DOVER-FOXCROFT — Unable to produce chances near the net, the Ellsworth girls’ soccer team worked its magic from long distance.
Early on in Friday’s Class B North preliminary round game, Ellsworth found itself flummoxed against a Foxcroft midfield that controlled possession and prevented the Eagles from making their way toward goal. Even when Ellsworth did have the ball, the Ponies stayed calm and composed to cut off the visitors’ potential scoring threats.
With 20 minutes gone, though, Ellsworth began to make its way into the final third. Although Foxcroft gave the Eagles a minuscule amount of space in the attacking half, that turned out to be all the visitors needed to score the goals that would secure a long-awaited playoff victory.
Ellsworth got its first playoff win in seven years Friday with a 3-0 road victory over Foxcroft in the Class B North prelims. The result came as Addi Laslie and Sierra Andrews broke open a scoreless game with long-range goals in the first half before Paige Sawyer provided the third and final tally early in the second.
“It feels awesome,” Ellsworth head coach Katye Lacasse said. “The girls knew it had been a while since this team has won in the playoffs, and that definitely motivated them. They really took advantage of this opportunity.”
Ninth-ranked Ellsworth (6-8-1) got off to a slow start to the game as Foxcroft controlled possession and forced the Eagles to chase the ball in their own half. Yet Ellsworth’s back four maintained its shape and limited the home team to a pair of harmless through balls, both of which goalkeeper Kayla Duhaime collected without breaking a sweat.
Midway through the first half, Ellsworth found its rhythm in the midfield and began to put No. 8 Foxcroft (5-9-1) on the back foot. The Eagles nearly scored the opener on a thunderous shot from Sawyer with 21 minutes left in the period, but the ball hit the crossbar and took an improbable bounce away from goal that allowed the Ponies to make an easy clearance.
Fifteen minutes before halftime, though, Ellsworth’s offensive pressure paid off as Laslie curled a shot from well outside the 18-yard box into the bottom-right corner to put the visitors ahead 1-0. The Eagles made it a two-goal cushion seven minutes later through Andrews, who found the same corner from nearly the same spot on the pitch.
“The defense was pressuring me, and I knew had to get the ball off my foot,” Andrews said. “I wasn’t even thinking about the distance because I had to shoot it right then. I guess I hit it just right.”
Ellsworth continued to dictate the game in the second half and stretched the lead to 3-0 with 31 minutes, 59 seconds left with a goal from Sawyer. Foxcroft’s defense prevented the Eagles from scoring the rest of the way, but Ellsworth withstood the Ponies’ late pushes forward to keep a clean sheet and advance in comfortable fashion.
This encounter with Foxcroft was the second of the year for Ellsworth, which beat the Ponies 7-1 when the two teams met Sept. 26. Yet even as they prepared to battle an opponent they had already beaten in decisive fashion, the Eagles were not about to take this game lightly.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be handed to us,” Andrews said. “You can’t think like that. We knew we were going to have to work really hard in practice and all game long today, and that’s what we did.”
In the days leading up to the game, Ellsworth players dyed their hair a hot-pink color in a display of team unity. That unity became clear on the pitch as the Eagles overcame a much-improved Foxcroft team to earn their biggest win yet.
“We just wanted to do something to show we were together as a team,” Laslie said. “We went with pink because of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
Ellsworth’s next game will be a regional quarterfinal showdown against No. 1 Hermon (14-0) at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Hermon High School. The Hawks defeated the Eagles by scores of 1-0 and 5-1 in the regular season.
A win would send Ellsworth to the regional semifinals, where it would face No. 4 Presque Isle (9-4-1) or No. 5 John Bapst (9-4-1). Beating Hermon to get there will be a challenge, but after Friday’s win, the Eagles will be plenty confident.
“We wanted to make it back to the playoffs and win this time, and we’re so happy we could,” Laslie said. “We’re going to keep fighting.”