WATERVILLE — Lawrence turned in a stellar defensive effort and upset Messalonskee 3-0 in an Eastern Maine Class A boys soccer preliminary game Saturday afternoon at Thomas College.
No. 10 Lawrence improves to 5-7-3 and advances to play No. 2 Lewisto (11-1-2) in the quarterfinals Wednesday. Lewiston beat Lawrence 2-1 in overtime in their only meeting in the regular season. No. 7 Messalonskee ends the season 8-5-2.
The Bulldogs defense forced the Eagles to the outside, allowing only a handful of trips into the penalty area. Lawrence finished with a 21-8 advantage in shots.
“Defense is the most important thing when it comes to the playoffs,” Lawrence defender Sawyer Letourneau said. “It became a little tricky when Messalonskee moved a couple of players forward late in the game but we just kept our shape and tried to make sure everyone was covered.”
Matt Saunders gave Lawrence a 1-0 lead just before the half, when he collected a ball on the left side of the penalty area, beat a defender and drilled a shot into the net from 16 yards out with four minutes remaining in the first half.
“Matt was excellent today,” Lawrence coach Bob Towne said. “He did a nice job helping us control the middle of the field.”
The Bulldogs defense, led by Letourneau, consistently moved the ball, intercepting passes and disrupting the Messalonskee attack. Jacob Blodgett-Cummings, Drew Bois and Zach Peters contributed to the Bulldogs defensive effort.
“Defensively, we got back and kept our shape, especially in the middle,” Towne said. “It was key for us to control the middle of the field.”
Lawrence put on pressure to start the second half and forced a free kick from 35 yards out. Bois hit a swerving pass to the back post, where Zach Blomert rose above a cluster of players and directed the ball into the net from eight yards out.
“Lawrence took advantage of their opportunities,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said. “They played well against us and gave a good effort.”
Messalonskee worked hard to generate an attack but were facing a determined Lawrence defense that gave little ground the entire game. The Eagles moved additional players forward during the latter stages of the second half and the Lawrence defense countered to preserve the shutout.
James Collins scored the third goal of the game, heading in a cross from Saunders with 11 seconds left.