Houlton holds off Madison for C girls' soccer championship

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Houlton’s Mia Hanning jumps into the arms of a coach after a second half goal as Madison players walk back to the team bench during the Class C title game Saturday at Hampden Academy. (Michael G. Seamans/Kennebec Journal)

HAMPDEN — Houlton girls soccer coach Tim Tweedie marveled at Kolleen Bouchard’s senior season, one in which she finished with 37 goals. And she only needed one of them to cap her stellar year with a state championship.

Bouchard scored against the run of play in the 52nd minute Saturday, lifting the Shiretowners to a 1-0 win over Madison in the Class C final at Hampden Academy. Making the moment even sweeter for Houlton (17-1-0) — and more bitter for Madison, which was playing for its first state championship in school history — was that it came just four minutes after the Bulldogs (17-2-0) saw an apparent goal somehow stay out.

“We were fired up,” Bouchard said. “We called this a ‘Revenge Tour’ for us, because we went through Bucksport (that) defeated us sophomore year (in the regional finals) and then we went through Orono, who has always been there in the way. It was great to finally get through everyone.”

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Bouchard, a 5-foot-11 midfielder, had been remarkably handcuffed through much of the match by Madison sophomore Emily Edgerly. But she found just enough space to perfectly time a run into the 18-yard box, where Sierra Hoops nimbly threaded a pass through to send Bouchard in one-on-one with Bulldog goalkeeper Lauren Hay.

Hay had no chance as Bouchard settled the ball and finished easily for what would be the final time in her high school career.

“I really wasn’t thinking about it. It’s what we’ve done all season,” Bouchard said. “I was definitely focused on settling it and picking a corner. It’s definitely nerve-wracking — it’s the state championship — but you’ve got to get it done.”

“We were really shocked to see that (Bouchard) got open,” Madison co-coach Erin Wood said. “I’m not even sure how (Hoops) managed to squeak that ball from the wing, because we kind of had it surrounded. She found a little gap, and unfortunately Bouchard timed her run.”

It proved to be the proverbial dagger to Madison’s hopes. After a stunning first 10 minutes of play from the Bulldogs to open the half, in which they nearly opened their account no fewer than three times, it was the blow that knocked the wind out of them.

“We had a hard time rallying to kind of push back,” Wood said. “I thought we finally started to in the last 15 minutes, but it’s awfully hard with that type of pressure. You have to have a really good look at the net at that point, but they’d really packed it in.”

Madison’s best opportunity to produce came in the 48th minute, when senior midfielder Ashley Emery’s free kick from 25 yards out along the left wing landed perfectly to Jillian Holden in traffic less than 10 yards out. Somehow Houlton keeper Tessa Solomon reacted quickly enough to make the initial sprawling save, and when the rebound skittered to Sydney LeBlanc inside the six-yard box, LeBlanc improbably launched her follow-up attempt clear over the crossbar.

“Surprisingly, I was calm at that point. I felt like I needed to be,” Tweedie said of watching Madison’s near-miss. “Tessa made two unbelievable saves in the game. This was her 11th shutout of the season, but this was by far her best game overall.”

Houlton rode the momentum of Bouchard’s tally for more than 20 minutes, locking Madison into its defending third and wearing out the Bulldog midfielders with constant wins for possession. The stretch of play followed a familiar pattern after a while: Madison backs would try to ping the ball out into the middle of the park to relieve pressure, only to have the Shires knock it back wide to try another service from wide areas.

Rinse. Repeat.

By the time Emery centered for Edgerly on the doorstep in the 77th minute, with Edgerly’s header forcing Solomon into an awkward save with her shins on the skipping ball, it felt like too little too late for the Bulldogs — who ended their season as regional champions having scored only one goal in their last six regulation halves of play.

“It’s heart-breaking,” Wood said. “We knew it was going to be a one-goal game, whether it was going to be 1-0 or 2-1, because that’s what state championships usually are. We got a little unlucky on their little break.”

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