Waynfete's rally strikes gold
SCARBOROUGH—The Comeback Kids became Destiny's Darlings.
And can now can call themselves Class C state champions.
The Waynflete girls' soccer team never minded playing from behind this year, so with a little more than 20 minutes to go in the biggest game of the season, the Flyers had the Fort Kent Warriors right where they wanted them in the Class C state final.
Waynflete, which took an early 1-0 lead on senior Sadie Cole's tally, saw that lead disappear courtesy two Warriors' strikes before halftime and still trailed, 2-1, despite dominating play in the second half.
Then, in a 45-second span, the Flyers not only erased their deficit, but staggered Fort Kent by taking the lead as well.
First, freshman Arianna Giguere tied the score on a rebound with 20:20 remaining.
Then, with 19:35 to go, Giguere and senior Isabel Agnew combined to launch a shot on goal that eluded a Warriors' defender and found the net for a 3-2 lead (Agnew was credited for the score).
From there, Waynflete clamped down on defense and put the finishing touches on a stirring 3-2 victory, captured its second Class C title and seventh overall, finishing 12-2-4 and ending valiant Fort Kent's run at 13-4-1 in the process.
"It's so exciting. It's like nothing else," said Agnew. "This was new to all of us and there were some points where it was rough, but we knew we had to push through. I felt pretty confident the whole time. We haven't had a ton of huge leads this season. We knew we could bounce back. We trust each other and we knew it was going to happen."
The Flyers were regional finalists in 2011, losing in overtime to St. Dom's, and have been competitive throughout the 2012 campaign.
Waynflete was undefeated in its first 11 games, but four of those resulted in ties. After blanking visiting Sacopee in the opener, 1-0, the Flyers settled for a 2-2 home draw versus Poland. A 2-0 home win over North Yarmouth Academy, a 3-2 overtime triumph at Freeport (the first time Waynflete had to come from behind to prevail) and a 2-0 win at Sacopee followed. After settling for ties versus visiting Gray-New Gloucester (1-1) and host Old Orchard Beach (2-2), Waynflete handled visiting Traip (4-0), host Traip (4-0) and host NYA (3-0), before playing host Richmond to a 1-1 draw. The Flyers finally suffered a loss Oct. 9 at Greely (3-0), but answered with a 2-1 home win over Old Orchard Beach. The regular season ended with a 6-0 home loss to Western A power Cape Elizabeth, leaving Waynflete with the No. 4 seed for the Western C playoffs.
In the quarterfinals, the Flyers eked out a 2-1 win over fifth-ranked Wiscasset on Agnew's second half tally.
Waynflete then erupted in the second half to upset top-ranked Lisbon in the semifinals, 4-0.
Wednesday, the Flyers avenged last year's ouster with a thrilling 2-1 double overtime win at No. 2 St. Dom's on Cole's tally.
As for Fort Kent, it earned the top seed in Eastern C after a 10-3-1 regular season. The Warriors lost twice to reigning Eastern B champion Presque Isle and tied and lost to Fort Fairfield. Fort Kent advanced by defeating eighth-ranked Dexter (3-2), No. 4 Bucksport (1-0) and second-seeded Orono (4-0).
Fort Kent was seeking its first championship. The Warriors' only previous title game appearance came two years ago when they lost to Sacopee, 2-1, in overtime.
Waynflete entered with an impressive championship pedigree, winning Class D in 1995 (3-0 over Greenville), 1996 (2-0 over Ashland), 1997 (1-0 over Wisdom), 2002 (3-0 over Lee Academy) and 2004 (2-1, 7-6 in PKs, over Lee) and Class C in 2008 (4-1 over Orono). The Flyers also made the Class D state game in 2003, but lost to Lee, 4-0.
Prior to Saturday, the teams had no playoff history.
They have one now and it's one the Flyers will long remember.
After a terrific rendition of the National Anthem by Waynflete sophomore Helen Gray-Bauer on her viola, both teams had their chances early.
The Warriors earned a corner kick just 80 seconds into the game and a minute later had a nice opportunity, but Waynflete sophomore goalkeeper extraordinaire Juliana Harwood beat Fort Kent sophomore Danielle Pelletier to a loose ball and Pelletier had to leave the game with an injury.
The Flyers' first shot came in the fourth minute, but Cole sent it high.
Waynflete capitalized on its next chance and broke the ice.
With 33:07 left in the first half, after a failed Warriors' clear, Agnew fired the ball into the box and Cole was there to bang it home for a 1-0 lead.
"We talk so much about coming out strong," Cole said. "I just touched it in. It got us going. It was amazing to score in a state game."
Flyers coach Todd Dominski said that unfamiliarity with Fort Kent was not a problem.
"We just did what we normally do, play our game and if there are any adjustments, make them adjust to us," Dominski said. "We started out well."
