Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By Greg Reid
Special to the Telegram
BATH — In some games this season, Windham won with skill. In others, the Eagles turned to strength or determination. And more often than not, they relied on depth.
The last time Windham was seen like this was in 1994, when it was repeating as the Class B girls’ soccer state champion. Now it’s 2013, the Eagles are in Class A and yes, they’re on top again with a 3-0 victory against Bangor.
Jeff Fish, Windham’s assistant coach, gets doused with a cooler of water after Windham defeated Bangor for the Class A girls’ state soccer championship at McMann Field in Bath.
All four elements were evident Saturday, when Windham scored three second-half goals to beat Bangor 3-0 and win the Class A girls’ soccer state championship at McMann Field.
“Depth is huge for us, I have to say,” Windham Coach Deb Lebel said. “We have a very talented group of girls, and I can pick and choose among them because there’s so much talent.”
Windham (17-0-1), the top seed in the West, brought home the first girls’ soccer Gold Ball since the 1993 and ’94 teams won back-to-back Class B titles.
Bangor (16-2), the top seed in the East, ended its season in the state final for the fourth straight year.
After a dominating but scoreless first half, Windham’s depth at left wing proved the difference.
The physical and skillful Ciera Berthiaume put the Eagles ahead 1-0 just 51 seconds after the break when she took a feed from Shannon Valente and fired from 20 yards. The ball dipped under the crossbar and through the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Emily Gilmore (15 saves).
“We had to keep shooting because we knew once we got one they would keep coming,” Berthiaume said. “I knew we really needed one, so I just turned and shot and it went in.”
About 25 minutes later, she twisted an ankle in a tussle. As she limped off, Luisa Sbarella trotted on. The similarities between them gives pause. Similar build. Similar up-do. Similar pink headband.
Turns out they enjoyed similar success. Two minutes after Sbardella came on, Jenna Soucy sent in a cross from the end line. Defender Emily Brookings and Gilmore went for the ball at the near post. Sbardella dug it free and knocked it in.
“She’s done that a lot this season,” Lebel said. “She’s found the net.”
“I just knew I had to get a goal and if I did, we would keep scoring,” Sbardella said. “I hustled my hardest to get to the girl with the ball and I just took it from her.”
Soucy put the game away about three minutes later, carrying a pass from Emily Gorrivan past three defenders before sending the ball into the lower left corner.
Windham outshot Bangor 38-8 and enjoyed a 6-5 edge in corner kicks. Eagles keeper Kate Kneeland made four saves.
The imbalance was not for a lack of effort from the Rams. Midfielder Katerina Dagher made hard runs along the flanks and defender Tiffany Gray picked her spots to push forward for long-range shots. And try as she might, center forward Mary Butler couldn’t get around Windham stopper Emily Gilman. Forward Lauren Shoemaker and midfielder Ariana Davidson pressured the ball relentlessly, limiting Bangor’s chances.
“We had to play a perfect game and we did for most of it,” Bangor Coach Joe Johnson said. “They’re big and strong, and they push the ball hard. Just a little mistake here or there and they were able to capitalize.”
One final similarity? A hankering for a few celebratory burgers from a popular fast-food joint. As the girls came off the field with the Gold Ball, a coach said, “Hey, Windham, you just won the state championship. Where are you going now?”
Several shouted in response, “McDonald’s!”
“It’s time for some really unhealthy food,” Sbardella said. “After this season we’ve earned it.”
Here’s betting Berthiaume couldn’t agree more.