Winthrop scores late goal to defeat Dexter in Class C championship
LEWISTON — Trailing 1-0 in the fourth quarter of the 2023 Class C field championship on the artificial turf at Lewiston High School’s Don Roux Field during the late afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 4, Dexter Regional High School would tie the game on a goal by junior Alexandra Vafiades.
Just over four minutes later Winthrop High School junior Madeline Wagner broke through the Tiger defense and scored the game-winner to give the Ramblers the team’s third consecutive state title and fourth in the last five seasons. The three straight crowns for the program — which includes Monmouth Academy and the Maranacook Community School of Readfield — are the most in Class C since Dexter won four in a row from 2000-03 when Dexter head coach Brittany McAllister was playing for the Tigers.
“They had nothing to hang their heads about, they played a really tough game out there,” McAllister said, as Dexter — the program is in its season with Central High School of Corinth under a cooperative agreement — was in the state championship for the first time since 2009. “We just couldn’t find the goal when we needed to but I was proud of them. They played tough right until the end and gave it their all.”
McAllister said Dexter (the top seed from the North region finished at 15-3) had opportunities in the first quarter, including three penalty corners to just one for Winthrop in the opening 15 minutes. The Tigers would finish with a 12-6 corner advantage over the Ramblers (the South’s second seed also ends 2023 at 15-3)
“I think if we could have put one in then it really would have given us some momentum and kind of turned the tides of the game instead of having to crawl from behind which is where we found ourselves,” she said.
With a little more than two minutes to go in the opening half, Wagner’s long shot found its mark to put Winthrop on the scoreboard at 1-0.
“We kept them from playing down in our circle and it’s definitely a letdown when they have that kind of goal,” McAllister said.
In the fourth quarter Dexter junior Preslee Dow brought the ball down the left sideline before passing to junior Kiara Bennett. Bennett brought it inside the circle and passed to junior Alexandra Vafiades. Vafiades then shot through a crowd of players and got the ball in to tie the game at 1-1 with 7:42 left in regulation.
“She is phenomenal, she is just the catalyst for our offense,” McAllister said about Vafiades. “Everything goes from her with (junior McKenzie Clay) behind her. She just works her butt off and that goal, she was getting pushed off the ball and she held her ground and put it in.”
Dexter’s 12th and final penalty corner with about three minutes remaining. Winthrop cleared the ball and Wagner got it in her team’s territory. She advanced across midfield and toward the Tiger goal inside the circle. She sent a high shot up and the ball landed into the top right corner of the goal for what would turn out to be the game-winner at the 2:30-mark.
McAllister said Dexter had seen Wagner previously during summer league play. “I knew she has a lot of good ball handling skills and I knew that was going to be a challenge to make sure that we could contain her and she had some breaks,” she said. “Obviously that last goal was proof of it, she’s a phenomenal player.”
“We switched our format to have more people up to try to push down and really get as many people as we could to get it down on our end, it just didn’t go our way,” McAllister said. Winthrop then held the Tigers without a shot attempt in the last 150 seconds of play following a Dexter timeout.
“I think we did a really nice job this year,” the head coach said. “The girls every game got better and better until the end here, we had some of our best games in the playoffs.”
The Tigers entered having won eight in a row and 10 of 11 games dating back to late September including a 2-1 victory over Foxcroft Academy in the regional championship at Messalonskee High School in Oakland less than 48 hours prior to the state game.
Dexter junior keeper Sunny Bache made five saves, including three in the third period. Across the field Winthrop freshman Cyara Harriman stopped six shots.
The Ramblers have just one senior on the roster while the Tigers have only three.
Dexter team members are seniors Lily Brown, Acadia Markham, and McKenzie Trafton; juniors Sunny Bache, Keira Bennett, Jennifer Bradley, McKenzie Clay, Brooklyn Dow, Preslee Dow, Gabrielle Judkins, Fannie Patel, Alexandra Vafiades, Brianna Vafiades; sophomores Danica Derocco, Chloe Murdock, Genevieve Rich, Kallie Stone, Abigail Trafton; freshmen Ella-marie Buschmann, Makenzie Curtis, Maddisyn Davis, Mellesse Grant, Waverly Rich, Shelby Sinclair, Jamie Williams; manager Brianna Packard, coaches Hannah Farrar and Kristy Staples, and head coach Brittany McAllister.
The state championship berth was the 10th overall in school history for the Tigers. Dexter won Class C titles in 1998, 2000-03, and in 2009. The Tigers also fell in the 2008 Class C championship and were defeated in the 1981 and 1983 Class B title games.
Winthrop won its third consecutive Class C crown and fourth in five seasons (there was no state tourney in the fall of 2020), as the Ramblers were in the state game for the sixth season in a row. The program now has six Class C titles, 2021-23, 2018, and 1988-89 and has reached the championship game 11 times.
CLASS C CHAMPIONSHIP
Winthrop 2, Dexter 1
DEX 0 0 0 1 – 1
WIN 0 1 0 1 – 2
Second: W – Wagner
Fourth: D – A. Vafiades (Bennett); W – Wagner
Saves: D – Bache 5, W – Harriman 6
Penalty corners: D – 12, W – 6
Records: D 15-3, W 15-3