AUBURN — After going .500 last season and graduating eight seniors, there was some rebuilding to do.

The Edward Little girls’ soccer team came into the season with an uphill climb to compete with  the best in Eastern A, but the Red Eddies have lived up to that challenge. EL finished off its regular season with a 1-0 win over Lewiston and enters the postseason having won four of its last five games.

“This year’s gone better than expected,” EL coach Craig Latuscha said. “We lost a lot of seniors from last year. The younger girls stepped up this year and played extremely well. We played some big games and competed with the top teams. We feel if we play our game and play really hard and outwork every team, that we have a chance to beat anybody on any given day.”

EL (9-5) is ranked sixth in Eastern A and could draw a quarterfinal game with Hampden. EL lost to the Broncos 2-1. The Red Eddies also lost close ones to Brunswick and Mt. Ararat while stunning top-ranked Bangor. With a little momentum going its way, EL is hoping for a longer postseason than last year’s prelim loss against Mt. Ararat.

“I think if we play a hard team it brings up our intensity,” said Olivia Paione, a junior midfielder who netted the lone goal Monday. “We’re a second-half team. So we always come back in the second half. So if we can work on the first half, it will bring up our overall game and help us go further than last year.”

Though EL played well in the first half against the Blue Devils, the Red Eddies needed to hold off a late Lewiston charge in the victory. The Blue Devils (0-12-2) created some pressure but couldn’t produce the equalizer. It was the eighth shutout of the season for EL.

“That’s been the story of the season,” said Lewiston coach Butch Dow. “We’re getting there. We tried some different combinations. I think we put a lot of pressure on. It’s just a matter of finding the back of the net now. If we can find that person that has that hunger enough to put it in the back of the net, we’ll be a lot better off next year.”

EL maintained possession of the Maca Roddy Memorial Trophy with the victory. The award is in honor of the late EL goalkeeper and goes to the winning team in the final regular season matchup between the two rivals. Paione was named the Most Valuable Player for EL while Maegan Mathon was Lewiston’s top player.

“The girls knew a lot was riding on this game,” said Dow, whose team last won the trophy two years ago. “They really wanted to try and bring that trophy home this year. It wasn’t meant to be. We’re looking to next year already. If we can ride the wave of positive that we did in this game, I think we’ll get there.”

EL controlled most of the first half and had plenty of chances early. Lewiston countered with a couple of threats, but the Red Eddies finally got a goal midway through the half.

Emily Jacques crossed a pass from the right side. Paione was in front to redirect it with 15:02 left in the first half.

“In practice, coach is always saying, ‘Crash the net,'” said Paione, who had a pair of goals in the 6-1 win over Lewiston earlier in the year. “We work on our crosses and stuff. So I was focused on crashing the net. I got a foot on it. It just bounced off the goalie’s hands.”

Lewiston picked up its play in the second half and put pressure on the EL defense. After a flat start, the Red Eddies had to answer the Blue Devils’ attack.

“Lewiston gave us a great game,” Latuscha said. “1-0 with a trophy on the line is a big game. The Lewiston girls played really well. Ultimately, we played a little better and a little harder.”

Lewiston’s Ally Frechette had a rush up the middle but was forced off the play by some solid defense by Hannah Smith. Alanna Taylor had a redirection in front that keeper Molly Murray  knocked away. Mathon did some nice work feeding the push up front. She fed Frechette and Blais with a cross late in regulation. Neither could get a shot off and defender Emily Schario was able to clear it away.

“We had to dig deep,” Latuscha said. “They were putting a lot of pressure on us. We had to change the formation up a little bit to help out the middle. They were making big runs. They were playing hard. It could have gone either way in that second half. Defensively, we were really solid. That’s been one of strong points.”

Murray finished with two saves for the shutout while Kelsey St. Cyr made eight stops for Lewiston.

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