CARIBOU, Maine — Scoring the first goal can be a major factor in winning a soccer match, especially in playoffs.
The fourth-seeded Caribou Vikings came close to doing just that 30 seconds into last Wednesday’s Class B North quarterfinal, but Presque Isle goalkeeper Savannah Rodriguez was able to come up with a huge stop on a Maddie Doucette shot.
Eleven minutes later, the fifth-ranked Wildcats were able to get on the scoreboard, courtesy of an Eleanor St. Peter goal, and rode the momentum en route to a 4-1 victory in a game played at Caribou High School.
Maddie Michaud netted the other three goals for the Wildcats. It was Michaud’s second hat trick of the playoffs and increased her season goal total to 26.
“She’s relentless,” said coach Ralph Michaud. “Some people just have that knack of scoring goals and she’s one of them.”
Fifteen of the 20 players on Presque Isle’s roster are either freshmen and sophomores and many played key roles in the victory. Freshman Libby Moreau assisted on a pair of goals and classmate Paige McHatten set up another. Both St. Peter and Michaud are sophomores as is Rodriguez, who finished with 10 saves on 16 shots.
“We are so much better than we were earlier in the season and a big part of that is how the young players have developed,” coach Michaud said.
Presque Isle’s defense, which features sophomore starters Molly Kingsbury and Elizabeth Collins and freshman Charlotte Carrier first off the bench, to go along with junior Chrissy Skidgel and senior Tori Koch, was stout. The Wildcats allowed just the one goal, which was supplied by Caribou’s Alexis Rodriguez off an Emily Adler assist with 4:33 to go before halftime.
“We don’t mark or play man-to-man,” coach Michaud added. “It’s more zone and a lot of talking back there. They’re young but tough to get through.”
Rodriguez’s goal made it 2-1, but the Wildcats came out of intermission and wasted little time in bumping the lead back to two on a nifty goal scored by Michaud. It was made possible off an Emily Wheaton chip over the Caribou defense from just inside midfield.
“We work on that play literally every day in practice,” said Maddie Michaud. “It worked last time we played them and I missed the shot, but this time I finished it.”
The only two Aroostook County Class B schools had played a pair of closely-contested regular season matches. The Wildcats won both by scores of 2-1, with the Oct. 12 meeting needing overtime before being decided.
Kerrigan Manter saved eight of 18 shots for Caribou (11-4-1) before giving way to Jaelynn Doody with four minutes left. The Vikings were without leading scorer Searra Herbert. The junior striker, who had 23 goals on the season, suffered an ACL tear early in the second half of Saturday’s 6-0 prelim victory over Gardiner.