The Penobscot Valley High School girls soccer team poses with its state runner-up plaque after dropping a 1-0 decision to North Yarmouth Academy in Saturday's Class D state championship game at Hampden. Credit: Ernie Clark

As the clock wound down during the second half of Saturday’s Class D girls soccer state final at Hampden Academy, Serena Mower could feel the pressure mounting.

So the North Yarmouth Academy senior captain did something about it, scoring the winning goal on a right-left combination with 2:02 left in regulation time to lift the Panthers to a 1-0 victory over Penobscot Valley of Howland and their second straight state championship

“The tension started to build as the game progressed, especially in the counting down of the minutes,” she said, “but I think we were all just really focused on keeping our heads up, keeping the pressure up, and really working with each other to bring home the gold ball.”

Mower gained possession of the ball off a Penobscot Valley goal kick into a slight wind, then dribbled from the left side of the field to the center about 20 yards out from PVHS sophomore goalie Emilee Ireland.

Mower’s first shot was blocked by a defender, but the ball bounced right back to her and she left-footed her second chance to Ireland’s left and into the back of the net for the lone goal of the match.

“I tried to kick it with my right and it hit the girl so I went around and tried with my left and it just so happened to go in,” Mower said.

North Yarmouth Academy concluded its season with a 15-2-1 record while a Penobscot Valley team seeking its first state championship in girls soccer finished 16-2.

“They’ve got two solid strikers [Mower and Natalie Farrell] and we kind of shut them down until the last few minutes,” Penobscot Valley coach Ryan Reed said. “That was really the first great shot she had.”

North Yarmouth Academy, coached by Rick Doyle, finished the match with a 22-11 shots advantage. But after a first half when the Panthers outshot PVHS 10-1 only to be denied by Ireland’s six saves, the second half proved much more even with Howlers generating several dangerous scoring chances of their own.

“We wanted to make sure we were strong defensively getting numbers behind the ball, and then we would counterattack and get in behind them because we’ve got a lot of speed,” Reed said.

“If we defended first and then countered we’d have opportunities.”

Senior Lexi Ireland — the Howlers’ 125-goal career scoring leader — and junior Emily St. Cyr did much of the counterattacking for Penobscot Valley, with the best bid coming not long before Mower’s game-winning goal.

The Howlers worked the ball from the right wing to Ireland in the goalmouth and, amid a cluster of players, it appeared she was pulled to the ground just before she could take a point-blank shot on NYA goalie Carly Downey.

No call was made, and play continued with no PVHS goal.

“I can’t wait to watch the tape on that,” Reed said. “I think we had two chances where Lexi kind of got held in the box, and because she’s a strong girl it takes a lot to bring her down.

“It happens. You don’t see everything but I think we should have had a call.”

Emilee Ireland finished with 10 saves for PVHS while Downey made seven stops.

“They certainly had more shots than we did but we expected that,” Reed said. “They’ve got a lot of club players that play year round and they’re pretty balanced all the way around. They’re organized and they play a good structure defensively with eight back.

“We thought if we could keep the ball on their end we knew we’d be strong, and at the end of the second half we had it on their end and had them on the ropes. Their keeper made some big saves.”

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...