ELLSWORTH — A Mount Desert Island girls’ soccer team that’s come a long way will now end its season by bringing home some sort of hardware.
MDI booked a place in the Northern Maine championship game with wins last Wednesday against Old Town and Saturday against Ellsworth. The victories, both of which came by scores of 1-0, gave a team that began the year 1-7 the program’s first regional final appearance since 1997.
Last Wednesday, MDI took on second-ranked Old Town in a Class B North quarterfinal game on the Hampden Academy turf. The game was scoreless much of the way until Sophia Anderson scored the lone goal on an assist from Lelia Weir with 11 minutes, 23 seconds left in regulation.
On a wet, windy night on which most other games around the state were postponed, MDI played the first half in the face of the strong gusts. After holding off an Old Town team that had the wind at its back in the first 40 minutes, the Trojans were able to get the goal they needed to upset the Coyotes (11-4-1).
“It was a very defensive game for us; we might have gotten into their offensive third maybe three times in that first half,” MDI head coach May Chan said. “The girls did a great job covering defensively for each other, and when it got to the second half, I told them, ‘OK, now we have the wind with us, so let’s see what we can do with it.’”
To reach the Northern Maine title game, MDI, which had opened the Class B North playoffs with a 3-0 road prelim win Oct. 22 against Belfast, needed to post a third consecutive road upset. The Trojans did so Friday as an Ellsworth own goal with 17:32 to play in the first half lifted MDI to its first regional final in nearly a quarter-century.
The goal came as Weir curled in a corner kick that took a fortuitous bounce off the Ellsworth goalkeeper and tucked just inside the bottom-right corner. The third-ranked Eagles (13-4) controlled much of the possession the rest of the way, but some stout defending and a number of key saves from MDI’s Sabine Costello-Sanders were just enough to see MDI through to the next round.
MDI previously lost 4-1 against Ellsworth on Sept. 29 and 1-0 to the Eagles on Oct. 19. After the latter contest, the Trojans knew they could compete with Ellsworth if the two teams had a chance to meet again.
“We knew it was going to be a competitive game, and sometimes it just takes that one goal,” Chan said. “We’ve played them enough where we kind of know what they’re looking to do. Sabine made some awesome saves, and our movement and energy level were great.”
MDI has embraced the fact that all three of its playoff games to date have been on the road. Chan knew her team had that opportunity after MDI’s prelim win, and the Trojans, who have yet to concede a goal in the playoffs, delivered with two monumental victories.
“After that Belfast game, I said, ‘Listen, we can be the road-trip warriors,” Chan said. “It’s quite the feat not only being away and upsetting teams but also just being here and having that opportunity to keep going.”
The Class B North title game will pit MDI against No. 1 Hermon (17-0). The Hawks, who defeated the Trojans by scores of 9-0 and 6-1 in the regular season, have won all but two games this year by four goals or more.
MDI, though, is a different team than it was when it fell to those lopsided defeats to Hermon earlier this year. Toppling the Hawks will be a monumental task, but Chan believes her team is capable of playing a competitive game.
“I tell the girls that, no matter what, they have each other’s back,” Chan said. “They’re going to do that, win or lose.”