AUBURN — A lethargic start by Edward Little on senior day allowed Oxford Hills to seize control of Tuesday’s girls’ soccer game with two goals in the first 15-plus minutes.
Frustrations boiled over for the Red Eddies, but that only fueled a comeback.
Natalie Garcia poked home a loose ball in front of the goal with 3:07 left in regulation to tie the game 2-2. That score stood through two overtimes for a draw in the Class A North contest.
“Honestly, I feel very fortunate that we tied them because that was the flattest I have ever seen our team to start the game,” Edward Little coach Miles Bisher said. “I have no clue why we were so flat, but it was bad. The girls were all pumped the whole day at school, and then we just came out flat.”
It was an unseasonably warm day, with temperatures for 3:30 p.m. start approaching 80 degrees, and so Vikings coach Chad Truman wanted his team to start strong and take control of the game early.
The Vikings (7-3-2) did just that. Cecelia Dieterich scored on a 20-yard shot into the top-left corner of the goal 8:29 in, and Cassidy Dumont headed in Gillian Grover’s direct kick from the right side seven minutes later.
“Had they not done that they probably would have lost today,” Truman said. “So that earned them the tie, but it was their game to keep and they did let that slip away.”
Edward Little (2-7-3) senior captain Grace Fontaine was issued a yellow card just over two minutes later, forcing her to the bench temporarily. Though according to Bisher it was nearly a more permanent stay.
“Her first words to me afterwards were, ‘I don’t want to go back in. I don’t want to deal with this, you know, situation,'” Bisher said. “And I was like, ‘No, don’t let this yellow ruin your last game at home. Go out there and prove yourself.'”
Fontaine lit a fire in herself, and then her team, taking a cross from Ella Boucher and ripping a turn-around shot past Vikings goalie Jillian Douglas for a goal with 9:40 left before halftime.
“If she didn’t do that, we would not have been in this game. I mean, we needed her to step up big, and she did today. That’s what senior leaders do, so I’m proud of her,” Bisher said. “I know it’s tough for her to deal with, but I’m really proud of the way she handled herself there to come back from that.”
Truman hoped his team would receive some motivation from Fontaine’s goal after playing “really flat” with a two-goal lead, but the Vikings had to fend off numerous Red Eddies chances early in the second half before play evened out and quieted down during the middle part of the period.
Bisher made a key substitution late, bringing in the freshman Garcia to play left wing in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Small in stature, she made her presence known when the Vikings couldn’t fully clear an EL corner kick, and a bouncing ball from the right side went over and past Douglas but right to where Garcia was positioned.
“You know, she’s really tiny, obviously, and she’s young, but she has a great soccer IQ. I think one of the best soccer IQs on the team. … And so I knew that she would be right where she needed to be,” Bisher said. “I love watching her play. She’s always in the right spot, always working hard, so I’m glad that she got that. She deserves it.”
The first five-minute overtime saw another EL corner kick, but no shots on goal — though Dieterich opened the period with an off-target rip from long range after doing the same thing at the end of regulation.
Garcia and Julia Berube both had run-ins from the left side stopped by Douglas in the second overtime.
The last gasp was by the Red Eddies, but Douglas came out and stopped Caroline Hammond’s open run with 10 seconds left, causing a collision that brought Hammond to the ground hard.
“That was huge. And she has gotten so much better at that all season long. I think she had a spell in her high school career where she started to be a little afraid of it, afraid of hurting somebody, afraid of the ball, and this season that seems to have gone away and she’s come out and had many of those saves this year,” Truman said. “That would have been tough to take if she hadn’t made that save, but she did, so we’re thankful for that.”
Douglas finished with seven saves, while EL’s Kayleigh Leclerc stopped five shots.