RUMFORD — Mountain Valley High School girls’ soccer turned ties into an art form last fall.

Expectations are so much higher this season that the Falcons gladly would have taken up a collection and given away the proceeds for the privilege of a deadlock during a three-game losing streak against Dirigo, Carrabec and Hall-Dale.

But things are back on track after an impressive 1-0 victory Monday afternoon over Mt. Abram at Chet Bulger Field. Mountain Valley (5-3-3) took advantage of its best scoring opportunity and played lockdown defense from start to finish, toppling a perennial Mountain Valley Conference power and taking a giant leap toward a possible home playoff game.

“This is great,” said senior co-captain Ellen Thorne, “because we had some really, really upsetting losses.”

Thorne’s willingness to walk away from the spotlight and comfort zone of the forward line helped the Falcons snap out of their midseason funk.

Her switch to defense helped Mountain Valley compensate for a key injury there. It also gave the Falcons two extra, experienced feet for shadowing Mt. Abram senior striker Kaitie Buschmann.

Buschmann was responsible for much of the Roadrunners’ 15-7 advantage in shots on goal. Thanks to the collective efforts of Thorne, Tia White, Kelsey Arsenault and Lynsie Dupuis, among others, those scoring bids were pushed to long range as the game progressed.

Breana Roberts (13 saves) also stopped three point-blank opportunities by Buschmann in the first half.

“They played well. They got nine girls behind the ball all the time. That’s tough to get through,” said Mt. Abram coach Marc Keller. “They went into a shell and didn’t let anybody near the goal, and that’s very effective.”

Mountain Valley earned the right to nurse the lead when Sissel Jakobsen planted the Falcons’ second and final shot of the first half into the net with 3:30 remaining.

Using the wet turf to her advantage after a brief shower, Jakobsen passed the ball to herself through the unsteady legs of a Mt. Abram defender and walked in alone against Roadrunners goalkeeper Jillian Withee.

“We were controlling this time and not all stressed out on the field,” Jakobsen said. “We took it as it came, and it went well.”

The Falcons didn’t abandon their offense with the lead, either. Hillary Dolloff narrowly missed out on a pair of scoring opportunities in the second half before Mountain Valley returned to its bread-and-butter.

Buschmann’s best chance to land the equalizer squirted through a leaping Roberts’ hands and rattled off the crossbar before the goalie cradled it with 11:15 left.

Mountain Valley also was well positioned to defend the Roadrunners’ final legitimate offensive bid, a direct kick from 25 yards by Kylie Rolbiecki.

“We’ve gone into some games tentatively. We’ve been up before and given it away,” said Mountain Valley coach Kris Tyler. “I’m really pleased that the girls were able to hold their own and keep playing strong through the game.”

Mt. Abram (5-5-1) remains in the hunt for a return to the Western Class C playoffs. But the air is even lighter in the Western B standings for the Falcons, who moved up to No. 3 behind Maranacook and Falmouth with the victory.

Heady stuff for a team that logged the unusual record of 1-6-7 a year ago.

“We have pretty much the same team,” said Thorne, one of 19 Falcons with two or more varsity seasons to her credit. “I felt like our defense had been falling apart, but today we brought it up.”

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