YARMOUTH – It was a goal that was as uplifting for the North Yarmouth Academy girls as it was disappointing for the Dirigo Cougars.

After a nail-biter of a quarterfinal soccer win over Hall-Dale, NYA quickly discovered things would be different Tuesday. A goal in the opening minutes staked the Panthers to an early lead they would never relinquish in a 3-0 victory in the their Western C semifinal. NYA advances to Friday’s regional final against Waynflete.

“That was one of our goals today,” said NYA coach Jeff Thoreck. “We wanted to come out at the start of the game, knowing that we’ve got to play with 100 percent and pick up our intensity and try to get that first goal and set the tone from there.”

The second-ranked Panthers (15-1) fired plenty of shots against Hall-Dale, but had to go to overtime before finishing. When freshman Courtney Dumont scored on a rebound off the first shot of the game at 1:49, it was a positive sign for NYA

“That was very important,” said NYA forward Alex Mack, who had a goal and an assist. “Our game with Hall-Dale was very close. So we knew we had to get that first goal and that would really help. We knew coming from behind wasn’t easy because we’d already been through that.”

The third-seeded Cougars (12-2-2) discovered that for themselves. Mack made it 2-0 with 16:23 left in the half, and Dirigo struggled to rally as NYA posted its 10th shutout.

“The second half, we finally figured it out a little bit,” said Dirigo coach Art Chamberlin, who said playing on NYA’s artificial turf was a significant disadvantage. “It took that long to learn how to play on the field.”

Mack took the first shot of the game, but Dirigo keeper Lanette Bryant, who had a fine effort with 10 saves, made a diving stop. Dumont, at the left post, converted the rebound. Later in the half, Mack maneuvered around a defender for an easy shot and 2-0 lead.

“We were like deer in the head lights in the first half,” said Chamberlin. “We haven’t had to play from behind very much.”

The Cougars were outshot 8-2 in the first half and struggled to muster anything offensively. Shannon Daley had a redirection on a corner kick. A cross by Melissa Harvey was put in front for Katherine Gagne, but a defender broke that up.

“That group of seniors has been playing together for four years,” said Thoreck, who lost six seniors from last year’s Class C state champions but has nine seniors leading the way this year, including four on defense.

The Cougars tried moving people around in the second half and had success moving the ball against the Panthers, but the scoring chances were still few. Katie Hutchinson had a shot from the right end line and had a nice bid from the left side off a throw. Hutchinson also chased down a through pass by Megan Russell, but NYA keeper Maddie Lane charged out to break up that play. Lane, sophomore, did a nice job coming out to take away lead passes for the Dirigo forwards.

“She did great,” said Mack. “She had an awesome game.”

Brooke Rayder made it 3-0 with 5:31 left in the game with a shot from the top of the box.

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