(Ed. Note: This story originally appeared in the Nov. 11, 2004 edition of The Forecaster)
HAMPDEN—The Waynflete girls’ soccer team won its fifth Class D state championship Saturday, but it’s safe to say that none of the previous four were this exhausting or exhilarating.
After 120 hard-fought, nearly even minutes of 1-1 play, the Flyers and the Lee Academy Pandas were forced to settle the Gold Ball on penalty kicks. After both teams made four of five kicks in the opening round, it came down to sudden victory kicks. Finally, after four more gut-wrenching turns per team, Lee’s Brooke Harris missed a shot and Waynflete senior Megan Gentile buried hers, giving the Flyers a 2-1 victory and the championship.
“It was just a wonderful way to end a great season,” Waynflete first-year coach Jon Shardlow said.
Waynflete and Lee Academy have been on a collision course all autumn. The Flyers downed the Pandas 3-0 in the 2002 Class D title game. Last year, Lee Academy returned the favor with a 4-0 win. Both teams cruised through the regular season (Lee went undefeated, while Waynflete went 9-2-1). Waynflete easily crushed Rangeley 7-0 and Richmond 4-1 in its regional playoff tests, then got ready to renew the rivalry.
This state final proved to be a battle from the opening kick.
Waynflete made a point of limiting the touches of Lee Academy senior superstar (and all-time Maine scoring leader, boy or girl, with 177 goals) Shelby Pickering. For the most part, the Flyers did so, but Pickering did set up the lone Pandas’ goal in the 32nd minute. On a free kick, Pickering passed to Harris, whose shot eluded Waynflete junior goalkeeper Liza Timpson for a 1-0 lead.
“Lee came out a little more aggressive the first 20 minutes,” Shardlow said. “Their goal was a wake-up call. They’re very well-organized.”
The Flyers pulled even in the second half.
In the 60th minute, senior Molly DeLong did the honors, lofting a shot just over the outstretched hands of Lee Academy goalkeeper Jackie Moors.
“We tried to move the ball more laterally in the second half,” Shardlow said. “Molly took a throw-in, the defense collapsed and she shot a ball over the hands of their keeper. It was a great goal. We had momentum from there.”
Both teams had their chances late in regulation. Timpson came up huge with just over a minute to play, making a great save on a blast by Aarika Ritchie.
“Liza had her best game of the season,” Shardlow said. “She had some huge saves.”
When regulation ended with the game tied at 1-1, it was on to sudden-victory overtime. The two teams played four 10-minute overtimes, knowing that a goal would end the season. Waynflete had an edge in territory and shots on goal in the extra 40 minutes, but couldn’t score. Lee’s best chance came in the waning seconds of the final OT, but Pickering’s shot was safely cradled by Timpson and it was on to penalty shots.
“We were prepared for PKs,” Shardlow said. “You can criticize the process, but it is what it is.”
Penalty kicks are never utilized during the regular season. They only come into account in the playoffs. Each team selects five players to shoot and the team that makes more wins the Gold Ball. It’s that simple.
Only in this case it wasn’t simple. Five kicks weren’t enough.
Pickering started the penalty kick round by shockingly missing, opening the door for the Flyers. Lee would not miss again, while Waynflete’s Linden Ellis, Kim Ortengren, and Annie Hancock made their shots. It all came down to senior Anina Hewey and the Flyers’ last shot.
Trailing 4-3, if Hewey missed, Lee would be the champion.
Shardlow never had a doubt.
“Anina had to make hers, but I was confident we were going to another round,” he said. “She’s money.”
Hewey’s shot was true and it was on to another round. Twice in the now sudden-death round (a player for each team shoots, if one makes it and the other doesn’t, the game is over) a Lee player scored, forcing Waynflete to answer or go home.
DeLong and senior Annie Reiner were true, however, and it came down to the fateful last pair of kicks.
Harris’ shot was high.
Gentile then added her name to Flyers’ lore.
“When Megan stepped up to shoot, I was glad we’d been practicing penalty kicks for two weeks,” Shardlow said. “She didn’t play a lot in the match, maybe 10 minutes, but I felt confident. She went up there and she just made it.”
Jubilation and relief then reigned.
“The girls were very excited,” Shardlow said. “There’s a good rivalry now between Waynflete and Lee. They had a great streak. We were able to neutralize Shelby Pickering’s impact. We held on to the ball and gave her few opportunities.”
Not a bad run for a first-year coach.
“I stepped into a talented program with a great tradition hoping not to mess it up,” Shardlow said.
The new champions have to say farewell to their senior anchors, Amanda Allen, DeLong, Virginia Drake, Ellis, Gentile, Hewey, Ortengren and Reiner.
That said, with players such as juniors Maggie DeFanti, Hancock, Gretchen Koch and Timpson, sophomores Alissa Balano, Mary Hewey, Gretchen Knoth, and Hannah Orcutt and freshmen Laura Armstrong, Grace Verrill and Alex Woodhouse returning, another trophy isn’t out of the question.
“We’re losing eight seniors, but we’ve got some talented girls coming back,” Shardlow said.
They’ll have a tough time matching the drama produced by the 2004 Class D state champions.
Waynflete‘s girls’ soccer team won the Class D state championship Saturday, but it didn’t come easily. The contest came down to sudden-victory penalty kicks, leading to anxiety on the Waynflete sidelines.