PORTLAND—The Fabulous Flyers are back.
In the state final.
Defending Class C champion Waynflete hosted the girls’ soccer regional final Wednesday afternoon at Fore River Fields against a Cinderella squad with nothing to lose, Sacopee Valley, and the Hawks gave the Flyers fits for 80 minutes.
But in the end, this group of girls did what they do best.
Find a way to win.
After a scoreless first half which saw Waynflete senior Ella Millard hit the crossbar and the Flyers just miss on a few other chances, they finally broke through with 33:07 to play when senior Cat Johnson, who just entered the game, was in the right place at the right time on a corner kick, finishing senior Leigh Fernandez’s flick for what proved to be the game’s lone tally.
Waynflete’s defense and junior goalkeeper Julianna Harwood put the clamps on from there and the Flyers repeated as regional champions with a 1-0 victory.
Waynflete improved to 13-2-2, ended the spirited Hawks’ season at 9-9 and advanced to meet Eastern C champion Orono (15-1-1). in the state final game Saturday at 10 a.m., at Hampden Academy.
“It was a battle,” said Flyers coach Todd Dominski. “I think we knew it would be. They played us tight both times. The nature of these games always seems to make it a battle. Seeding aside, you come and fight as hard as you can.”
It’s rarely easy, but over the past two seasons, Waynflete has found a way to win postseason games in every possible way.
Last fall, the Flyers came from behind in the state game to topple Ft. Kent, 3-2.
This season, even after some key graduation losses, Waynflete put together another impressive campaign.
After holding off visiting Traip in the opener, 5-3, the Flyers won at Fryeburg (2-0), tied host Lake Region (2-2), then beat visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-0) and host Old Orchard Beach (5-0) before falling from the unbeaten ranks with a 2-1 home loss to Poland. A 3-1 home win over OOB followed, then Waynflete tied host NYA, 1-1. The Flyers bounced back to blank host Sacopee Valley and Freeport by 2-0 scores, then downed visiting Sacopee Valley (2-1), host Traip (4-1) and handled visiting North Yarmouth Academy with surprising ease, 6-1, before closing with a 1-0 home loss to three-time defending Class B champion Falmouth.
Waynflete earned the No. 5 seed in Western C and had to go to penalty kicks before edging No. 4 Wiscasset in the quarterfinals, 1-0 (4-3 PKs). Saturday, the Flyers’ offense came to life in a 5-2 win at top-ranked St. Dom’s.
Sacopee Valley started with a 4-2 loss at Freeport, then downed visiting Richmond (4-2) and host Old Orchard Beach (4-1). After falling at home to Wells (4-1) and at Poland (3-2), the Hawks handled visiting Traip, 7-1. A 3-1 loss at NYA left Sacopee 3-4 at the midway point, but it evened its record with a 2-1 victory at Traip. Losses to visiting Waynflete (2-0) and host Gray-New Gloucester (4-1) followed, but the Hawks bounced back with a 1-0 overtime home victory over Fryeburg. After falling at Waynflete (2-1) and at home against NYA (2-1, in OT), Sacopee closed the regular season with an 11-1 home romp over Old Orchard Beach.
The Hawks, seeded 10th, began their surprising playoff run with a 2-1 preliminary round win at No. 7 Carrabec. Next came a 2-1 overtime upset at second-ranked Madison in quarterfinals and Saturday in the semifinals, Sacopee went to penalty kicks to outlast No. 6 Maranacook, 1-0 (4-2 PKs).
Waynflete won both regular season meetings, 2-0 at Sacopee Oct. 4 and 2-1 at home 10 days later. In the game at Sacopee, Fernandez and Millard tickled the twine. Johnson and Beata Vest (with three minutes to go) had goals in the game in Portland.
The teams had met three previous times in the playoffs, with the Flyers prevailing in the 2008 quarterfinals (4-0) and the 2009 semifinals (5-0) and the Hawks returning the favor in the 2010 semifinals (2-0).