In the 15th minute, the Warriors almost pulled even on a sensational 45-yard free kick rocket from senior Alexis Desjardins, but Harwood leaped and made a sensational save, knocking the ball off the crossbar.
"I've been working on those saves all season," said Harwood, who's been phenomenally clutch in the postseason. "Those are the hardest ones because it's not instinctive to go back like that. I've worked on that in practice. It paid off in the state game."
Desjardins would get a second chance with 24:38 to play before halftime and this time she placed the ball where even Harwood couldn't reach it.
On a free kick from the left side of the box, Desjardins launched a shot over Harwood and into the goal, just inside the far post, to tie the game, 1-1.
"I didn't know if I should go near post or far post, so I stayed middle and couldn't get it," said Harwood.
After Fort Kent's defense cleared a well-placed corner kick off the foot of Waynflete junior Walker Foehl and Harwood broke up a pass from Warriors junior Dakota Martin to Desjardins in the box and the ensuing loose ball was cleared, the Warriors took the lead.
With 8:47 left in the half, a long lead pass bounced just outside the box and it appeared Flyers' senior defensive standout Rhiannan Jackson would reach the ball first, but Fort Kent freshman Jessica Morin got there at the same time and outfought Jackson for possession before shooting past Harwood, who had come out to play the ball.
"My timing was off," said Harwood. "I went down, but she shot it under my arm. Those things happen. You can't let it get to you."
Waynflete went to halftime down, 2-1, but there was no panic.
That's because the Flyers have faced several deficits this fall and almost always dug themselves out of a hole.
"I think we like being down at half," joked Dominski. "It's our trademark."
Sure enough, Waynflete came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, but it took awhile for the Flyers' hard work to be rewarded.
With 37:50 to play in regulation, Warriors sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Pelletier (14 saves) had to fall on Foehl's cross.
Three minutes later, the goalie came way out to collect a Foehl corner kick.
With 33:19 remaining, Giguere had a shot blocked and Agnew sent the rebound wide.
Three minutes later, Giguere had another look, but shot wide.
With 26:33, Foehl sent a corner kick into the box, but Cole's header sent the ball wide.
Three minutes later, an Agnew shot was blocked by a defender.
As the second half neared the midway point, worry had to be creeping up on Waynflete, but the team's finest 45 seconds of the season (and considering the stakes, maybe ever) were about to ensue.
The tying tally began innocuously as after Dominski moved junior Leigh Fernandez (who competed despite an arm injury) up for an extra attacker, Foehl sent a shot on goal which was stopped, but the rebound was deflected back out to Giguere and the freshman, who plays like anything but, ripped a shot past Pelletier and into the net to make it a brand new game.
"I personally was very down at halftime, but I knew I couldn't let it get to me and I had to turn it around," said Giguere. "I wasn't concerned. I knew when we dominate, the goal had to happen. The shot went off the goalie and I was just there to put it in. "
"I felt confident the whole time, but I knew we needed to score," Cole said. "We got our fire going."
Did Waynflete ever.
After winning back possession, the Flyers earned a corner kick and on their 10th such opportunity of the game (they finished with a 12-4 edge), Foehl sent a perfect cross that got knocked loose in front. With Pelletier out of position, both Agnew and Giguere kicked at the ball at the same time and sent a shot toward the right corner. A Fort Kent defender had a chance to save the goal, but whiffed on the clear attempt and just like that, Waynflete had not only erased its deficit, but had gone ahead, 3-2.
"There was a scrum and it just bounced off one of their players and it went in," said Agnew. "Arianna and I both had something on it. It was a huge swell of excitement. We knew we had it locked down after that."
"I knew it was going to come because we're a second half team in general," Foehl said. "We needed to work on putting our opportunities away and I think we did that in the second half. We found our momentum and everyone got really pumped."
"I was starting to worry, but we fought back all year," Dominski added. "We finally broke through. Once we got one, it was nice to get a second one. (Fort Kent's) heads went down a little bit. Isabel and Arianna worked hard all year about getting better scoring goals. They did a good job putting the goals in. The girls knew we had it in us to do it."
In less than a minute's time, Waynflete went from desperately trying to rally to suddenly having to protect a lead. Instead of being offensive-minded, the Flyers turned to their defense and goalie to put the finishing touches on the victory.
Fort Kent would have chances down the stretch, but the Flyers also had opportunities for a fourth goal.
With 16:39 to play, Foehl fired a shot from the top of the box that looked like the clincher, but Pelletier made a great diving save.
With 14:40 showing, Waynflete junior Sofia Canning sent a shot on target, but again, Pelletier made the stop.
The Warriors transitioned and with 12:27 remaining, the Flyers exhaled when Harwood beat Morin to a loose ball.
