HAMPDEN, Maine — The Houlton High School girls soccer team amassed 88 goals over the course of their first 17 games this season. On Saturday afternoon, they only needed one.
The Shiretowners played cohesively on the defensive end and received strong goalkeeping from Tessa Solomon, setting the tone for a 1-0 victory over Madison in the Class C state championship game played on the artificial turf at Hampden Academy.
Coach Tim Tweedie’s Houlton squad (17-1) earned only the second gold ball in program history and the Shires’ first since 1987.
“It’s been a long climb,” said Tweedie, whose nine seniors had lost in the regional final each of the previous three seasons.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said Solomon, a junior who made seven saves en route to her 12th shutout of the season.
Houlton leaned on the experience and poise of its seniors, including defenders Tyra Gentle, Claire Gilpatrick, Alexis Miller and Aspen Flewelling.
That group helped make life easier for Solomon, who made six saves in the second half to help hold off a skilled and resilient Madison team spearheaded by Sydney LeBlanc, Jillian Holden and Ashley Emery.
“We had to play more defensively once we scored,” said Gentle. “We had to make sure that we contained them and we communicated well. I think that’s what helped us.”
Perhaps Solomon’s most impactful save came with just under 32 minutes to play. Emery’s free kick from 15 yards out bounced into the goalmouth where LeBlanc found the ball and fired a point-blank shot that was rejected by Solomon.
LeBlanc got on the rebound, but chipped the follow-up shot over the crossbar.
“Tessa stood on her head a couple times, made some really great saves,” said Tweedie. “I think she saved her best game for last.”
“She’s athletic, but her composure was the main thing today. She played really smart and picked the right moments to come out and not abandon the goal.”
It was a little more than three minutes later that the Shires manufactured the only goal.
Sierra Hoops made a short run down the left flank and crossed it into the middle with her left foot.
“I saw that I had two people in front of me and I couldn’t really take it down the line, so I thought I’d try to get a cross in to Kolleen [Bouchard] to get a head on.”
Instead, the low pass snuck through a group of defenders where Bouchard ran onto it, controlled the ball and fired a hard shot past Bulldogs ’keeper Lauren Hay with 28:46 remaining.
“I saw her wind up for a kick, so as soon as it left her foot, I went,” said Bouchard. “It got behind the defender and my biggest thought was to get it to the ground first so I could get off a good shot.”
It was Bouchard’s 37th goal of the season.
“Kolleen’s got those Inspector Gadget legs where she can just make them longer when she needs to,” said Tweedie. “When you’re smart and athletic like her and compete, sometimes the ball seems to find you.”
Madison was unable to mount much in the way of sustained pressure and was forced to shoot mostly from long distance.
Emery got a 28-yard free kick on goal that was punched out by Solomon with 27:07 left. Five minutes later, she dribbled through three defenders for a 10-yard shot that was grabbed by Solomon.
The Bulldogs’ best opportunity down the stretch came at the 4:30 mark when Emily Edgerly skim-headed a crossing pass on goal, where Solomon was waiting. Her follow-up shot went high.
Anessa Wilde, Amelia Ivey, Jamie Brown and Madison Grant also had a hand in rebuffing repeated attacks by the Bulldogs.
The Shires managed only five shots, two of which made it on goal. They had several attempts that were blocked.
Speedy Houlton forwards Mia Hanning and Hoops gave Madison plenty to worry about on the flanks, as did Bouchard’s gritty play in the midfield, but Madison’s defense — including Annie Worthen, Marah Hall, Trista Giroux and Lauria LeBlanc — made sure Hay (one save) did not have many difficult chances.
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