AUBURN — For most of the past decade, the Edward Little girls’ soccer team has made a habit of appearing in the postseason.
But, they haven’t lasted very long.
There has been an occasional preliminary round victory, but other tourney appearances were of the one-and-done variety.
After losing in the quarterfinal round last year in penalty kicks, EL vowed to go further.
“From the beginning of the season, I always texted Hannah Smith saying that senior year, we were going to get past the first round of the playoffs,” senior forward Olivia Paione said. “I told her that we have to do it and we did. It’s really exciting.”
With EL’s overtime win over Lewiston on Wednesday, the Red Eddies won their first quarterfinal since 2001. EL won the Western A title that fall and lost in the state final to Mt. Ararat. The players on the current roster were no more than 5 years old then.
“It’s exciting,” senior sweeper Sarah Hammond said. “It’s an experience we haven’t had in awhile. We’re really excited about it. We can’t wait.”
Second-seeded EL (11-1-3) hosts third-ranked Brunswick (10-3-2) Saturday at noon. The Red Eddies defeated the Dragons 2-1 in late September.
“It’s definitely been a long time,” EL coach Craig Latuscha said. “It’s been a really great season. To lose what I lost last year and to fight back and do what we’ve done this year is unbelievable. I give credit to all the girls and how hard they’ve been working.”
EL lost much of its scoring up front from last year and some key pieces of its defense. Half of the roster this fall was made up of either sophomores or freshmen. But that didn’t keep the Red Eddies from thinking they could make something happen.
EL is balanced and has depth, is persistent and can create a constant attack. The Eddies have not only experienced talent, but also some great young players.
“Our whole team was working well together,” freshman Piper Norcross said. “We had a great team chemistry. We all get along. We just kind of meshed together well.”
EL started the season 8-0-1, outscoring foes 32-9 during that stretch. That included a 2-2 tie with Mt. Ararat and the win over Brunswick, a rare feat for the Red Eddies.
“We talked about that at the beginning of the season,” Latuscha said. “We wanted to beat all the teams we lost to last year. That was one of our goals, and we’ve done that.”
EL will have to duplicate that feat against the Dragons on Saturday. The Red Eddies built a 2-0 lead on Brunswick in the first meeting. Freshman Lauren Berube scored from 18 yards out and Paione followed with a tally off a corner. Brunswick got a goal from Kira Wolpow but couldn’t produce the equalizer.
Brunswick has gone 8-0-1 since that loss and has posted four consecutive shutouts. The Dragons have outscored teams 28-5 during that stretch.
“Brunswick is obviously a well-disciplined team, and they’re very good at passing,” Latuscha said. “We’ll be ready to play.”
EL went 3-1-2 down the stretch and only outscored teams 13-10. It has struggled to finish the past two games, tying Lewiston 1-1 in the regular season finale and defeating the Blue Devils 1-0 in overtime in their quarterfinal.
The Red Eddies produced plenty of shots in both games, but couldn’t put opportunities away. During a playoff season in which games are expected to be tight, EL has learned to keep battling, despite any frustration or missed chances.
“We had possession of the ball most of the time,” Paione said. “So it was just pressure, pressure, pressure and getting an opportunity. If it didn’t go in, we’d keep going and going and pushing.”
One thing this EL club has demonstrated is that there isn’t much quit in them. Even when they couldn’t put Lewiston away, the Red Eddies knew what they had to do and learned from it.
“We played even tougher than we were before,” Norcross said.
The Red Eddies were regular participants in the postseason in the 1990s. They reached the semifinals each year from 1996 through 1999. They won semifinal games in 1996, 1998 and 1999, but lost in the regional final all three times. In 2001, EL was the second seed at 11-1-1, defeating Greely in the divisional semifinals and edging Cape Elizabeth in penalty kicks in the Western A final.
Though this is a new experience for them, EL hopes to make this a common occurrence, especially with only five seniors.
“We’ve gone pretty far,” Latuscha said. “We’ve met almost all of our goals that we set at the beginning of the season. That’s something I’m very proud of.”