Rangeley’s Summer Vanburen (5) battles with Richmond’s Emma Carbone (9) during season-opening East-West Conference girls’ soccer action at Richmond on Saturday. The host Bobcats came away with a 1-0 overtime win.
RICHMOND — It is not often that a Richmond High School girls soccer team is held scoreless through a half of East-West Conference play. Even more rare is the Bobcats being held without a goal by Rangeley through regulation.
That is exactly what happened Saturday as the Lakers battled Richmond tooth-and-nail in forcing overtime.
In the extra time, the Bobcats finally found their way, getting a goal from Abby Johnson off a rebound for a 1-0 victory and a win to start the season.
The graduation of standout players from last year’s state finalist seemed to play into Richmond’s struggles to score Saturday. The Bobcats outshot the Lakers, 19-3, and had a 4-1 edge in corner kicks, but only a handful of those shots were solid scoring opportunities.
“We are still sorting it out and knew the goals were going to come hard this year,” Richmond coach Troy Kendrick said. “Having some young kids on the field, some jitters, and Rangeley being stacked in the back made it tough to score today. It can be tough to unlock that.”
“We always see with Rangeley that they play a ‘bunker defense,’ packing a lot of players into that defensive third,” Johnson said. “Usually we try to get our space on the outside, but today they were spreading out to our wings. Rangeley played so well today, much better than last year.”
For Chip Smith’s Rangeley squad, solid defense from Lauren Eastlack, Amber Morrill, Kylie Collins and Olivia Hall, along with the play from netminder Sydney Royce (11 saves) kept Richmond from generating the type of solid scoring chances that the Bobcats often produce.
“They handled themselves very well and worked hard for this, but not quite hard enough,” said Smith, whose Lakers head to Valley on Tuesday. “We have come a long way in our program. We played a good style of soccer, and at times we controlled a good portion of the game. Defense played well, but as the game played on we played on our heels a bit.”
Throughout regulation, Richmond’s two best chances came on point-blank shots. Destiny Anair ran onto a pass from Caitlin Kendrick midway through the first half before sending a shot inches wide of Royce’s cage. As the time ticked down in the second half, Ashley Brown worked her way into space and fired a hard, low shot that Royce deflected away.
In overtime, Richmond goaltender Sydney Underhill-Tilton easily made her second save on a shot by Rangeley’s Olivia Pye.
At the other end, Kendrick shook free of a defender and found enough space to send a low shot toward the left post. Again Royce was there, diving to keep the ball out of her cage. But, the rebound scooted inches away from her right hand, and Johnson got a toe on the ball and sent it into the net for the game-winner.
“I thought Caitlin’s shot was in, then Abby Johnson made a great heads-up play and tapped that rebound in after a great save from their goaltender,” Troy Kendrick said.
“I was not expecting the rebound, and then my shot to get past their goalie,” Johnson said of her goal with 51 seconds remaining in overtime. “You always have to be sniffing around the goal for those rebounds and deflections.”
Smith feels one of the most difficult challenges for his squad is to raise the expectations.
“Expectations to come down and play at Richmond the first game, no one is giving you a chance in heck, including our parents,” Smith said. “Richmond beat us 12-0 in our home opener last year and beat us bad again in a playoff game. It just shows that if we continue to work that we can do well. This is just a start.”
Rangeley midfielder Megan Keirstead (7) and Richmond midfielder Leah Wescott (23) try to get position on Saturday at Richmond.