PORTLAND—It didn’t take long for the Waynflete girls’ soccer team to learn that it will get every foe’s best effort this fall.
Monday afternoon in the regular season opener at Fore River Fields, the defending Class C state champion Flyers welcomed Traip Academy and just 4 minutes, 30 seconds in, found themselves down by a goal.
Waynflete eventually got it going and took the lead thanks to a pair of goals from sophomore Arianna Giguere. When senior Sofia Canning finished a feed from her freshman sister Isabel Canning with just 10 seconds remaining in the half to make it 3-1, the hosts had momentum.
Senior Cat Johnson scored on a rebound with 17:21 to go for a three-goal lead, but to their credit, the Rangers didn’t quit.
Traip scored twice in a 71-second span and suddenly, the Flyers were on the ropes again, but Waynflete held off the Rangers the rest of the way and an insurance goal from senior Leigh Fernandez as time expired allowed Waynflete to prevail, 5-3.
“I think we got a little too comfortable,” Fernandez said. “They got a couple quick ones, but we found a little fire in the end and finished it off. We had to regroup. We didn’t really see it coming. We’ll learn a lesson from that. It won’t happen again.”
The Flyers entered the 2013 campaign not just defending a soccer championship, but several girls have won in multiple sports of late, most notably Fernandez, who is riding a personal four-sport championship streak (two lacrosse crowns, one apiece in basketball and soccer).
While Waynflete graduated several key players, it still has to be viewed as the team to beat.
Traip opened with a 2-0 loss at North Yarmouth Academy Friday.
Last year, the Flyers handled the Rangers twice by 4-0 scores.
Monday, victory didn’t come as easily as some expected.
Traip stunned the hosts with 35:30 to play in the first half when Haley Pereira lofted a corner kick over the head of Waynflete junior goalkeeper Helen Gray-Bauer (who’s holding down the fort while junior standout Julianna Harwood recovers from a knee injury) to Morgane Gaudissart, who was waiting to tap the ball home for a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers almost made it 2-0 three minutes later when Allie Barrett’s low shot eluded Gray-Bauer, but it trickled just wide of the target.
The Flyers finally got their offense going and after Sofia Canning had a shot saved and Fernandez just missed the far post, Giguere tied the score.
The equalizer came on a corner kick and Isabel Canning, who made an immediate name for herself, lofted a ball that Giguere slammed home to make it 1-1.
“Isabel is a great addition to the team,” Giguere said. “I don’t know what we’d do without her. I’m really proud of her.”
After a nice defensive play from Waynflete sophomore Meddy Smith, breaking up a Barrett rush, Giguere took a pass from Fernandez and finished to put the Flyers ahead to stay, 2-1.
“Leigh gave me an amazing cross,” Giguere said. “I was right there and I was like, ‘Yes! Here were go!’ We were worried about having a slow start, but I knew we had to keep going. I’m coming back from an ankle injury, so maybe I’m not in the shape I should be, but I give it my all.”
“Arianna knows how to make the runs,” said Waynflete coach Todd Dominski. “As long as we get the ball there, she can finish.”
After both teams missed opportunities, it appeared the score would remain 2-1 going into the half, but Waynflete got a huge emotional boost when Isabel Canning played a pass perfectly through two defenders to Sofia Canning, who raced in and beat Traip goalkeeper Lynn Moore, making it 3-1 Flyers at the break.
“We’re really young, but I think the underclassmen really step up,” said Fernandez. “We have a lot of speed and promise in our freshmen. Especially in the midfield. Isabel’s unbelievable. Even as a freshman she has confidence. Her kicks were huge today.”
“Isabel did a nice job,” said Dominski. “As a freshman, she’s very mature. You’d never know she’s a freshman out there. She’s great on corner kicks and free kicks.”
When Johnson scored on a rebound (collecting the ball after it deflected off Fernandez’s back) with 17:21 left, the lead was 4-1 and the game appeared all but over, but the Rangers taught the hosts a valuable lesson.
A game lasts 80 minutes.
With 11:28 to go, Gaudissart (after a long run through the Waynflete defense) set up Barrett for a goal and the score was 4-2.
Then, with 10:17 remaining, Barrett returned the favor, passing to Gaudissart, who tapped a loose ball into the net to cut the deficit to 4-3 and suddenly make things very interesting.
Traip had two looks to tie, but a cross from Elora McCuddy went just wide and Gray-Bauer beat Gaudissart to a loose ball in the box.
“Our fingers are crossed for Julianna’s recovery, but Helen’s doing amazingly well,” Fernandez said. “She’s confident and plays her position well.”
“Helen did a good job back there,” said Dominski. “She comes off the line really well and makes the saves she has to make. We hung her out to dry a little bit. The goals weren’t her fault.”
Then, as time wound down, sophomore Esme Benson got the ball to Fernandez, who buried it just before the clock hit zero and Waynflete earned the victory, 5-3.
“We have of work to do,” Dominski said. “Traip played hard all game. Credit to them. They continued to fight. We know there’s a big target on us and that teams will give us their best every game. We have to stand up to that. Offensively, we looked really good today. In the preseason, we looked really good defensively.”
Traip looks to get in the win column Wednesday at Buckfield. The Rangers host the Flyers Oct. 16.
Waynflete won’t return to action until next Monday (at Fryeburg) as students go away for the school’s annual Outdoor Experience.
“We’ll have the week off, then have a tough week next week,” Dominski said.
The Flyers’ heavy lifting doesn’t come until the later in the season, allowing this team to continue to improve.
“We have to have the desire to win,” said Giguere. “If we don’t, we won’t get there.”
“We have to get crisper passes and play to feet,” Fernandez said. “There’s a target on our backs. I think we can step up. We have a lot of potential.”
Waynflete senior Leigh Fernandez works around Traip defender Sarah Montembeau. Fernandez had a goal and an assist in the victory.
Waynflete senior Sofia Canning, who had a huge goal just before halftime, fights Traip’s Elora McCuddy for possession of a loose ball.
Waynflete sophomore Esme Benson fires a shot on goal.
Waynflete senior Cat Johnson fights off Traip defender Elora McCuddy.
Waynflete junior goalkeeper Helen Gray-Bauer is congratulated by her teammates after the defending Class C state champion Flyers held off plucky Traip Academy, 5-3, Monday.