READFIELD — Waterville Senior High School striker Anika Elias has spent the entire season being double- and triple-marked. She’s been bumped, pushed, prodded and more.

Yet, still, teams can’t figure out how to stop her.

Elias, a junior, scored twice more Tuesday night, helping the Purple Panthers to a 3-0 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference win over Maranacook at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams. Including a hat trick Saturday against Lawrence, Elias has eight goals in her last three games.

“I was definitely doubled most of the time. Whenever I got the ball, I had one man mark and there were two or three other people on me,” Elias said. “Every game, I’ve been doubled so far.”

There was something different at work within that doubling down on Elias by Maranacook’s backs, prompting a slow start for Waterville (7-1-1), the top seed in Class B North. The Black Bears (3-3-2) got off to a much stronger start, aided at least in part by a slow field and a commitment to defending.

Elias couldn’t find enough space with the ball directly up top or when she moved out to the right wing. Trying to turn her defender with her back to goal, she did draw a key foul in the 33rd minute to set up a free kick from just inside 30 yards. Elias brushed the ball off the back of a Black Bear, and the deflection caught Maranacook keeper Skyeler Webb off-guard for a 1-0 Waterville lead.

That’s the way things stayed until the intermission, after which the Panthers looked like a changed side.

It took less than a minute for Panther senior midfielder Mackenzie St. Pierre to finally find her way into the game.

“It was really difficult with Anika being double-teamed,” St. Pierre said. “We wanted to pull people down, get more people involved and have more movement all around.”

It wasn’t a coincidence that with St. Pierre having more influence on the pace of the game, Waterville never looked back.

Her long dribble through the heart of the Maranacook midfield ended with a low, driven shot that Webb dove to turn away at the left post. The rebound could not be corralled, however, and freshman Paige St. Pierre was right there to punch it in for a 2-0 lead in the 41st minute.

“It’s good, because when I was doubled (Mackenzie) would dribble and they wouldn’t come off of me,” Elias said. “It gave her lots of space. She had opportunities to go score, which was awesome for the team.”

“Once we got everything moving, it was better,” Mackenzie St. Pierre said. “Everybody has a part in this win.”

Left vulnerable by counterattacking chances late, Maranacook conceded a goal to Elias in the 72nd minute, as she collected Sadie Garling’s sharp pass for an easy finish.

“If one player’s being double-teamed, then someone else has an opportunity to get forward and get into space,” Waterville coach Mark Serdjenian said. “We did it well. … It was probably one of the most consistent games we’ve played, all the way through. We had good defense and we were connecting (passes).”

Maranacook coach Travis Magnusson liked his team’s effort, if not the final scoreline.

The Black Bears were on the front foot in the first 25 minutes of the match, getting the first two scoring chances of the night inside of 10 minutes.

On the few occasions, particularly in the first half, where the back line broke down, Webb (14 saves) was there to bail her teammates out.

That type of defensive effort bodes well if Maranacook can replicate it when the Class C South tournament begins.

“We actually played really well,” Magnusson said. “We played a lot tougher today than we have at times against the better teams. (Waterville), they’re the best team in our league probably. We played really well.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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