WINSLOW — It was there for the taking, and the Purple Panthers obliged.

Despite having lost twice to No. 3 Winslow in an eight-day span late in the regular season, No. 6 Waterville altered its tactics and counter-punched its way to a 3-1 win over the Black Raiders in a Class B North girls soccer quarterfinal Tuesday afternoon at Kennebec Savings Bank Field.

Senior midfielder Mackenzie St. Pierre scored the go-ahead goal just past the hour mark, leading the reigning regional champions into the semifinals Saturday, when it will play at No. 2 Presque Isle (12-3-0).

“We really needed this. We needed something to pick us back up,” St. Pierre said. “Everybody had to work their hardest. We know what these games are like. We needed to be on top of things.”

Conventional wisdom says its hard to beat a good team three times in the same season, though Winslow head coach Steve Bodge wasn’t buying that line of thinking.

“It’s hard to beat a team one time,” Bodge said. “If you beat them once and then beat them twice, it’s hard to beat them each time. It’s hard for them to beat us. We’re two good teams.”

Likewise, Waterville coach Mark Serdjenian wasn’t willing to concede that the playoffs bring a different brand of soccer than the regular season does.

“I don’t think so necessarily,” Serdjenian said. “I would say that the last three games we’ve played really well, so that’s fortunate timing.”

After a sleepy first half saw Winslow take a 1-0 lead through Alexa Petrovic in the 17th minute thanks to a wind-aided cross alluding Waterville goalkeeper Ally Drew, the Panthers (12-3-1) equalized on Paige St. Pierre’s finish nine minutes before halftime.

Where Waterville had been consistently foiled in the first half by Winslow’s high defensive line, goading the visitors into three offsides infractions, the second half saw enough adjustment to turn those violations into dangerous threats.

Winslow was much improved, too, after halftime, carrying the play through 60 minutes. But the Black Raiders (12-3-1) were left susceptible on the counter as they tried to produce an advantage of their own. When Waterville finally was able to gain traction, concluding with a Winslow goal kick in the 61st minute, the Panthers pounced.

Anika Elias intercepted the kick shy of midfield and popped the ball through to Mackenzie St. Pierre, and St. Pierre beat her defender to the right before firing back inside the far post for the 2-1 lead.

“We wanted to keep (the pressure) up,” St. Pierre said.

“They had chances that looked like that in the first half,” Bodge said. “They played the best they have against us all season. I knew they were going to make adjustments. Their adjustments were going to be that they were going to make sure they were onside. In the end, that probably cost us.”

The immediate lift paid off handsomely for Waterville, which added to its lead three minutes later courtesy of Maeghan Bernard’s own goal. With the ball bounding perilously along the goal line, Bernard couldn’t get enough on the ball to clear it out of harm’s way, instead inadvertently popping it under the crossbar.

“We pulled a couple of wings back on defense because they use the flanks really well,” Serdjenian said. “I think it helped us to lock them down a bit, and then we could get the ball forward and move as a group.

“It worked today. We had to do something different. They took it to us in the regular season.”

Winslow produced very little over the final 20 minutes, but when it did Waterville’s back four was equal to the task. Maggie Brock cleared the last serious opportunity for the Black Raiders in the 78th minute, breaking up Katie Doughty’s centering pass for a rushing Carly Warn.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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