ELLSWORTH – It took a textbook goal to decide a high-quality Eastern Maine Class B girls soccer semifinal at Del Luce Stadium on Wednesday .
And a pair of sophomores showed they had studied well, teaming up midway through the second half to lift second-ranked Ellsworth to a 1-0 victory over No. 3Presque Isle.
Maggie Harding set up the goal, working the ball deep into the left corner before sending a pass into the goal area, where Casey Wyman kicked the ball just inside the near goalpost past PI goalie Molly Hamel with 27:51 left in the match.
“I was in the corner and faked to the left and kicked it,” said Harding. “Casey ran and volleyed it in. It was perfect.”
“It just happened so fast,” added Wyman. “It was a beautiful cross from Maggie and I didn’t really think about it, I just shot it.”
It was the purest shot of a match with few serious scoring chances, something not all that surprising given that these teams began the day with a combined record of 28-1-1.
“We try and get the ball into the corners on either side because we have good speed on the wings,” said Ellsworth coach Jennifer Myers. “Then we look to split the defense and get a ball low, waist-height or lower into the area, and that was pretty much it.”
The win sends 15-0-1 Ellsworth to its first regional final since 1999, when it won the second of two straight Eastern B titles. The Eagles will play Saturday at two-time defending EM champ Winslow, which ousted Bucksport 2-1.
Presque Isle finished 14-2.
“That’s the most physical team we’ve played all year, and I thought our girls rose to the challenge,” said Wildcats’ coach Ralph Michaud. “I thought we played very well today, it was evenly matched.”
The match was most even during the first half, when each team had three shots on goal. Harding nearly gave Ellsworth the lead less than five minutes in with a high shot from about 25 yards out that Hamel tipped over the cross bar.
Then Presque Isle had its best opportunity, a corner kick by Sarah Porter that Shaina Watananuchit headed off the cross bar. The ball came back to Watananuchit, but a short kick was blocked by Ellsworth goalie Catie Cravens and a third chance trickled wide of the left goal post.
“We had the corner kick that Watananuchit perfectly headed and hit the cross bar, and those are the plays you need to score on in a game like this where one goal might be the difference,” said Michaud.
Ellsworth took more control after intermission, though the Eagles did have to withstand a direct kick by Porter that caromed off the cross bar nine minutes into the second half.
But that was Presque Isle’s last best chance, and soon Ellsworth turned the pages of its soccer textbook to produce the game-winner.
“It seemed like we came out a lot harder in the second half,” said Ellsworth senior captain Maggie Seavey. “We had a good talk at halftime, and we had more determination and played the ball better after that.”
Ellsworth finished with an 8-5 edge in shots on goal, Cravens made five saves for the Witches and Hamel made seven stops for Presque Isle.