It took more than a week for Lydia Roy to truly comprehend what she had accomplished.

Not until Roy saw her game-winning goal in overtime of the Class B state championship against Cape Elizabeth was voted the play of the week on a local television station did it finally sink in.

Time adds perspective to someone who is at the center of such a monumental event. Roy’s fingerprints and footprints were all over the Waterville Purple Panthers’ state championship season, long before her heroics at Deering High School on Nov. 8. The senior was the heart and soul of the unbeaten Purple Panthers, which is why she is the Morning Sentinel Soccer Player of the Year.

Roy’s achievements went beyond her game-winner or her impressive statistics (23 goals, eight assists) this season. As the center midfielder, she was the nerve center of a team that outscored its opponents, 92-2. As one of the team’s eight seniors, she had to help lead the team from the depths of a crushing loss in last year’s state final through physical, mental and emotional challenges of an undefeated regular season and into another grueling post-season.

It began in the summer, as the Panthers started began trying to erase their loss to Cape Elizabeth on penalty kicks. Coach Ian Wilson stressed conditioning, which for Roy, who had scored the only goal in the loss to Cape, meant taking it to another level as a center mid.

Roy, one of the team’s vocal leaders as a junior, helped set the standard through a tough summer schedule. But she took as much inspiration from her teammates as she gave them.

“It was just a group effort,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a team that was this close. It was kind of like a family.”

Playing alongside another talented midfielder, Sarah Shoulta, and behind one of the best forwards in the state, Pilar Elias, Roy was the glue that brought the offense and defense together. The Panthers outscored opponents, 79-0, during the regular season. Exhibiting a rare combination of athleticism and intelligence, Roy played a major part in both ends of that lopsided score.

“Lydia’s greatest assets as a soccer player are probably her raw speed and quickness,” Wilson said. “She had to learn how to become a techincally sound soccer player. She improved so much over her four years.”

While the scoreboards shows the Panthers breezing through the regular season, there were on and off the field.

Roy is proud of how they bonded through it all, whether it was finding ways to challenge themselves through blowout after blowout or showing support for teammates who lost a close friend late in the season.

“One of the games I remember was our second game against Maranacook (a 1-0 win on Oct. 17),” she said. “That was a really emotional day because we had gone to Cassidy Charette’s memorial service. A few girls on the team were close to her and the whole team went to the service that day. We had to stick together.”

Their bond strengthened, the Panthers braced themselves for the playoff run. They rolled through the first two rounds with wins over Caribou and Camden Hills. Then came a nail-biter in the Eastern B final against Hermon.

“I almost think we were more stressed about the Eastern Maine game than states,” Roy said. “As soon as the Eastern Maine game ended, I remember a sigh of relief.”

The Panthers remained confident through the state final, even though Cape Elizabeth stood toe-to-toe with them through a scoreless regulation. Having emphasized conditioning since summer workouts, they believed they could outlast the Capers this time.

“We started noticing it in the middle of the second half. They were getting fatigued,” Roy said.

“We won because we were in better shape, and she was in the best shape of anyone out there,” Wilson said.

Roy was one of the last people on the field to know her shot from 28 yards out had found the upper-right corner of the net with 38.1 seconds left in the first overtime. She thought it had cleared the crossbar until an ecstatic Shoulta came running her way.

Roy, who is currently weighing her options for furthering her education, has had many chances to relive the moment since. Like the shot that won the title, it was bound to sink in eventually.

“Lots of people came up to me and congratulated me. Sometimes, I’ll watch the video to remind myself,” she said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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