Panthers pick up rare win over Hornet girls
ASHLAND, Maine — The Central Aroostook girls soccer team had not experienced a single victory in their matches against Ashland during the coaching tenure of Joe Levesque.
In year No. 7, that dry spell finally came to an end.
On Thursday evening, the Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead less than six minutes into the game and controlled play throughout in capturing a 5-1 victory.
“It’s a great way to kick off my senior year, honestly,” said CA midfielder Olivia Pelletier, who happens to be the Panthers’ only senior. “We’ve been working so hard for this and it’s a really good feeling to finally beat them after all this time.”
Central Aroostook improved to 3-0, while the Hornets are now 1-1.
Freshman Liberty Fulton opened the scoring by tallying off a Kayla Martin assist 3:41 after the opening kickoff. Just over two minutes later, junior Breann Bradbury connected on a shot from 18 yards out, barely inside the right post. Fulton and Martin assisted on the goal.
“It made us more confident, that’s for sure, because we always have a lot of nerves playing against Ashland,” Pelletier said.
The Panthers’ leading scorer, Kate Levesque, got into the act with 8:38 remaining before intermission.
Martin scored an unassisted goal 4:34 into the second half to make it 4-0 before Levesque notched her second goal off a Bradbury pass at the 23:11 mark.
Ashland threatened a couple of times in the first half and had its best chance to break up the shutout midway through the second half. Junior Shelby Stolze, who scored four times in her team’s season-opening victory at Easton three days earlier, was stymied from 10 yards out by goalkeeper Olivia Blackstone, who made a terrific save on the hard shot. The Hornets came close to converting the rebound, but Blackstone made another stop and the ball eventually trickled over the end line.
Ashland finally did score with 15:09 by taking advantage of a CA foul. Kassandra Nelson drilled in the direct kick from 25 yards away inside the left post. The game was scoreless the rest of the way.
“I knew we could play with [Ashland],” Levesque said, “but you never know what you’re going to get and we had never beat them. We carried the play and everyone knew they had somebody to mark. When the ball was in the air, they went to it hard and won the 50-50 balls.
“To have our girls play like this, that was big,” he added.
Blackstone made seven saves on 11 shots in goal for the Panthers, while Valerie Burby saved 11 of 17 for Ashland.
“We had great energy tonight,” Pelletier said. “We’ve been focusing a lot on working as a unit because that has been one of our biggest struggles, transition up together and moving back together, and we are definitely getting the hang of it.”
Ashland coach Peter Belskis said his team was unable to match Central Aroostook’s physicality throughout.
“We needed to play a more skilled game and win a lot of 50-50 balls to stay in the game, and we needed to score early and put them on their heels,” Belskis said “and we didn’t do any of those things.”
In the boys game, which was played first, Central Aroostook’s Hunter Wardwell scored three times in a 4:39 span in the first half as the Panthers rolled to the 7-0 triumph over Ashland.
Wardwell scored a fourth goal with 21:13 left in the game. Hayden Kingsbury scored twice and Samuel Rowe provided a late goal to help CA to its third consecutive shutout. Brayden Bradbury made seven saves in goal for the winners. Garret Tilley collected 18 saves for the 0-2 Hornets.
“We started slow, but we picked it up in the second half,” said Panther coach Wallace Endy. “We just kept at it and continued to work.”