Benson scores, Waynflete soars to another title!
HAMPDEN—Nothing fazes the Waynflete girls' soccer team.
Make that the repeat state champion Waynflete girls' soccer team.
Saturday morning at chilly and windy Hampden Academy, Waynflete met Orono in a Class C Final that would run the gamut of emotions, but ultimately, the Flyers dug deep into their reservoir of championship heart to finish on top again.
Waynflete quickly found itself down, 1-0, as Red Riots freshman Brinsley Chasse scored in the 11th minute and after a defensive breakdown led to a tally from junior Diana Tyutyunnyk with 10:42 left in the first half, the defending champions were in serious trouble.
But this squad, featuring many players who have won more than one championship in multiple sports, just needed a little time to get comfortable.
The game turned with 24.2 seconds left in the half, as sophomore Marijke Rowse banged home a free kick, turning momentum to Waynflete's side.
Then, 10:34 into the second half, a terrific individual effort from dynamic sophomore Arianna Giguere produced to the tying tally.
The Flyers would have several good chances to go ahead and almost won it with 13 seconds remaining in regulation, but Giguere shot just high at an open net, and the game would go to overtime.
The first 15-minute OT, which featured an Orono shot kissing off the crossbar, resolved nothing and it was on to the second extra session.
There, with 3:43 to go and the specter of penalty kicks looming, sophomore Esme Benson etched her name into program lore with a goal that while it wasn't your traditional blast into the net, proved to be a thing of beauty anyway and Waynflete had its repeat championship, 3-2.
The Flyers finished their season 14-2-2, ended the Red Riots' campaign at 15-2-1 and captured the program's eighth Gold Ball dating back to 1995.
"I can't explain it, it's just a dream," said Waynflete senior captain Leigh Fernandez, who continued her mind-boggling run of success, winning a state title in a fifth straight sports season. "It's unbelievable. It's not just the titles, but how we progress. Every year it's different. They're all indescribable, but this one ranks pretty high. Everyone really deserved it. I love this group. I'm so happy it ended this way."
The road back
After rallying past Ft. Kent, 3-2, in last year's Class C state game, Waynflete lost some key players (girls who had a penchant for winning titles in more than one sport) and had some holes to fill, but an infusion of talented newcomers helped fill the void and the Flyers had another stellar regular season.
After opening with a 5-3 home win over Traip Academy, Waynflete won at Fryeburg (2-0), tied host Lake Region (2-2), beat visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-0) and host Old Orchard Beach (5-0), but then lost to visiting Poland, 2-1. After beating visiting OOB, 3-1, the Flyers couldn't hold a late lead and settled for a 1-1 tie at North Yarmouth Academy. After winning by 2-0 scores at Sacopee Valley and Freeport, Waynflete beat the Hawks again, this time, 2-1, at home. After winning, 4-1, over visiting Traip and 6-1 over visiting NYA, the Flyers closed with a 1-0 home loss to Falmouth.
Waynflete earned the No. 5 seed in Western C and after handling No. 12 Mt. Abram in the preliminary round, 5-0, had to go to penalty kicks before edging No. 4 Wiscasset in the quarterfinals, 1-0 (4-3 PKs). The Flyers' offense came to life in a 5-2 win at top-ranked St. Dom's in the semifinals before a Cat Johnson goal gave Waynflete a 1-0 win over Sacopee Valley in Wednesday's regional championship game.
Orono won its first six games, tied Dexter, 2-2, won five straight, then lost, 1-0, to Houlton before closing with a 6-1 victory over Central to go 12-1-1 and earn the top seed in Eastern C. The Red Riots then defeated No. 9 Central (9-0) in the quarterfinals, fourth-ranked Madawaska (5-1) in the semifinals and finally third-ranked Ft. Kent, the defending regional champion (2-1), in Wednesday's regional final.
The teams had played just once before, a 4-1 Waynflete victory the 2008 Class C Final.
That win was part of the Flyers' dazzling state game pedigree (please see sidebar, below). Waynflete also won 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 and last year. The Flyers also made the Class D state game in 2003, but lost to Lee, 4-0.
Orono's first state game was the loss to Waynflete in 2008. The Red Riots got back the following season, but lost to Georges Valley, 1-0.