Wednesday, Waynflete did what it took to prevail.
The first good chance came in the 10th minute, but Millard’s floater glanced off the crossbar and was cleared from harm’s way.
The Flyers kept the pressure on and earned a corner kick. Freshman Isabel Canning sent the ball into the box where sophomore Christian Rowe headed is just wide.
The Hawks got their first good look in the 15th minute, but sophomore Courtney Ryan’s shot went just wide of the mark.
Senior Brooke Totman then broke in for Sacopee Valley and after Harwood collided with sophomore defender Marijke Rowse, Totman had a lot of net to shoot at, but she just missed the mark and the game remained scoreless.
After Canning just missed on a couple of bids, Waynflete appeared to go ahead with 17:45 left int he half. On a long serve, Fernandez dove, headed the ball on frame and Johnson touched it home, but the play was ruled offsides.
“That was a good play, but we were just a step ahead, I guess,” Dominski said.
With 11:29 to play before halftime, a long free kick from Rowse was right on target, but Sacopee Valley freshman goalkeeper Madison Day made the save.
Late in the half, a cross by Flyers sophomore Esme Benson was cleared by Hawks sophomore Jade Jordan, Millard sent a header wide, a low shot by Millard was scooped up by Day, Day made another save on a Benson bid and in the waning seconds, a Fernandez shot sailed high, sending the game to halftime still scoreless.
The Flyers had a commanding 13-4 shots advantage and took four corners to none for Sacopee, but had nothing to show for it.
That would change in the second half, but before the goal was registered, Waynflete had some additional frustration.
A little over a minute into the new stanza, Canning had a look on a corner, but a Hawks defender booted the shot away, giving the hosts another corner on which Vest shot wide. After another Flyers corner was cleared, Sacopee transitioned to offense and Harwood had to slide to beat Ryan to feed from sophomore Abby Hughes.
Waynflete then went back on the offensive and with just over 33 minutes to play, earned a corner.
Johnson was standing on the sidelines waiting to sub in when the corner was awarded and before she took the field, a reporter teasingly suggested she go in and score a goal and she responded that she would.
Suffice it say, Johnson’s a good listener.
Canning served the corner kick into the box, the ball came to Fernandez, who flicked it out front and Johnson was there to bang it home to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
“I was totally joking because I never thought I’d get one,” Johnson said, of her promise to score. “Leigh has been determined to use that flick. She knows where everybody is. She has eyes all over. I just had to finish. That was my job. My only goal in lacrosse came in a state game. In soccer, I was holding out for playoffs.”
“We practice a lot of corners,” Fernandez said. “I’ve been doing the front door run. I tried to flick it on. Cat had a great finish, really composed. She put it away. We talked at halftime about playing less frantic, getting the ball to feet and finding the outside and crossing it back in.”
“We were creating chances,” Dominski added. “We needed to time our runs better. We had decent pressure for the most part. We’ve really worked on making sure our corners are sharp in practice the last few days. You win games like this on set pieces.”
Waynflete then had to hold the lead for 33 minutes, 7 seconds.
The Flyers would manage to do so with limited palpitations.
Waynflete almost went ahead 2-0 with 31:47 to play, but a Fernandez floater hit the crossbar and after the rebound came right to Johnson, she was robbed point blank by Day.
With 18:59 to go, the Hawks threatened as a long pass from Ryan to freshman Mckenzie Murphy was denied at the last second by Canning.
A minute later, at the other end, in a play equal parts breathtaking and scary, Waynflete senior Sofia Canning sent a through ball into the box for sophomore Arianna Giguere. Giguere and Day arrived at the ball at the same moment and as the goalie made the save, Giguere went flying over her, getting shaken up in the process.
With 15:05 to play, the visitors earned a corner, but when it was played short to Jordan, Isabel Canning came out to break it up.
“They have great players up top,” Canning said. “We just had to stay organized and talk. We’ve worked hard this season. It shows on the field. Julianna’s an amazing goalie, but as a defender you have to think that you’re the last line of defense and you can’t allow anything.”
