(Ed. Note: This story originally appeared in the Nov. 12, 2008 edition of The Forecaster)
After three years of knocking ever more loudly on the door, the Waynflete girls’ soccer team crashed through last week with a flourish.
First, the Flyers avenged three prior playoff losses (each more agonizing than the last) to rival and five-time defending state champion North Yarmouth Academy with a 2-0 home victory in the regional final.
Three days later, Waynflete got up early and made the trip north to Hampden Academy to face Orono in its first-ever Class C state final and made the most of the opportunity, riding three first half goals to a 4-1 victory and the sixth Gold Ball in program history.
“I’m so proud of (the girls),” said Flyers’ coach Jon Shardlow. “They should be proud of themselves. Records will always be broken at Waynflete, but one thing that can never be taken away is doing something for the first time. They’re the first Waynflete Class C champions.”
The Flyers won five state titles in Class D, then made the move to Class C in 2005 with aplomb, boasting impressive regular season records and winning at least one playoff game each year.
Unfortunately, Waynflete’s championship dreams were denied by NYA. The Flyers were eliminated 3-1 by the Panthers in the 2005 semifinals, 1-0 in the 2006 regional final and 1-0 on Courtney Dumont’s overtime goal a year ago in the state final.
This fall, Waynflete enjoyed a 4-0 victory at NYA Oct. 10 and posted a 10-3 record, which gave it the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. After rolling past No. 6 Sacopee 4-0 in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Georges Valley 2-0 in the semifinals, the Flyers were finally able to turn their attention to the Panthers, who overcame the No. 5 seed and won a pair of road postseason games to set up a regional final date at Waynflete last Wednesday afternoon.
As was the case a year ago, the Flyers had some great early chances. Junior Sasha Timpson twice missed the mark in the opening moments. Waynflete then had back-to-back corners, but couldn’t convert. In the fourth minute, senior Mariah Monks had her shot denied by NYA senior goalkeeper Abigail Moss.
Dumont then inspired some cold sweats when she sent an off-balanced shot wide and followed up three minutes later with a shot that hit the side netting. The back-and-forth play continued the rest of the half, but neither team could break the ice. The Panthers’ best chance came in the 21st minute when senior Alison Carpenter launched a corner kick that Dumont fired on goal, only to be denied by Flyers’ junior goalkeeper Julia Pope, who had to pounce on the loose rebound. Monks and senior Mariam Qazi had good looks later in the half for Waynflete, but couldn’t finish and the game was scoreless at the break.
In the second half, NYA had a great chance to take the lead with 34:44 to play, but junior Emily Mitchell hit the crossbar after a failed Flyers’ clear. The hosts then took control and pushed for the lead.
After Monks was denied on a sprawling Moss save and Timpson sent a header (from junior Morgan Woodhouse) over the goal, followed by another Timpson shot which was barely deflected wide, Waynflete finally broke through.
The goal came with 24:54 to play and junior Caitlin Britos (who played at NYA her freshman year) did the honors, banging home a rebound of a Timpson shot for a 1-0 lead.
“Sasha shot it and it sort of bounced off a defender and I just followed it in,” Britos said.
Instead of sitting on the lead, the Flyers kept the pressure on and scored again five minutes later when Timpson sent a ball into the box and Qazi beat Moss to the spot and sent a shot into the net for a 2-0 advantage.
“Sasha happened to poke it through,” Qazi said. “The keeper came out. I knew I had to just kick it in. No settling or anything.”
Woodhouse almost made it 3-0 on a couple occasions moments later, but couldn’t finish. The five-time champs never seriously threatened from there and finally, Waynflete had eliminated the Panthers.
“This is amazing,” Britos said. “We just came out and put everything we had on the field and did our best. We were a little nervous, but I think being nervous is good. We were ready. We were prepared. We did really well pulling it together. We have some amazing players. We have amazing team chemistry.”
