AUBURN — Getting the top seed hasn’t always been that rewarding.

It has seemed in recent years that if the St. Dom’s girls’ soccer team earned the top-ranking in Western C, they drew a pretty stiff opponent in the first round to go with it. Either those foes were good enough to give the Saints a battle or stellar enough to oust the top seed altogether.

This playoff tourney isn’t any different. St. Dom’s drew the preliminary game winner of Monmouth or North Yarmouth Academy. It turned out to be the Mustangs, against whom the Saints had to rally in a regular-season victory.

Monmouth provided the Saints the challenge they expected, but St. Dom’s was able to survive with a 1-0 win in Tuesday’s Western C quarterfinal.

“We were nervous about both of them,” said junior forward Faith Grady. “We’ve been following Monmouth because they’re in our conference. We haven’t seen NYA. So we wanted Monmouth, another rematch. We didn’t want redemption because we’d already won, but we wanted to show them that we’d improved over the season.”

The Saints (13-1-1) were glad to face a familiar opponent and made sure they didn’t repeat the same mistakes.

St. Dom’s was down 1-0 late in the previous game with Monmouth before forcing overtime with a tying goal in the final minutes. The Saints then won in overtime. The rally came after a lengthy delay because of injuries to Monmouth forward Kylie Kemp and St. Dom’s keeper Kelly Pomerleau.

But St. Dom’s struck early this time. Grady’s goal early in the first half put the Saints in the driver’s seat, and the Mustangs (9-6-1) had to try and battle back.

“We haven’t been defeated at home,” said St. Dom’s coach Alicia Pelletier, whose team has allowed just seven goals all year. “So we told them to come out and get on top and play their hardest. That’s what they did. They left everything on the field. They played 110 percent from whistle to whistle. You can’t ask for anything more than that. Getting that first goal really built that into their hearts, especially with a lot of underclassmen.”

The Saints graduated seven seniors from last year’s club that reached the semifinals, but many of this year’s club had seen little or no playoff action. The return of senior Marley Byrne added experience to the lineup. She had been out four weeks with a foot injury.

“She controls the midfield and does a lot for us,” Pelletier said. “She keeps us calm. Having her there as a presence and allowing us to move her sister (Emma) up front gives us a forward presence that is a great help too.”

Monmouth beat NYA 1-0 in Friday’s prelim. The Mustangs thought the regular season loss to St. Dom’s slipped out of their hands and were hoping for another chance. Though Monmouth played well at times, they struggled to produce a consistent offensive attack.

“The first half, we had some good opportunities out there,” said Monmouth coach Gary Trafton. “The last part of the game, we started spreading the ball around and had some moments when we controlled the ball but couldn’t get anything.”

Grady’s goal came 13:03 into the game. She burst down the right side and cut in for a shot.

“Coach had me as a right halfback,” Grady said. “Usually I’m up top. So I had a hard time adjusting, but I just saw an opening and I weaved in and out.

Play went back and forth in the first half. Though the Mustangs were able to counter against the Saints, Monmouth struggled to get that final pass that set up a quality scoring bid. Late in the half, those chances came.

Monmouth’s top scorer Kemp fed Sammy Grandahl on the right wing. She crossed it in front where Sabrina Beck had a shot that was snuffed by Pomerleau, who finished with 11 saves. The Mustangs had another late threat with a crowd in front. Pomerleau got a hand on one bid before a Monmouth hand ball nixed the opportunity.

“They didn’t have any great shots,” Trafton said. “They had that one shot down there. If you take that one goal away, they didn’t pepper our goalie. They had a couple good shots.”

In the second half, the Saints came out strong and controlled play for most of the half. Emma Byrne nearly made it 2-0 when her shot hit the crossbar. Monmouth goalie Mikayla Cameron saved it. Cameron finished with 11 saves.

“I was very happy with the second half,” Pelletier said. “I think they finally got over their nerves. A lot of players, this was their first playoff game. They really stepped up in the second half. They were over the nerves and ready to go and ready to play at the level they’re capable off.”

Monmouth struggled to mount any kind of offensive attack. The Saints were winning the ball in the midfield and controlling play. Late in regulation, the Mustangs were able to get a little pressure going but couldn’t produce many shots.  Kemp had a shot off a free kick that was saved and then had a turn-around try that Pomerleau caught.

“The second half we really came out flat,” Trafton said. “We tried to move people around. We got a couple of offers but you’re not going to score by kicking it at (Pomerleau). You have to push it across and have someone coming in from the backside. That’s what we did in the first half.”

The Saints advance to this weekend’s semifinal against Waynflete. Time and day have yet to be determined. The Flyers edged Wiscasset Tuesday in penalty kicks.

“We’re just excited going further in the playoffs,” Grady said. “Losing so many seniors, we didn’t really expect to get this far. So we just hope to move forward.”

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