Seconds later, a rush by sophomore Abby Hughes was broken up by Rowse.
Jordan took a free kick from 30-yards out with just over 10 minutes to go, but after the ball bounced in the box, Harwood made the save.
With 7:09 to play, Harwood beat Sacopee freshman Jordan Miner to a loose ball in the box.
The Hawks produced one final threat in the waning seconds, but Flyers sophomore Meddy Smith headed the ball away and Waynflete was able to celebrate its 1-0 victory.
“We’d beaten them twice, but we wanted to clear that off because we knew the hardest thing to do is beat a team three times in a row,” said Fernandez. “They were confident. They were very good. They didn’t give up the entire game. Credit to them. We were lucky to put one in. Protecting a lead is scary. Our defense played a great game. They kept their shape well.”
“It’s really exciting,” Canning said. “I’ve played since I was little and playing in this game and playing with my sister was awesome.”
“I knew it would be close,” Johnson said. “(The Hawks) have nothing but heart. They’re good competitors. We just had to play smart. I’m so glad we kept our composure and it went our way. I wanted to fight for everybody out there. It’s only my second year here and we wanted to go to states.”
“(Our experience helps in a game like this),” added Dominski. “When you come into a game of this magnitude, they know how it feels. The nerves are a little less.”
Waynflete finished with a 23-5 edge in shots and a 10-1 advantage in corners. Day made five saves to two for Harwood.
Even playing without injured senior Sophie Raffel, the Flyers’ defensive effort couldn’t be quantified.
“Sophie is a big loss, but Meddy has stepped in there and with Marijke and Isabel, they do a great job making sure they’re organized and keeping it tight in the back,” Dominski said.
Waynflete will look for its third Class C title (and eighth overall) Saturday morning. Flyers beat Orono, 4-1, in the 2008 Class C Final, in the only other meeting between the schools.
“I’d really like to win,” Canning said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity. We have to keep our heads. We can’t underestimate anybody. It comes down to heart and playing our game.”
“Everyone’s pumped for Saturday,” said Fernandez, who will be seeking her fifth straight title dating back to the spring of her sophomore year, after winning two in lacrosse and one each in soccer and basketball. “It’s so exciting. Especially senior year. It’s an honor to play in another state game. I think we’re playing our best soccer. We were a young team at the start of the season, but everyone’s stepped into their roles. We were there last year, so we know what to do. We have to stay composed, win 50-50 balls, play to feet, keep our shape and have simple passes.”
“It’s a long drive, but we’ll be there,” Johnson said. “We’ve gotten better each game. We’re growing exponentially. It starts with the defense. Hopefully we’ll see Sophie for a minute, fingers crossed.”
“We’ll make the haul and we’ll see,” Dominski added. “I’m sure it will be a game similar to this. We’re looking forward to it.”
Waynflete junior Helen Gray-Bauer plays the national anthem on the viola prior to gametime.
Waynflete sophomore Arianna Giguere eludes a Sacopee Valley defender.
Waynflete senior Leigh Fernandez goes way up to head the ball. Fernandez is about to play in a championship game in her fifth straight sports season spanning soccer, basketball and lacrosse.
Waynflete sophomore Arianna Giguere collides with Sacopee freshman goalkeeper Madison Day.
Waynflete senior Cat Johnson (20) is congratulated by classmate Ella Millard after scoring the game’s lone goal in the second half.
Waynflete shows off its new piece of hardware. The Flyers will look to add a Gold Ball to their collection Saturday versus Orono.
Waynflete junior goalkeeper Julianna Harwood, along with (from left) junior Helen Gray-Bauer, sophomore Marijke Rowse and freshman Isabel Canning celebrate the Flyers’ 1-0 win over Sacopee Valley in Wednesday’s Western C Final. Waynflete will look to defend its Class C title Saturday morning against Orono.
Brian Beard photos.
More photos below.