Saturday, Orono came oh-so-close to a first championship, but the Red Riots ultimately couldn't deny the team that just won't lose with hardware on the line.
Despite playing in the state game a year ago, the Flyers were shaky at the start of the game, which began amid 38 degree temperatures and a 16 mile-per-hour wind from the northwest.
In a nice ceremonial touch, injured Waynflete senior Sophie Raffel was able to start the game before being taken out in favor of Benson 40 seconds in.
Orono earned a corner kick in the second minute, but a shot rolled wide.
In the eighth minute, the Red Riots almost went on top, but a blast from senior striker Kate Ferguson got over the outstretched fingertips of Waynflete junior goalkeeper Julianna Harwood and rattled off the far post.
Orono kept the pressure on, however, and with 31:59 to play in the first half, freshman Rebecca Lopez-Anido passed to Chasse, who one timed a shot to Harwood's right. Harwood dove and got a hand on the ball, but couldn't stop it from going into the net and just like that, the Red Riots were on top, 1-0.
After Flyers sophomore Christian Rowe broke up a rush by Orono senior Hanna Renedo, Waynflete transitioned to offense and took its first shot in the 15th minute, a bid from freshman Beata Vest, which went wide.
The Red Riots then got a couple free kicks from Chasse, but the first was cleared by Flyers junior Helen Gray-Bauer and the second went wide.
Harwood then made a save on a shot in close from junior Esra Barmaksiz.
The Flyers almost got the equalizer in the 27th minute, but Orono junior goalkeeper Victoria Goodwin beat Giguere to a feed from senior Sofia Canning.
With 11:47 to go in the half, Rowse took her first free kick, from about 35-yards out, but she sailed it high over the crossbar.
Her next attempt would be more accurate.
But first, the Red Riots doubled their lead.
With 10:42 showing, Tyutyunnyk got to a ball just outside the box, fought her way through three defenders, then fired a shot that Harwood couldn't reach and suddenly, Waynflete found itself down, 2-0.
"It was an interesting start, to say the least," said Flyers coach Todd Dominski. "We start flat a lot of the time. It was just a combination of things. Orono just pressed. The second goal, she went through three of our defenders. She just wanted it. No way you were going to stop her. To get through three defenders and Julianna is a tall task."
If that deficit had remained at halftime, the Flyers may not have been able to recover, but just when things looked darkest, the defending champs showed a glimmer of life.
After senior Ella Millard (who gamely soldiered through nearly 107 minutes with an ankle injury) had a shot saved by Goodwin and Benson just missed wide, Waynflete kept the ball in the Orono zone and with 30 seconds left, was rewarded by earning a free kick.
Rowse lined up the ball from about 25-yards out, stepped into it and hit it perfectly, just over Goodwin's jump and into the upper netting and with 24.4 seconds to go, Waynflete only trailed, 2-1, which is how it would remain at halftime.
"I'd hit one a few minutes before and it went over," Rowse said. "I went up to the ball and I was really nervous it would happen again. I saw the clock had 30 seconds left. I knew I had to put the ball in the net and turn the game around. I knew I had to be that person who got us going. I just kind of went for it. It felt good, but I didn't see it go in. It was exciting."
Suddenly, momentum and belief were back on the Flyers' side.
"(Marijke's) goal was huge," Giguere said. "The whole team jumped up and down. We were so excited."
"We didn't start well," Fernandez said. "I don't know what it was. We came out kind of scared. I don't know if it was the long bus ride or the (10 a.m. start) time or whatever and we were down, 2-0, but Marijke's free kick was huge. We needed one before the half. That was a beautiful kick. It definitely gave us momentum."
"Going into halftime down only 2-1 instead of 2-0 and having just scored helped give us energy to continue to push and push," added Dominski.
Statistics were pretty even in the first half, as Waynflete had a 7-6 edge in shots, each team took a corner kick and Goodwin made three saves to two for Harwood.
As flat as they came out in the first half, that's how inspired the Flyers were at the start of the second, as they pushed for the equlizer.
First, on a corner kick, freshman Isabel Canning sent a shot on target, but Goodwin snared it.
A minute later, Waynflete earned another corner, but it was cleared by the Red Riots defense.
With 32:45 left in regulation, Giguere eluded a defender and fired a shot from the side, but Goodwin made the save.
