ORONO, Maine — There was no panic in the Orono girls soccer team after Houlton junior Kolleen Bouchard tied Wednesday’s North Class C girls soccer final with a second-half penalty kick.
In fact, the reigning state champion Red Riots only used that as fire to shift their own attack into overdrive.
Top-seeded Orono was rewarded only six minutes later with a rocket of a goal from senior striker Becky Lopez-Anido from the top of the penalty area. The goal stood up as coach Cid Dyjak’s team punched their ticket to the state championship game with a 2-1 victory over the second-seeded Shiretowners.
After a first half that saw very few scoring chances, both teams turned it up a few notches as all three goals were scored in a span of about 10 minutes.
“I think coming out of the first half, we knew we had to step it up,” said Lopez-Anido, whose 13-1-3 Riots play a state-championship rematch with Waynflete of Portland 3 p.m. Saturday at Hampden Academy.
The Shiretowners (13-2-2) and Red Riots played twice in the regular season, finishing each match in a draw.
The first 40 minutes’ best scoring chance came from Orono’s Brinsley Chasse, but Houlton goalkeeper Aspen Flewelling (eight saves) came off her line to thwart Chasse’s chance down the middle.
But the Riots’ senior midfielder would find redemption 3:59 into the second half, one-touching a Lopez-Anido cross past Flewelling for the match’s opening goal.
“In practice a lot we had been working on dragging the ball across the endline, and I saw Becky running, and I saw that open space in the back of the net, and she got it to my foot,” Chasse said.
Bouchard was awarded her penalty kick just under four minutes after Chasse’s goal when an Orono defender committed a handball in the penalty area.
The Shires junior rifled a low shot into the left side of the goal that Orono’s Katelyn Richards could not reach.
Even though that goal gave Houlton a small dose of momentum, it was Orono that would capitalize on the next glaring scoring chance.
With 26:47 left in regulation, Lopez-Anido, who was left unmarked near the top of the penalty area, turned and fired a hard shot off the far post and in, over the outstretched hand of Flewelling.
“We had to change the energy on the field,” Lopez-Anido said.
Coach Tim Tweedie’s Shires would ramp up their own energy after Lopez-Anido’s goal, but Richards in goal and the Riots’ midfielders and backs collaborated to keep Houlton off the board.
Richards made a point-blank save on Sierra Hoops with 18:10 left, and she knocked a Flewelling direct kick just over the crossbar with 2:28 to go. She finished with three stops.
“Katelyn’s been working so hard this season,” Lopez-Anido said. “We have a goalie we can trust, we have a team we can trust.”
After the save on the direct kick, Orono kept the ball in the midfield area the remainder of the match, denying Houlton any high-percentage chances at the equalizer.
“We ended up with some good looks, a couple that I thought were going to go,” Tweedie said. “Once they got that second one, we just couldn’t get the equalizer.”
While the Shires did get some good looks in the second half, Orono’s backs and midfielders did an exceptional job limiting time and space, and blocking any attempts at through-balls into the penalty area.
Orono finished with a 15-5 edge in shots.
Follow Ryan McLaughlin on Twitter at @rmclaughlin23.