Speed, strong defense carry Houlton girls by Dexter to C North title

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HOULTON — For the past few years, the Houlton High School girls soccer team has been knocking on the door of a regional championship, but had been unable to make that next step.

Finishing as regional runners-up three of the past four seasons, many of Houlton’s seniors were wondering if their time would ever come. On Nov. 1 it did as top-ranked Houlton defeated No. 2 Dexter Regional High School 4-2 for the Class C North crown. The Tigers end their season with a 12-5 record.

With the win, Houlton (16-1) advanced to the state championship. The last time a Houlton girls soccer team appeared in a state championship came in 1987 when Houlton won the Class B championship with a 4-1 victory over Lincoln Academy of Newcastle.

“We have been close a couple of times and I always wondered what this one felt like,” veteran Houlton coach Tim Tweedie said. “I have to admit it feels very nice.”

Houlton received goals from seniors Kolleen Bouchard, Aspen Flewelling and Mia Hanning, along with a goal from freshman Rebecca Howe in the championship game. Sophomore Maddie Grant added an assist for the Shires.

Freshman Avery Herrick and junior Danielle Cummings each had unassisted goals for Dexter.

Houlton goalie Tessa Solomon stopped six of seven shots, while Addyson Herrick had 10 saves on 17 shots for Dexter. The Shires held a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.

“We knew Houlton was capable of scoring a lot of goals,” Dexter coach Jody Grant said. “We tried to be a little more defensive minded today. They (Houlton) took advantage of some of our miscues today.”

Bouchard broke the scoring ice with 7:38 remaining in the first half on a breakaway goal. She intercepted a Dexter pass near midfield and scampered down the right wing, lofting a shot over the head of Herrick, who had come out of the net to make a play.

Tweedie said Dexter was one of the toughest team’s Houlton has faced all year, as the Tigers matched Houlton with speed.

“Speed is something you cannot teach,” Tweedie said. “I have always tried to find speedy players in key positions. Clearly Jody (Grant) feels the same way. They had speed everywhere.”

Dexter tied the game 1-1 on Herrick’s goal with 37 seconds remaining in the half, only to see Houlton answer 26 seconds later on a direct kick by Flewelling from about 18 yards out.

“Sierra (Hoops) set the ball really well for me and I was able to get the shot off quickly,” Flewelling said. “After they scored, I told the girls in the huddle, ‘let’s score one before halftime.’ And fortunately we did.”

“We had a little breakdown in the last 47 seconds of the first half, which allowed momentum to shift,” coach Grant said. “In a game of this magnitude, where every little thing matters, you can look back at that 47 seconds and learn to be smarter in that situation. That was a big momentum shift in the game.”

In the second half, Houlton added two more goals to go up 4-1, but the Tigers refused to give up. Cummings tallied Dexter’s final goal with 16:52 to play.

“I’m proud of our girls,” Grant added. “We’ve had a great run. This is the first time Dexter has been in a regional (girls) final since 1991. We also only have one senior, so we have a lot of positive things to take away from this season.”

Senior defenders Claire Gilpatrick and Lexi Miller were relishing the championship moment.

“I am so happy,” Gilpatrick said. “We wanted this so bad, having been here twice before and losing.”

“Honestly, it doesn’t even feel real,” Miller added. “I am sure it will later tonight. We’ve worked so hard for this. We’ve run so many hills and so many hours of practice. We were definitely ready for tonight.”

Houlton’s club is the antithesis of Dexter. With nine seniors on the roster, this year’s Shire squad is one of the most experienced, and talented, in Tweedie’s 12 seasons with the program. He said this season has been one of the most enjoyable for him and he planned to savor the moment for at least one day.

“The last couple of playoff wins were hard to enjoy because we knew we had to start preparing quickly,” he said. “I will smile for the rest of the night, until it is time to get back to practice tomorrow.”

Houlton Pioneer Times photo/Joseph Cyr
CLASS C NORTH RUNNERS-UP — Members of the Dexter girls soccer team hoist the runner-up plaque on the evening of Nov. 1 after the second-seeded Tigers lost to No. 1 Houlton 4-2. The berth in the regional final was the first for Dexter since 1991.

Houlton Pioneer Times photo/Joseph Cyr
FOOT RACE — Dexter’s Cloe Mountain, left, races for the ball as Houlton’s Anessa Wilde gives chase.

Houlton Pioneer Times photo/Joseph Cyr
OUT OF THE NET — Dexter goalie Addyson Herrick races out of the net to make a save at Houlton. Herrick finished with a game-high 10 saves on 17 shots.

Houlton Pioneer Times photo/Joseph Cyr
TOP TWO TEAMS IN THE REGION — Dexter’s Danielle Cummings, left, tries to move the ball past Houlton defender Alexis Miller during the Nov. 1 Class C North Championship in Aroostook County. Houlton won the match between the top two seeds 4-2.

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