RICHMOND — September couldn’t have looked more unusual for the Richmond High School girls soccer team. November, however, is off to an awfully familiar start.

No. 1 Richmond punched its ticket to an eighth straight Class D state championship game, defeating No. 2 Greenville, 2-0, Wednesday afternoon at Richmond High School.

“It seems like this is a good point, where you want to be playing your best soccer,” coach Troy Kendrick said. “And the kids are playing awfully well.”

Richmond will play Ashland in the state game for a fourth consecutive season when they meet Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Hampden Academy.

Abby Johnson and Emily Snowden had the goals, both on Destiny Anair assists, for the Bobcats (12-3-2), who faced a bumpier road to the postseason than in years past. Battling a more heavily Class C schedule and its own inconsistency, Richmond dropped three of its first six games and looked more like a team in the Class D mix, rather than the team leading it that it had been for years.

“We lost a huge player last year, Meranda Martin scored most of our goals,” Anair said. “We lost all of our players right down the middle, so we were really trying to figure out what works and who our scorers were going to be.”

It required patience, something that wasn’t always in ample supply.

“There was some frustration early on, on my part, on the kids’ part,” Kendrick said. “We searched for a while, and about midseason I thought the kids started to hit their stride a little bit.”

The Bobcats went 6-0-2 in their last eight games, then rode the wave through the playoffs and into Wednesday’s matchup, where they were once again the best

“I thought we got off to a bit of a slow start, you could tell the kids were nervous,” Kendrick said. “But after we settled in a little bit, the last 60 minutes, I really liked the way we played. We had a lot of possession, kept ball at feet. I thought we created a bunch of good chances.”

Richmond converted on one of those chances in the 24th minute. The Bobcats were awarded their first corner kick of the game, and Anair curled in a ball that hit off a Greenville (12-4-1) defender and settled right at the foot of Johnson, and the sophomore booted it inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.

“That’s the way we try to play. We’re always trying to put it on someone’s head in there,” Anair said. “She knocked it down, it ended up right at Abby’s feet, so it worked well. The defender really actually helped us out.”

That wasn’t Johnson’s impression as the play was developing — until she saw where the kick was headed.

“I was a little scared at first. It came through, and I was expecting to have to head it,” she said. “But it came right to my foot, and it was the perfect angle for me to try to rip it right to the corner. … I just tried to put as hard of a shot (as I could on goal), not try to tap it.”

Richmond doubled its lead in the 49th minute when Anair played the ball in from the right side to Snowden, who had Greenville defenders around her but still got off a shot that skidded inside the left post.

“I was pretty nervous, I saw three girls on me,” she said. “I knew if I just put in the back of the net as hard as I could, it’d be worth it.”

The Bobcats were comfortably ahead but didn’t play like it, maintaining their pressure throughout the field and continuing to generate chances against Lakers keeper Halle Pelletier (five saves). Greenville didn’t get a shot on net in the second half.

“Our defense really tightened up. We didn’t allow a lot of penetration, we didn’t allow a lot of good looks at the net,” Kendrick said. “Sometimes when you’re sitting on that one-goal lead, you want to just sit back and play defense. I liked the way we said ‘We can’t play defense for 40 minutes.’ The kids kept going.”

And sent themselves on to a game that’s been their home in recent seasons.

“I still enjoy it. I think it’s what keeps me coming back, keeps me young a little bit,” Kendrick said. “I tell the girls, there’s no place I’d rather be on a nice fall afternoon than out here on the soccer field.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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