PORTLAND – Better teams adapt rapidly. See a gap and close it. Swap a player here, shift the point of attack there.
Case in point was Waynflete’s 2-1 rally past Old Orchard Beach on Friday in a Class C Western Maine Conference girls’ soccer match at the Fore River Fields complex.
The Flyers’ first move came six minutes in, when forward Isabel Agnew came off momentarily with an injury. That prompted Coach Todd Dominski to switch striker Walker Foehl with right outside midfielder Arianna Giguire.
Most of the game was played in the midfield in the early going, with Waynflete (8-1-4) doing just enough to stop the Seagulls’ breakaways.
That changed at 18:35, when the Seagulls (8-2-3) stormed the Flyers’ box. In the scramble that ensued, Olivia Dubois sent a pass from sister Abby past a diving Juliana Harwood (two saves) and inside the right post for a 1-0 lead.
Next came the Flyers’ second adjustment, moving junior Sophie Raffel from left outside back to the right side.
“We were getting beat on that other side,” Waynflete Coach Todd Dominski said. “We moved Sophie over to see if she could help us contain a little bit.”
Not only did Raffel help blunt the Seagulls’ attack, she became a key factor in the Flyers’ offense.
Time and again, she took a wide outlet pass and pushed it up herself, fed inside midfielder Sophie Canning or knocked it wide to Foehl. Foehl’s crosses became Waynflete’s most potent weapon.
With the Seagulls focused on Foehl’s services, Giguire got free to tie the game at 1 with 27:06 to play. She finished off a nice pass from Sadie Cole to beat Old Orchard keeper Jaclyn MacDonald (eight saves), much to the delight of the raucous crowd, which sounded off with each contested ball.
“I think in the second half we definitely started to find feet,” Canning said. “Our passes became more crisp.”
Three minutes later Foehl’s pass from the end line found Agnew in front. She knocked the ball in for a 2-1 lead.
“We learned that we really need to come out with a bit more intensity,” Foehl said. “We showed that we can score and move the ball. If we do that for a full 80 minutes, we’ll go far.”
For the Seagulls, circumstances were too tough to overcome. Injuries, including senior midfielder Anna Foss’ ankle sprain, shortened Old Orchard Beach’s bench to one substitute.
“In the second half, they played very well,” Old Orchard Beach Coach Heath Floyd said, “and we ran out of gas.”
Leading 2-1, there were two heart-in-your-throat moments for the Flyers. The first came with 16 minutes left, when a rare Seagulls foray beyond the center circle drew a handball in the box for a penalty kick.
The Flyers’ first thought?
“Oh no,” Raffel said.
“We have a lot of faith in Julianna,” Foehl said. “She’s blocked a few this year.”
She never had the chance, as the shot sailed over the crossbar. “It’s good to go through those situations now,” Canning said, “so when they do happen in the playoffs we’re prepared to handle them.”
Only the crossbar kept the Flyers from adding a goal with 3:40 to play, when Foehl’s direct kick from 23 yards caromed off and was cleared.
The Flyers’ second anxious moment came with under a minute to play. Amy Twohig got free on the right flank and sent a pass across the goalmouth. None of her exhausted teammates could reach the ball and it sailed wide left.
“I’ll take my chances against anyone with these 12 girls but it’s very difficult,” Floyd said. “Waynflete’s a great team. I would love to see them again with a full squad.”