“We’ve gone through adversity playing against them,” Qazi added. “To lose to them a couple times, we gained experience. We pulled it off today. It was a heartbreaking loss last year. We had control the whole game. To lose it on a ‘golden goal’ was pretty sad. We came out this year and we kept it in the back of our minds. We practiced hard every day to achieve what we came out for. It was a little nicer going through them. Both teams play very good soccer. It’s kind of like a sibling rivalry. We both respect each other, but when we’re on the field, we’re competitive.”
Shardlow wasn’t just happy with the result. He also praised his players’ poise and the officiating.
“We anticipated that sort of match,” he said. “I thought the officials did a great job letting them play. We knew it was a matter of breaking through and capitalizing on opportunities. We had our chances in the first half, but that defense bends, it doesn’t break.
“We captured a little momentum in the second half. We did a much better job playing forward. That gave us numbers. We were more patient and pushed them back defensively. We maintained possession for larger chunks of time. It wasn’t just the finishes. I’m more proud of the buildup to the goals. It was more about how we created opportunities than finishing the shot. It’s a feeling of accomplishment.”
The final step
Waynflete went 5-1 in Class D state finals. Saturday, in their first Class C championship game, the Flyers met Orono for the first time and more or less carried play throughout.
Unlike the NYA game, Waynflete quickly got on the board in the state game when Qazi scored in the fifth minute (from Woodhouse). Woodhouse sent the ball into the box, it bounced off a defender and Qazi beat the Red Riots’ keeper to the rebound and flicked it home. Woodhouse made it 2-0 moments later, using her size and speed to leave three defenders in her wake before burying her shot in the net. Monks then made it 3-0 prior to halftime when she finished a Timpson shot, steering the ball into the cage with her body.
“It was anticlimactic in the sense we put up three goals in the first half,” Shardlow said. “Walking onto the field, we were absolutely focused. We had a quiet intensity when we warmed up. The girls didn’t take anything for granted and it showed in the first half. They did a great job spreading the ball out. (Orono) was chasing all game. It was nice to score early and take a deep breath.”
Orono made things interesting early in the second half with an Alex Crocker goal on a direct kick, but the Flyers didn’t panic. In the 66th minute, Timpson delivered the coup de grace when she was credited for a goal after Woodhouse’ corner kick deflected home. Waynflete didn’t let the Red Riots threaten from there and went on to the 4-1 victory.
“The girls are so proud to add to the tradition and the history of this program,” Shardlow said. “They were very conscious of being the ones to do it for the first time. No one can take that away. We had a seamless transition to Class C other than losing to NYA. We had a meaning and purpose all season. This validated the Class D championships and did justice to the girls who came before.”
Pope made two saves and had a relatively easy day, thanks in large part to the continued stellar play of unsung senior defender Greer Millard.
“(Greer’s) one of the more underrated defenders in the state,” Shardlow said. “She’s so under the radar. She’s not flashy, but she doesn’t make mistakes. We’ve allowed less than a goal a game for three straight years. She’s had different backs in front of her every single year. Their success is due to her leadership.”
The Flyers graduate seven seniors: Millard, Monks,, Qazi, Maddie Berrang, Annie Cutler, Anisa Khadroui and Nina Russem.
“The seniors played in so many big matches,” Shardlow said. “Many of them were on the team for four years. For them to walk off as champions and accomplish a school first, there’s a lot of pride. After having to see last year’s seniors go out with a little less than what they anticipated was very memorable.”
Anyone expecting Waynflete to come back to pack will be disappointed. The likes of Pope, Timpson and Woodhouse return to lead a repeat charge.
“As defending state champions, we’ll come back hoping to repeat,” Shardlow said. “Every season is different. You never know. Repeating is such a hard task. You have to be good, fortunate and healthy. It’s nice to know there’s a core group to work around. We have holes to fill, but we should fill them nicely next year.”
This shot off the foot of senior Mariam Qazi gave Waynflete a 2-0 lead over NYA in last Wednesday’s regional final. The Flyers avenged three previous painful playoff defeats at the hands of the Panthers, then went on to win a first-ever Class C crown.