TOPSHAM, Maine — Two weeks ago, the Hampden Academy girls soccer team, according to head coach Warren Shearer, failed to play its best soccer in a 2-0 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference loss against Mount Ararat.
On Saturday in an Eastern Maine Class A semifinal, Eagles coach Sam Chard knew the Broncos were not going to repeat that performance, and a 1-1 deadlock early in the second half proved that point.
But, Mount Ararat refused to be denied, getting a Libby Ouellette goal just four minutes after Hampden had claimed the tying marker for a 2-1 Eagles victory.
Mount Ararat (14-2) heads to top-seeded Bangor on Tuesday. The 15-1 Rams eliminated fourth-seeded Brunswick, 1-0, on Saturday, getting the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation.
“I knew it was going to be a different game today, a battle, and they played much better, especially in the opening minutes,” said Chard. “Their goalie played well, defense played well. It was good to see that at this point and find a way to get through and come out on top.”
Down 1-0, Hampden’s Abby Lord sent a through ball to Kerry Quigley, who dodged past a Mount Ararat defender and fired a shot past oncoming Eagles goaltender Kate Guerin.
“Kerry was wide open and nobody was marking her, and one of their girls slipped on the muddy field and she able to beat their goalie,” said Lord. “We had some momentum and had a lot of heart coming into this game.”
Lord nearly gave the Broncos the lead moments later, with her shot skipping inches wide of the post.
Mount Ararat discovered another gear as Torri Pelletier, Libby Ouellette, Christine Levesque and Nikki Bradstreet found open real estate. Pelletier fired a shot on Hampden goaltender Sami Bowler, with the rebound finding the foot of Bradstreet. Bowler committed toward Bradstreet, who chipped a pass to Ouellette for a 2-1 lead with 31:28 remaining.
“We have some leadership on the team, and we talked about getting that next goal early in the second half,” said Chard. “Seeing that fire was good to see. Even after they came out and scored, the girls fired it up and got it done.”
Broncos standouts Erin Jeter, Lord and Brianna Cota had chances as the clock wound down, but Guerin made five stops to send the Eagles to the Eastern A final.
“After we scored, we kept it going, but Mount Ararat is scrappy and just didn’t give up,” said Shearer. “We picked it up again in the final 10, but they were able to hold us off.”
Hampden came out quickly to open the game, sending the first three shots toward the Mount Ararat goal and earning the game’s only corner kick.
But, defenders Lauren Labbay, Anna Manuel, Danielle Krause and Priscilla Whitney stood tall until the Eagles found their feet.
Mount Ararat began taking over, as Krause’s free kick was snared by Bowler, one of her five first-half saves, and Pelletier launched a shot from 25-yards out that sailed high.
The Eagles claimed a 1-0 lead with 3:40 remaining in the half. Nicole Ross battled two Hampden defenders in the corner before sending a cross to a cutting Pelletier, who managed to get her toe on the ball before colliding with Bowler for a 1-0 Mt. Ararat lead.
“We have been working on getting those crosses in front and it worked out there,” said Ross, who was impressed with the effort turned in by both teams. “Today Hampden was a different team than last time, and they picked it up and controlled the game at times. Once they tied it, we knew we had to step it up and not stay back. We were able to get the go-ahead goal and go on to win.”
“Nicole had a great game today and took what we worked on a lot in practice yesterday and put it to good use today,” said Chard of Ross.
“We played a much better game, but we had a few lapses and they didn’t make any mistakes when they had those opportunities,” said Shearer. “We played a good solid game in the backfield. We needed to go to the goal more. We got a good goal, and overall just played better.”
Now, Chard and his Eagles will prepare for Bangor. The Rams blanked Mount Ararat 1-0 on Sept. 27 in the teams only regular-season meeting.
“It will be another battle and you never know. Home field really doesn’t matter these days, and when you get to this point, it will be two good teams going at it in what I think will be a barnburner,” said Chard.