With 11:53 to play, a 35-yard free kick by Desjardins forced Harwood to come out to make the catch.
A minute later, Desjardins' shot was tipped out by Harwood, giving Fort Kent a corner kick, but after an initial shot was blocked, the ball came to Desjardins, whose high shot was saved by a leaping Harwood.
"We tried to play really tight defense," said Fernandez. "Talking a lot saved us. Juliana had an amazing game in goal. She saved us, like always."
"I trust our defense so much," Cole said. "It got really stressful, but Juliana came up with big saves."
"It was nervewracking because there were way more of them than us," Jackson said. "We had to work hard to keep the ball out."
"I slid Ari back, which takes an attacker away from us, but we wanted to contain (Desjardins)," Dominski added.
With 8:57 showing, Harwood saved a Desjardins shot.
Two minutes later, a long shot by Warriors junior Abby Stevens resulted in an easy save.
As time wound down, Fort Kent pressured again, desperately seeking the equalizer, but with 10 seconds to go, Waynflete freshman Marijke Rowse kicked the ball out of the zone and the Flyers watched the clock tick to zero.
At 2:25 p.m., the celebration began as Waynflete snapped a four-year title drought and won the Class C championship.
"We really wanted the Gold Ball," said Fernandez. "We got out of here with a win."
"It was very exhilarating," said Giguere. "I'm so happy for the team.It didn't seem like an eternity to me because it was fun. As a team, we came together."
"It feels so good," Jackson said. "I'm so excited for our team. We always talk about how our second half is better for us. We just had to set our minds to it."
"It's awesome," Foehl said. "It's just amazing. People found it within them to want to score. We had opportunities throughout the season. We didn't have the touch to finish, but we did that in the postseason. What makes us so good is that we spread it out. We don't really have one person scoring. We always have assists."
"It was surreal to play in a state championship game," said Harwood, who finished with nine clutch saves. "It was amazing. I still can't believe we won. It's a dream come true. In the first half, our nerves got to us and they got some goals. In the second half, we came out and had confidence in ourselves. Once we settled down, we clicked. It was so close. I like being up rather than down because then it's just a mental thing where you have to just play and finish it out. I think we all thought we had what it takes from the beginning of the season. Lisbon was a big game for us. Coming out and scoring four goals in that game was huge."
"(The girls) came back and got the job done," Dominski added. "It's a tribute to how hard they've worked. We had a good mix of kids. Everyone stepped up. We adjusted to how teams played against us. I knew coming into the season we'd be strong. You could tell during the season we were scrappy and willing to fight for it. We tried to play good soccer all along."
After the win, Waynflete more resembled a football team with its myriad casts, bandages and bags of ice, but it was clear that this squad had a reservoir of mental and physical toughness which saw it through.
"Up until the game starts, I thought, 'I'm in so much pain,' but once the game starts you just forget it," Harwood said.
"(My injury) was in the back of my head, but I tried not to let it hinder me and played as hard as I could," Fernandez said.
"This is our last time playing," Agnew said. "A lot of us have injuries. I've had a rough time with my right leg, but once you're in the game, there's nothing that's going to stop you. The adrenaline washes everything out. It was worth it."
"St. Dom's and Lisbon were brutal games for us," Dominski added. "They were physical teams who battled and we battled back. We got knocked around pretty well."
All grown up
When Dominski took over the Waynflete program for the 2009 season, replacing Jon Shardlow who won a state title the year before, he incorporated several freshmen who came of age each season, got closer and closer to the brass ring and capped their careers in style Saturday afternoon.
"We've been with Todd four years and we're his," said Agnew. "We were with him since he started and we finished and we got our first championship. Doing it as seniors makes it that much better."
"Todd's an amazing coach," Cole said. "He makes the most of the players he has. He gets us to do things we never thought we'd do as a team or individually. We had to be so focused all game. Fort Kent came to play today. We had some ups and downs, but we peaked in the playoffs, which is the most important time. We've talked about this since freshmen year. It's the best feeling in the world. "
"It feels good, but it's sad because these girls started with me at Waynflete," Dominski said. "I kept most of them as freshmen on varsity. They've fought hard and worked hard and trained hard for me all along. I couldn't be prouder of them. They're good athletes and turned into players who understood how to play soccer tactically as well as technically. It's so fitting."
It's been a long time since Waynflete's gone back-to-back, but despite the loss of the seniors, this program has a solid young core in place that is capable of raising another Gold Ball to the heavens in a year's time.
"We have a great group of juniors," said Giguere. "I'm sad our seniors are leaving, but I hope we can do it again."
"I hope to be back here next year," Harwood said. "It won't be for lack of effort if we're not back here."
"We return some special players," Dominski added. "There were kids who didn't play today who will step in and be a big part of the team next year."