After another futile corner kick and a Benson shot sailed just high, the Flyers tied the score, courtesy a terrific play by Giguere.
Giguere, who made her presence felt from the time she first took the field as a freshman, took a long pass from Millard along the left sideline, cut in to beat a defender, then went one-on-one with Goodwin, before firing with her left foot and deftly placing the ball just inside the far post to make it 2-2 with 29:26 remaining.
"I saw the defender coming at me, so I took a touch," Giguere said. "As the goalie slid over, I put it in the right corner. I was so happy. I was a little bit worried at 2-0, but I knew we could pull it off."
"Ari is so composed," Fernandez said. "She's a great finisher. She did what she was supposed to do."
"At halftime, we realized we weren't playing our game and that we could do so much better," Benson said. "We came out with all the force we knew we could."
"Ari is really skilled," Dominski added. "It was a nice goal. She's a crafty player."
Both teams had their chances as time wound down in regulation.
With 27:40 to play, a 40-yard free kick blast from Chasse was on target, but Harwood made the save.
Three minutes later, Chasse had another free kick look, this one from half as close, but it didn't get through the defense.
The Red Riots then got back-to-back corners, the second of which skipped through the box before being cleared from harm's way.
At the other end, Johnson sent a shot high.
The Flyers then earned consecutive corners, the second of which resulted in a shot from Isabel Canning going just wide.
After Chasse had a free kick get through only to be saved by Harwood, Fernandez took a long shot, which was denied by Goodwin.
With 11:24 to go, Giguere just missed getting her foot on a Rowse free kick.
Four minutes later, Lopez-Anido shot just wide on a one-timer.
At the other end, Fernandez had a shot, but it was kicked away by a defender, giving Waynflete a corner kick. Fernandez got her head on Canning's serve, but Goodwin punched it away.
With 4:10 left, a Chasse free kick was blocked.
With 1:02 to play, Fernandez looked to set up Millard far post, but her pass was just out of bounds.
Orono got the ball back to midfield, but the Flyers regained possession and transitioned and as time ticked away, they almost won it.
With just 13 seconds to go, Giguere broke in, Goodwin came out to challenge and Giguere lifted a shot over the keeper. Problem was, the shot kept carrying and just cleared the crossbar and it was on to overtime.
While disappointed not to win in regulation, Waynflete was still confident entering extra time.
"I thought Ari had the winner," said Dominski. "It wasn't off by much. In the second half, we definitely swung the momentum back our way. We played the ball to feet and won 50-50 balls."
In Maine high school playoff soccer, teams play up to two 15-minute, "sudden victory" overtimes and if no one scores, the game (or in this case, the championship) is decided by penalty kicks, something the Flyers fervently wanted to avoid.
"We didn't want PKs," Giguere said. "Too much stress. I didn't want to get to that point."
The first extra session saw both teams almost win it.
Just 89 seconds in, Giguere sent a through ball to Fernandez on the right flank and Fernandez unleashed a long shot, but Goodwin was able to make the save.
A minute later, Harwood had to come out to get to a feed from Chasse to Renedo.
After Fernandez shot wide, the Red Riots got another great look in the box, something which hadn't happened since the first half.
Lopez-Anido crossed the ball to Renedo, who managed to win it and float a high shot that Harwood had no chance to save.
For a split second, everyone on hand held their breath until the ball kissed off the crossbar, dropped in front of the goal and was cleared.
"We just had to watch their counter," Dominski said. "That one came close."
Millard then had a shot blocked and had another bid saved and it was on to the second overtime.
Just 2:44 in, Millard set up Fernandez, who sought to end the game with her left foot, but Goodwin made the stop.
Two minutes later, Giguere set up Benson for a shot, but it was headed away by Chasse.
On the ensuing corner, Canning's serve was kicked out of bounds.
With 8:38 left, a Benson feed into the box was grabbed by Goodwin.
Rowse had a chance to end it with a free kick with 6:20 showing, but Goodwin came out to catch it.
Waynflete kept pressuring and with 4:25 left, Giguere was taken down in the box, but no call was made. Seconds later, the ball went out of bounds off an Orono player and the Flyers were given a corner kick.
Which would lead to the endgame.
Canning served it in and the ball pinballed around until it came to Benson up top. With her left foot, she sent a seemingly innocent looking shot on target and Goodwin started to catch it, then swatted it away.
