MONMOUTH – Kristi Hilton, Danielle Bumann and their Monmouth Academy girls’ soccer teammates celebrated, ever so briefly.

Coach Gary Trafton didn’t. Even from 50 yards away, he thought he’d seen a hand deflect the ball before Hilton boomed it into the net, negating Monmouth’s potential tying goal with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.

Not to mention that he’d watched a dozen complete games in which the Mustangs’ offense appeared hamstrung by Murphy’s Law.

“I thought it was (a hand ball). That’s why I looked right at the official, because I was pretty sure he thought it was,” Trafton said. “We don’t catch many breaks this season.”

With that, a rare opportunity for Monmouth to steal a Mountain Valley Conference win or tie ended in a 1-0 loss to Wiscasset.

Ali Preble connected with a 15-yard blast that whizzed through the outstretched arms of Monmouth goalkeeper Kelsie Hilton at 18:27 of the first half, allowing Wiscasset (2-11) to repay an earlier 1-0 overtime loss to Monmouth.

“That was such a golden moment. Senior year, our last away game,” Preble said. “It’s hard. The kind of season we’ve had, even your own school doesn’t believe in you. There’s a lot of doubt. But we’re such a small team that we’re like a family.”

Bumann’s free kick from 30 yards out sailed over Wiscasset’s defensive wall and gave Hilton the late opportunity at the far post. But Hilton’s hand appeared to cradle the ball inadvertently as she lunged to keep it from trickling past the end line.

With the Maine Principals’ Asssociation reducing the size of the playoff field from two-thirds of the teams to one-half this year, not even an unexpected winning streak will extend the season beyond this week for Wiscasset or Monmouth (1-10-1).

The Redskins seized their opportunity to treat the holiday rematch as their championship game. Haley Grant assisted Preble’s goal and played solid defense in the midfield along with Abby Foster.

Preble shone brightly after shifting to fullback for the final 10 minutes, helping Lyndsey Etter, Lauren Trudeau and Lexi Tischbein deny the Mustangs’ late flurry.

“We have a goal not to finish last in the Heal Points,” said Wiscasset coach Chris Hammond, whose team trailed Monmouth by a fraction prior to the game. “We’ve been in some close games and had them slip away. I’m surprised I kept my composure on the bench as well as I did on that hand ball, because I’ve coached games where that ball went in and it wasn’t called. That was a tough call for him to make in that situation.”

Monmouth generated much of the early pressure prior to Preble’s goal. Chelse Arsenault and McFarren each had long-range chances off direct kicks, with Abby Austin (nine saves) making the chest-high stop on both occasions.

Those good looks at the cage dwindled in the second half.

“We’ve still scored fewer than 10 goals all season, so we’ve spent a lot of time working on our defense,” Hammond said.

Arsenault gave Monmouth one final flicker of hope in the final 30 seconds, vaulting the ball into play with a somersault throw-in. But Wiscasset won the resulting 50-50 ball and cleared it from harm’s way.

“The first half we had a couple of good opportunties. We just couldn’t get our foot on the ball,” said Trafton, whose team features only two seniors and three juniors. “We do a pretty good job getting the ball down the field. We just don’t have a person who’s stepped up to be a goal-scorer.”

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