One of the byproducts of the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant reduction in travel for high school sports teams, which are playing a much more localized schedule including games against teams they wouldn’t normally play.
Two and a half miles separate Bangor High School, a Class A school, and Class B John Bapst High School, yet their two girls soccer teams met for the first time ever in a regular season game on Tuesday night at the Bangor High field.
It was a crisp evening with a moderate wind and there were no spectators. Only 100 people are allowed to an outdoor high school sporting event, including players and coaches, due to coronavirus protocols established by the Maine Principals Association, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Gov. Janet Mills.
The Crusaders, who had previously lost to defending Class B East champ Hermon (7-2) and Old Town (2-1), gave a good account of themselves in a 4-1 loss to a Bangor team that won 11 Class A playoff games the previous five seasons with its only four losses coming at the hands of defending four-time Class A state champ Camden Hills.
The night belonged to Rams senior attacking midfielder Riley Andrews, who registered a hat trick in her first game in over a year after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the first preseason game of the 2019 season. She had surgery and is wearing a brace on her right knee.
“I was really nervous at the beginning of the game but once I got out onto the field, I just played soccer and it felt good,” Andrews said.
Her second goal came with just two seconds left in a very competitive first half and gave the Rams some valuable breathing room as they took a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
Bangor, playing its first game of the season, was more dominant in the second half and goals by junior Devon St. Louis and Andrews sandwiched the Crusaders’ lone tally by senior Isabelle Angelo.
The speedy and relentless Rams swarmed the ball and gave John Bapst very little time and space with it in the second half.
The John Bapst girls said they were glad they had a chance to play their intown rivals and that it was an enjoyable experience.
“It was really fun,” Angelo said. “They were really good competition and we had to raise our game a level to play them.”
“It was a little tough coming off our first two games but we came out with the right mindset. We knew it was going to be our biggest challenge of the season and I was pleasantly surprised with the way we handled ourselves. I was happy,” said John Bapst senior attacking midfielder Gillian Skehan.
“It was a good opportunity for us and we held our own. We wanted to give our best effort. We did a good job,” said senior striker Kate Harriman, who nearly gave her team a 1-0 lead when she chipped a high shot into the wind that was carrying into the far corner only to be batted away by Ram goalie Emma McNeil.
Andrews was impressed with the Crusaders.
“They were very good. It was a real good game,” Andrews said.
The Bapst girls said one thing that sets Bangor apart from their Class B opponents is their cohesion and their pace of play.
“You can tell they’ve known each other a long time and it really shows. They know how to play with each other,” said Skehan, who noted that it takes her team longer to build team chemistry because they are a private school with players from a number of different towns.
“And they make really quick passes,” Harriman said.
“They play a little faster than we do and we have to learn how to deal with that,” said John Bapst coach Steve Lammert, who was pleased with his team’s showing.
Andrews opened the scoring with a perfectly placed shot off the inside of her right foot from the top of the penalty area that found the far corner.
Her second goal, in the final seconds of the half, came off a Maggie Cowperthwaite throw-in as she ran on to it and drove a rising shot with the inside of her left foot that glanced in off the underside of the crossbar.
St. Louis scored a nifty goal with a near-post run on a Sophia Mullins corner kick and a clever flick from six yards out early in the second half.
Angelo answered by jumping on an errant throw by the Rams goalkeeper and sailing it over her head.
But Andrews capped her triumphant return to the lineup with a powerful shot into the far corner from 12 yards out off an Emmie Streams pass.
“It was great to see Riley back and she played really well tonight,” Bangor coach Andrew Varisco said. “We’ve only been out two weeks so you never know what’s going to happen in a game but all the kids played well. It was fun to watch.”
Bangor attempted 24 shots to John Bapst’s six. McNeil and Hannah Osmer combined for four saves for Bangor while Crusader freshman Ruby Dwyer made five stops.