SOUTH CHINA — The Erskine Academy girls soccer team has plenty of things, but the most important thing it had going for it on Saturday afternoon was faith.

Senior midfielder Faith Krause, that is.

Krause’s header in the 75th minute snapped a scoreless deadlock and the Eagles went on to beat a game Gardiner side 2-0 in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B match. With the Homecoming Day win, Erskine improved to 3-0-0 on the season.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I can’t even describe it,” Krause said of netting the game-winner. “We all worked together, and we did it. We kept up the hard work and we finally got the goal.”

While Kaylee Porter iced the victory with her goal in the 79th minute, the game was much closer than the score would have indicated.

Both teams enjoyed long spells of possession — Erskine in the first half and Gardiner in the second — and were defensively organized and efficient. When the Eagles succeeded in the middle third and built into attack, they were often met by a stingy Tiger back four. And, likewise, when Gardiner was able to link up play through its strikers in the middle, they found the going very tough on the flanks out wide.

It felt a lot like a chess match between Erskine coach Ryan Nored, who employed numbers and midfielders galore, and Gardiner’s Chad Kirk, who packed his own box with four backs and four midfielders to limit the Erskine attack to the perimeter.

“We worked so hard. We gave 110 percent,” said Gardiner center back Lexi Nestor, who anchored the defensive effort along with senior defensive midfielder Mary Toman. “I think we did everything we could, but it was just a few errors at the end. I think it was one of our best games, and I hope we can continue it.”

Gardiner sophomore Tabytha Hembree served as an effective keeper-sweeper, turning in a career-best effort with 14 saves by challenging Eagle attackers all over the 18-yard box. But the one time she was caught off her line, Krause delivered.

On tired legs, midfielder Abby Haskell was allowed to carry the ball in behind the Gardiner midfield before laying a ball off on the left side for Alana York, York’s perfectly placed cross found Krause’s head, and Krause lofted her header over the retreating Hembree and into the upper left corner for the 1-0 lead.

“Alana had a beautiful cross to me. I was going to settle it, but I decided to head it right in,” Krause said. “I noticed (Hembree) was very aggressive. It was all worth it.”

With the wind out of their sails, the Tigers (1-2-0) conceded a second goal as Haskell found Porter with a through ball down the middle. Porter had plenty of time to settle the ball and score from 12 yards out.

“It felt like a playoff atmosphere. We gave up two bad marks. That happens,” Kirk said. “It’s the best I’ve seen us play yet. It could have gone either way.”

Erskine might never have had the chance to win the game were it not for the efforts of sophomore center back Lydia Boucher.

In a three-minute span midway through the second half, Boucher rescued Erskine keeper Caitlin Labbe by twice clearing Ammelia Lunt shots off the line behind her.

“I was really nervous,” Boucher said. “I think we work really well under pressure, and we communicate. The other defenders and our goalie, we play really well together, and I think that helped.”

“That’s exactly what it was, our team’s resolve,” said Nored, whose team was without injured all-conference defender Taylor McLaggan.

“We have certain team goals, and this was one of those must-win games. You add that to the Homecoming atmosphere, the seniors, you add all that together, and this was a must-win game. This was satisfying. We’ll enjoy it, for sure.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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