READFIELD — There wasn’t much that separated the Maranacook and Hall-Dale girls soccer teams Friday afternoon at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams, not targeted shots, possession statistics or any other way to measure the final result.

So when freshman Evelyn St. Germain popped home her first career playoff goal just three minutes in — and it proved enough to lift the No. 8 Black Bears to a 1-0 win over the Bulldogs in a Class C South preliminary round game — nobody seemed all that surprised.

“It was like we played (against) ourselves in a certain way,” Hall-Dale coach Guy Cousins said. “They have ability to shut things down.”

Maranacook (7-4-4) advanced to meet top-seeded Monmouth on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Given that sophomore goalkeeper Skyeler Webb made five saves against Hall-Dale (6-6-3) for her sixth shutout of the season, Black Bears coach Travis Magnusson likes his side’s chances of playing the spoiler moving forward in the tournament.

“There were a lot of good things for us,” Magnusson said. “We really feel like we’re a solid team and we’ll be ready to go Tuesday.”

Hall-Dale generated only four shots on target Friday, despite winning more than its fair share of 50-50 balls in the midfield. Midfielder Sabrina Freeman was on the ball for most of the match, either to distribute it to wide areas or try and penetrate the 18-yard box herself.

Unfortunately for her, Maranacook senior center back Nicole D’Angelo was also right there to clean up many of the messes.

“I just try to make sure nothing can get to the goal,” said D’Angelo, a key figure for a Maranacook back line that’s only surrendered 16 goals all season. “As the season’s progressed, we’ve done a bunch of stuff to make sure we’re solid. Backups, backups, backups are what we focus on in practice, 100 percent.”

A heavy dose of Class A and Class B schools, and nothing else, on the Black Bears’ Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference schedule this season helped prepare them for tournament play. They were rewarded with their first postseason win since 2014.

“It was a lot different style (of play) today,” D’Angelo said. “The A and B schedule got us ready to play hard and come out in every game like we want to win it. I think that helped us (Friday).”

“It’s been our defense all year. I don’t think there’s a better defensive team in our league than us,” Magnusson said. “It’s been our bread and butter. Any goals we can get, usually we’re in 1-0, 2-1 games.”

All of the defensive play from both teams only set the stage for what would otherwise have seemed like the first step in a track meet.

When senior striker Lauren Clough won the ball in the midfield and sprung St. Germain in alone on goalkeeper Maggie Gross (six saves), it appeared as though the two teams might be setting up for more of a track meet than a defensive struggle. Clough’s first touch on the ball — and St. Germain’s timely run through the attacking third — set St. Germain up for a one-one-one with Gross that she easily finished in the third minute.

“We’ve always really played the diagonal very well,” Clough said. “Evelyn was there and she was in the right spot at the right time.”

The second half started with a good push from Hall-Dale for the first 10 minutes, but Maranacook was able to weather the storm and respond with its own sustained pressure through the hour mark of the match. Maggie Vigue and M.J. Williams each had close-range chances turned away by Gross in the 55th minute as the Black Bears tried to add to their lead.

Frustrated as it may have been not to convert a second goal, Maranacook relied on its own defensive structure to see the lead through to the final whistle.

“That was a little bit of a different style than we’ve played against this year,” Magnusson said. “They had a lot of numbers back. We haven’t seen that many numbers back there. It was a little bit of an adjustment for us.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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