to be honest, to finish goals and we’ve really tightened it up on defense.”
The Hornets (16-2) outshot the Bobcats 20-6 overall and had an 8-3 edge in shots on goal. They just weren’t able to put the ball into the goal.
“When you get into a game like this, it’s just a matter of who executes, who takes advantage of their opportunities,” said longtime Ashland coach Peter Belskis.
“Credit to them [Richmond]. They played their game smart,” he added.
It took Richmond (13-3-2) almost 17 minutes to take its first shot, but it was on the mark.
Anair initiated the play with an aggressive run down the right flank and crossed the ball. The pass bounced past Shea, but found the foot of Kendrick, who punched a shot past Ashland goalkeeper Megan Cote to make it 1-0 at the 23:13 mark.
“I thought we did an adequate job on Kendrick, but we did not execute on Anair and she was the difference in the game by just making those crosses,” said Belskis.
The Hornets, who already had four shots on goal at that point, responded with some good pressure over the next five minutes. Shelby Stolze had one on Bobcats ’keeper Sydney Tilson (7 saves), then Morgan Doughty followed with a shot that was blocked and another that went wide.
Richmond, which in the meantime managed a shot on Cote from beyond midfield, expanded its lead with 8:06 left in the first half.
Anair again raced down the right sideline with the ball and fired it toward the middle. Cote got her hands on the ball, but could not control it. Shea pounced on it and buried the shot.
“They were knocking on the door a lot, but we finished the opportunities that we had,” said Anair.
It was the first time a team had shut out Ashland in the first half and the only time it trailed by two goals this season.
Richmond’s stingy defense did not afford Ashland many good scoring chances in the second half but, with desperation setting in, the Hornets finally broke the ice.
Amber Chasse controlled the ball near midfield and made a short run on the left side before delivering a diagonal through-ball to Doughty. She ran onto the pass and wasted little time before blasting a shot back to Sydney Tilton’s right and into the far corner to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 3:17 to play.
It was Chasse’s 33rd goal of her senior season.
A little more than a minute later, Ashland threatened again but Chasse’s hard shot from the 18 whizzed just past the right post.
The Hornets’ last gasp was a corner kick on which Doughty’s ball went across the front of the goal but did not find a teammate.
“That was a big hole to dig out of against a defensive-minded team,” Belskis said.
“We just needed to get one earlier.”
The youthful Richmond defense was spearheaded by freshmen MaryBeth Sloat, Emma Carbone, Lindsie Irish and Makayla Bergeron with support from the midfielders.
“We lost some big players down the middle of the field (from the 2016 team) but we really put it together at the end of the season,” said Anair.
Ashland’s senior class, which includes Doughty, Chasse, Cote, Alexis Craig, Micayla Driscoll, Mackenzie Carter and Briana Harris, concluded its careers with a 69-3 record. Two of the losses came against Richmond in state games.
“What a super group of athletes,” said coach Kendrick. “That’s the best team we’ve seen, and we’ve played a pretty competitive schedule, some [Class] C teams.”