PORTLAND — It was the play that won the Class D girls soccer state championship, and it wasn’t drawn up with Cassidy Pelletier playing a starring role.

Instead, the senior sweeper acted on her instincts. The Ashland Hornets were glad she did.

Pelletier scored on a header off a corner kick 2:45 into the second overtime, lifting Ashland to a 2-1 victory over Richmond at Fitzpatrick Stadium in the third straight title game meeting between the two teams.

“It feels like a dream to me,” Pelletier said. “I don’t know what to say. … We haven’t had much luck lately (on the play), but it finally worked out perfectly that one time.”

It was the latest in a line of close championship games between the two squads. Ashland topped Richmond, 2-1, in 2014, and the Bobcats answered back with a 1-0 victory last year.

“We wanted to come down here and see if we could return the favor. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Ashland coach Peter Belskis said. “And it wasn’t. My girls have got so much heart. They’ve got no quit.”

Meanwhile, Richmond coach Troy Kendrick knew the game was far from a simple rematch.

“My biggest job in the postseason was convincing my girls that we could play with these guys,” he said. “They brought back most of their lineup and we graduated a bunch of kids. … I thought we acquitted ourselves pretty well today.”

Ashland (18-0) got a second-half goal from Willow Hall to answer a first-half score by Richmond’s Caitlin Kendrick, eventually setting the stage for overtime. The Hornets nearly won it at the end of the first overtime when Shelby Stolze outraced the Richmond (15-2) defense to a loose ball with 30 seconds left, but her straight-ahead shot sailed just wide right of the upper corner of the goal.

Instead, Ashland had to wait just over three minutes more. The Hornets got back-to-back corners in the 97th and 98th minutes, and after nothing came of the first one, Morgan Doughty booted a high, arcing kick that descended right in front of the net.

Pelletier, a sweeper and one of the team’s tallest players, was ready. She moved up toward the goal line, leapt and headed the ball cleanly toward the right side of the net. Keeper Sydney Tilton dove for the ball — even getting a hand on it — but couldn’t steer it away from twine, and the celebration was on.

“I just have to jump as high as I can,” Pelletier recalled thinking. “Get my head on that. Pray it goes in.”

According to Belskis, she wasn’t in her normal spot on the field for the play. But he wasn’t about to complain.

“Cassidy generally is the 18-yard zone player on that particular play,” Belskis said. “I think, as a senior, the way she is, she just took it upon herself that she was going to try to make a play. That was all her.”

Richmond struck first, capitalizing on a free kick that set off a scramble near the back of the box. Emma Carbone had a touch over to Kendrick, and the sophomore quickly booted it in with 12:46 to go in the first half.

“I’m always waiting. With corner kicks, I’m at the top of the 18 and I’m just the sniffer,” Caitlin Kendrick said. “I just wait for the ball to come out, and I give it a go.”

The goal gave a 1-0 lead to a team that hadn’t allowed a goal all postseason, but coach Troy Kendrick said there was too much time left to get complacent.

“Ideally, that’s what you like to do,” he said. “But I just knew, as prolific as they are, they have a bunch of weapons. I knew it was going to be a long 40 minutes.”

The Hornets’ answer came with 36:44 to play. An Ashland and Richmond player collided going for the ball, it trickled over to Hall, and the sophomore calmly knocked it in to tie the score at 1.

“At halftime I said ‘I think we’ve got them right where we want them,’ ” Belskis said. “Nobody has shut us out all year. We averaged eight goals a game. This team is very prolific.”

Ashland dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half, but it was Richmond that mounted the most serious threat in the closing minutes. The Bobcats nearly sealed a second straight title when a corner kick that seemed headed for Emily Snowden’s foot was knocked aside just in time in the 76th minute, and again in the 78th when Meranda Martin’s curling shot from 20 yards out was snagged by keeper Megan Cote.

“I think we’re fine,” Caitlin Kendrick said. “We played our hearts out, we left it all on the field. I have no regrets for my team.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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