PRESQUE ISLE — For the first time since 2012, the Richmond High School girls soccer team is celebrating a state championship.

Meranda Martin scored the game’s only goal 15 minutes into the second half as the Bobcats held off Ashland 1-0 for the Class D title Saturday in front of a raucous crowd at Presque Isle Middle School, many of whom were Hornets fans that made the short 30-minute commute east on route 227 for the contest. Richmond (16-1-0) had lost in the state finals in each of the previous two seasons, including a 2-1 overtime loss to Ashland in 2014.

“At the beginning of the season (Richmond head) coach (Troy) Kendrick harped on us: ‘What’s Ashland doing right now? They’re practicing right now. They’re probably running right now. Most of their players do cross country so we got to get running.'” Martin said. “Most of us sighed but it definitely paid off.”

“It’s awesome,” added Richmond senior Kelsea Anair. “We’ve obviously prepared three years for this. We’ve gotten here and we’ve lost so we felt good about (Saturday’s) game. We were ready to go.”

Both teams played to a scoreless draw at halftime with each squad getting off three shots and the Bobcats knew they would have to make adjustments if they hoped to avoid falling short for the third straight season.

“We talked about trying to keep the ball. We wanted a little more possession. We kind of were chasing the ball a little too much. (We) wanted to keep it on the grass and try to attack out wide,” Kendrick said. “We got some really nice play from my flank players and some kids just stepped to the front for us.”

Richmond entered the second half with renewed energy and focus, sending shots on net before Martin finally broke through with what would prove to be the game-winner in the 55th minute. From there, the defense and goalkeeper Sydney Tilton did their jobs to keep Ashland (17-1-0) out of the net. Tilton finished the contest with two saves to earn the shutout.

“It felt so good, you know. You obviously get that rush of adrenaline that comes when you see it,” Martin said of the goal. “I knew we had it in the bag then. We played defense and we fought hard. We talked about it in practice, we got to fight hard. I think having our back to the wind the first half helped because we had the wind in the second half.”

For Kendrick this is his 10th state championship in his 27-year coaching career at Richmond.

“It feels good, every year it’s a new group of kids coming up,” Kendrick said. “I’m very pleased for my seniors and it was a really nice, hard-working group of kids.”

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