Pair of second-half goals helps Madison defeat Penquis for inaugural 8-player championship

AUGUSTA — History was guaranteed to be made when Penquis Valley High School and Madison Area Memorial High School met for the inaugural girls 8-player soccer championship on Saturday, Nov. 11 on the artificial turf of Fuller Field at Cony High School. The Southern Maine champion Bulldogs (16-2) broke a 1-1 tie with two goals in the second half to go into the record books as the first ever 8-player champions.

Madison, the team won its first soccer championship after having fallen in the 2017 Class C championship 1-0 vs. Houlton High School, had over a half dozen shots on goal early on as well as a run of three corner kicks before the Northern Maine champion Patriots (16-1) could apply some pressure at the other end of the field. 

Penquis freshman Violet Chai had the ball near the top of the box when she made a move to create some space between herself and the defender. Chai got a shot off and she snuck it inside the left post for a 1-0 lead at the 10:33-mark of the opening half.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
STATE RUNNERS-UP — The Penquis Valley girls soccer team finished as the state runners-up in the 8-player division as the Patriots fell to Madison 3-1 in the championship game on Nov. 11 at Cony High School in Augusta. Accepting the plaque are captains, from left, sophomore Brooklyn Decker, junior Rylee Heal, and seniors Destiny Sibert, Addison Conklin, and Layla Chai.

Madison junior striker Raegan Cowan entered the state championship with 56 goals scored, including four in the 5-2 victory over Rangeley Lakes Regional High School in the South finale. About three and a half minutes after Chai’s goal, Cowan broke away and got the ball into the left corner of the Penquis goal to tie the game at 1-1.

“I knew they would be trouble coming in, I have been watching them all year,” Penquis head coach Chris Downing said.

Cowan struck again early in the second half with a goal, her 58th in 18 games, from the right at the 26:59-mark. 

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
8-PLAYER FINALE — Penquis freshman Violet Chai has a step on Madison freshman Emma Anton during the inaugural 8-player girls soccer state championship on Nov. 11 in Augusta. Chai scored the game’s first goal during the opening half, but Madison responded with three to win the title 3-1. The berth was the first in girls soccer for the Patriots in nearly four decades.

The Bulldogs — the team finished with seven consecutive wins and won 11 of the final 12 matches — had an insurance goal halfway through the second as junior Ella Haynie kicked in a rebound for the 3-1 advantage.

The three goals were the most yielded by Penquis all season, as previously the Patriots had allowed just four in 16 contests. 

Penquis sophomore Brooklyn Decker made 14 saves on 25 shots, significantly more than Madison junior Allison Tuscan’s one save on three shots.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
MAKE A MOVE — Senior Addison Conklin looks to get around Madison senior Kylee Furbush in front of Bulldog junior keeper Allison Tuscan in the 8-player championship in Augusta on Nov. 11.

Downing said the result in the state championship was not what he and the players wanted but he is still very proud of the team that made its first appearance in a Maine final in nearly 40 years. 

Penquis won the 1984 girls Class B title with a 3-2 victory over Richmond High School (in the program’s other state soccer championship berth the 1981 girls fell in the Class B finale 3-1 to the Hyde School of Bath).

This year’s soccer team was the first Patriot girls squad to reach a state championship since the 1999 softball team appeared in the Class C finale, an 8-5 defeat to Jay High School.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
EYES ON THE BALL — Patriot sophomore Amara Driscoll closes in as Madison freshman Jillian Linkletter receives the ball on Nov. 11 at Cony High School.

The last time a team from the school advanced to a state championship came in the 2012-13 basketball season as the Patriot boys won the Class C title.

“I’m proud of each and every one of these girls for what they did and this season was nothing short of amazing,” Downing said, about his first season guiding the Patriots. He mentioned how the Patriots got to the state championship by virtue of winning a semifinal in double overtime  and earned the Northern Maine title on penalty kicks.

“One of the things that really stood out was on our way home from regionals, you couldn’t help but feel for the girls,” he said. “Because when they held up that trophy they said ‘we have always been the team that got made fun of, we have always been the team that was bad, and now we’re here and we just did this.’ I think the fact we were able to put something like this together is beyond awesome.”

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
READY FOR THE CORNER KICK — Freshman Ashley Ladd and sophomore keeper Brooklyn Decker watch as Madison sets for a corner kick. Decker would finish the 8-player girls state championship with a game-high 14 saves.

Penquis team members are seniors Layla Chai, Addison Conklin, Ciara Hussey, Hannah Legere, and Destiny Sibert; juniors Mackenzie Fernald and Rylee Heal; sophomores Brooklyn Decker, Amara Driscoll, and Caysie Moore; freshmen Violet Chai, Ashley Ladd, and Ava Shoopman; and coach Sasha Bladen and head coach Chris Downing.


8-player championship

Madison 3, Penquis 1

PEN 1 0 – 1

MAD 1 2 – 3

First: P – V. Chai; M – Cowan

Second: M – Cowan (Robbins); M – Haynie (Robbins)

Saves: P – Decker 14, M – Tuscan 1

Corner kicks: P – 2, M – 6

Records: P 16-1, M 16-2

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
BOUNCE OFF THE TURF — Penquis senior Layla Chai and Madison junior Camry Hodgdon react to a bounce off the artificial turf at Cony High School in the Nov. 11 state championship.
Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
PREGAME INTRODUCTIONS — Members of the Penquis girls soccer team gather at the midfield for pregame introductions of the 2023 8-player state championship vs. Madison. These Patriots were the first from the school to reach a state championship since the 2012-13 boys basketball team, and first girls squad to do so since the 1999 softball team.

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