HAMPDEN, Maine — That feeling of inevitability can either have a positive or negative swing on a soccer team over the course of a state championship confrontation.
For the Yarmouth girls team, which was sailing all over Waterville’s defensive third of the field in the second half of their Class B state championship match, the inevitable reward was well within reach.
In a 10-minute span, the Purple Panthers lost its 1-0 lead as the Clippers scored three goals over that span to emerge with a 3-1 victory on Saturday at Hampden Academy.
Junior midfielder Sara D’Appolonia scored with 8:01 remaining in regulation on a scramble in front of the goal to make it 2-1, and Katie Clemmer’s second tally of the match gave coach Josh Thornton’s club some insurance less than a half-minute later.
“We knew we would break through eventually,” said Thornton, whose club finished 16-1-1 and claimed its first state championship since 2003.
Waterville finished 17-1.
Even though Yarmouth controlled possession in the first 40 minutes, Waterville scored the first goal of the contest.
With just under a minute left until halftime, Mackenzie St. Pierre sent a high, arching header into the far corner of the goal to give Waterville a 1-0 lead.
But the way the Clippers were pushing up, that lead was anything but cozy. The Purple Panthers were held to one shot in the second half and had to work hard just to get the ball past midfield.
“We were having trouble getting the ball forward just because their possession was really strong,” Waterville coach Mark Serdjenian said.
Waterville’s best chance to extend its lead came just under four minutes into the second half on an Anika Elias direct kick, but it sailed over the top of the goal.
Waterville would not generate a shot on net the rest of the game.
Yarmouth’s Clemmer, Gretchen Barbera and Olivia Feeley used their quickness on the edges to wear down Waterville, but Purple Panthers goalkeeper Alexis Brandon came off her line several times to deny Yarmouth chances.
The Clippers’ pressure would finally be rewarded with 17:39 remaining in regulation, with Clemmer burying a hard shot from the right side of the penalty area into the upper left corner.
D’Appolonia’s score on goal came just over nine minutes later.
“The ball was just kind of fumbling around in there, and I happened to get a foot on it,” D’Appolonia said. “The goalie just missed it.”
Clemmer was credited with her second goal of the match 24 seconds later when the ball deflected in off a Waterville defender, completing the scoring.
“We just had to keep pushing and couldn’t get down on ourselves [down] 1-0,” D’Appolonia said. “We came out harder in the second half, possessed the ball and played our game.”
Whenever Waterville was able to push the ball toward the center of the field, Yarmouth’s backs and midfielders were there to limit time and space, and counterattack.
“We took complete control in the second half, and that’s exactly what we needed to do to come out with the win,” D’Appolonia said.
Waterville, which hadn’t allowed more than a goal in a game all season, was worn down by the constant Yarmouth pressure.
“I think we haven’t had a lot of sustained pressure against us, we were bending and not breaking for a while, but it’s 80 minutes, not 40,” said Serdjenian. “The clock did seem to go really slowly in the second half.”
Brandon was outstanding in goal for Waterville and came up with eight saves. Meredith Lane had two stops for Yarmouth, which finished with a 19-5 edge in shots.
Follow Ryan McLaughlin on Twitter at @rmclaughlin23.