Play momentarily continued until a referee's whistle was heard and the sign the Flyers so longed to see was made.
The ruling was that Goodwin was in the goal when she handled Benson's shot and at 12:12 p.m., after 131 palpitating and challenging minutes, Waynflete was Class C champion again, 3-2.
"It feels so great," Benson said. "I have no words. It was a corner kick. I've practiced hanging back at the top of the 18 in practice. It was a perfect ball, it came right to my feet and I kicked it in. Watching it go in was amazing."
"Esme hit it and it sounds like it went just across the line," Dominski said. "A goal is a goal. We worked really hard on corner kicks. We were scoring on them, then we stopped scoring on them, so we worked more on them. It worked out well."
Suffice it to say that Benson's teammates were thrilled.
"I was at the top of the 18 and when I saw it in the middle, I knew we had to put it in," Giguere said. "I didn't know if it was over the line, but when it deflected off the goalie's hands, I thought it was over. When the ref blew the whistle, for a split second I was confused, but he called it the winner. That was the best. I'm so proud of Esme. My grade has been such a huge part of this team. We've stepped up and done our part."
"At first, I thought it was over (the line), but when it wasn't a goal, my heart sunk," said Rowse. "Then they made the call that it went in and I just freaked out."
"Es had a great finish," Fernandez said. "It was bouncing around in the box, she kicked it, but the goalie kind of saved it over the line. I stopped because I saw it go over. I was right there. Luckily, they called it in. It was definitely a great goal. Orono was unbelievable. They're such a good team. They gave us a great game."
The Flyers, who essentially controlled the final 66-plus minutes of the game, finished with a 22-11 shots advantage (13-7 on frame) and took eight corners to three by the Red Riots. Goodwin made 10 saves and Harwood stopped five shots, as Waynflete's defense turned it up big-time after its early struggles.
"We had to get it together in the back," Rowse said. "(Lopez-Anido) was really good. We had to watch her. They had good free kicks we had to watch. It was hard to hold them off, but in the second half we played together."
There were bumps along the way, but this team, as a team, got back to the pinnacle.
"It was our team chemistry," Benson said. "We work well together, work hard in practice and we really love each other."
"They're just resilient, hard working kids," Dominski said. "They believe they'll go out and do well. Even down, 2-0, they believed in each other."
Three-peat after me?
The loss of the human victory cigar, Fernandez, and fellow standouts Sofia Canning, Johnson and Millard, along with Raffel and Gretchen Stevens, will be felt immensely.
"Our captains are the ones who have kept us going," Giguere said. "I'm going to miss the seniors so much. They're the ones who have pushed us and told us we could do it."
"I asked Leigh if she could take a fifth year," joked Dominski. "The seniors just knew how to win."
But even with the departure of that group, the program appears to be in great shape going forward.
Harwood returns for a fourth year in goal and Gray-Bauer joins her in next year's senior class.
The offense returns the likes of Benson and Giguere and this year's revelation, Isabel Canning, along with Rowse, will anchor the defense. Christian Rowe and Meddy Smith project to turn into household names as juniors, while Vest could do the same as a sophomore.
What it all means it that Saturday's Gold Ball celebration probably won't be the last.
"We had a lot of freshmen this year and we all worked together so well," Benson said. "We'll have some good freshmen again next year. I think we can do it again."
"(Winning again next year) would be amazing," Giguere said. "I haven't lost in playoffs yet. I'm ready to come back next year and show everyone what we've got."
"I wish them the best of luck next year," said Fernandez. "They'll have a great team again. The freshmen and sophomores were hard workers. The whole defensive line was underclassmen. I'll be there to cheer them on."
"The seniors have passed the culture down to the younger kids," Dominski added. "My sophomores are 2-0 in state games. Julianna's been in two state finals and has played in three Western Maine Finals. She's played in a lot of important games. We have a good group coming back. We'll get back to work and try to get back here."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Waynflete state game results
Waynflete 3 Ft. Kent 2
Waynflete 4 Orono 1
Waynflete 2 Lee Academy 1 (7-6 PKs)
Lee Academy 4 Waynflete 0
Waynflete 3 Lee Academy 0
Waynflete 1 Wisdom 0
Waynflete 2 Ashland 0
Waynflete 3 Greenville 0