Oxford Hills’ Cecelia Dieterich chases the ball after it was deflected by Messalonskee goalkeeper Hannah DelGiudice during Monday’s game. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)
OAKLAND — The fourth time the Messalonskee girls’ soccer team rattled a shot off the goal frame while trying to produce a winner, it may have been easy to concede that a soggy Monday might prove to simply not be the Eagles’ day.
Senior striker Anika Elias had other ideas.
“We kept missing, and I was just like, ‘Oh, come on,’” Elias said. “We just had to keep going. We finally got them in, so I’m happy for us.”
Elias, who 11 minutes earlier set up sophomore Cloe Sisson’s equalizer, finally secured the winner in the 73rd minute as Messalonskee closed out the regular season with its 13th consecutive victory — this one a 2-1 squeaker over upstart Oxford Hills in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A match.
Oxford Hills (8-4-2), like Messalonskee (13-1-0), is Class A North tournament-bound. And the Vikings will head to the postseason buoyed by what might have been the best game they played all season long.
Senior goalkeeper Jillian Douglas was phenomenal in a five-save effort, a statistic which belied her activity and positional importance playing the ball away from the goal mouth. Senior Derry Bessette’s 45th-minute goal was nearly enough for the visitors to steal at least a draw in a soaking, persistent rain.
“I think we just got fatigued, we got tired and we started to break down a little,” Oxford Hills coach Chad Truman said. “We lost a few of our marks in the middle, and they were able to spring free and put shots on.”
Unfortunately for Oxford Hills, patience is the virtue first-year Messalonskee coach Chris DelGiudice has preached from the first day of preseason training — and that patience paid off again Monday for his side.
The Eagles went seven minutes into the second half before they’d even produced their first shot on target for the day, despite carrying the play for the entirety of the first half. When the chances started to come a little more frequently after the hour mark, there still was the lack of a finishing bite from Messalonskee.
No sequence was more illustrative of the Eagles’ mounting frustration than one late in the second half — with Edin Sisson’s skipping drive turned out by Douglas in the 68th minute and Caitlin Parks’ left-wing cracker nudged high by Douglas before clipping the crossbar on the way by the goal less than 60 seconds later.
“I definitely got lucky with a bunch of those,” Douglas said. “They’re really good at shooting far post, and I got some luck with a few of those.”
“Balls off posts, especially the way they were happening, that’s what we want,” DelGiudice said. “We want the chances. As long as the chances keep coming, the luck is something you either have or you don’t. I knew we were getting the chances. Eventually, it was going to happen. We’ve done well to put the ball in the net when we’ve needed to all season.”
Parks got her revenge soon after, cutting a pass against the grain for Elias to finish off the eventual winner.
“Our mindset was just that we saw we were tied, and we thought, ‘We can’t have this,’ “ Elias said. “Let’s go. Let’s get the ball to feet and let’s play.”
Messalonskee tied the score in the 62nd minute when Elais and Cloe Sisson connected a close-quarters combination play that ended with Sisson driving it low for the equalizer.
Messalonskee’s Cloe Sisson, right, and Oxford Hills’ Kaity Montelongo go after ball during Monday’s game. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)