HAMPDEN — In defending, a fine line exists between doing so successfully and sitting too far in as to leave the team susceptible to the opposition’s attack. The Richmond girls soccer team flirted with both sides of the spectrum en route to the Class D state championship.

“We certainly did,” Richmond coach Troy Kendrick said. “I thought this game kind of typified our season, in that we played stingy defense and opportunistic offense.”

The Bobcats (13-3-2) were nothing if not efficient with their counter-attack Saturday evening at Hampden Academy, scoring on their only two shots of the first half to post a 2-1 win over Ashland in the state final. Richmond, which won its 11th state championship overall and fifth in the last eight seasons, has now split four straight meetings with Ashland in the final.

The Hornets (16-2-0) beat the Bobcats in double-overtime in both 2014 and 2016 for the Gold Ball.

“It was a state game, and we knew what we were getting into,” said Richmond senior goalkeeper Sydney Tilton, who made eight saves, five in the first half. “We knew what we were getting into… I knew my job, and I think everybody else on the field knew their job, too.”

Caitlin Kendrick and Bryannah Shea scored for Richmond in the 17th and 33rd minutes, respectively, as Destiny Anair lent an important hand to each. Anair’s cross deep into the 18-yard box fell to Kendrick in traffic for a grounded finish and a 1-0 lead — on Richmond’s first shot of the match — and when Ashland keeper Megan Cote mishandled another cross Shea pounced.

Two shots on target, two goals.

“It’s just a humbling game sometimes,” Ashland coach Peter Belskis said. “We’ve been there when the bounces went our way in the past.”

An odd thing happened over the final seven minutes of the half, however, as the Hornets seemed energized — undeterred — and kept the Bobcats locked into their defensive third until the halftime whistle. Ashland senior Morgan Doughty’s blistering drive from 20 yards in the 36th minute forced Tilton to make a leaping fingertip save just under the crossbar.

“When you get a lead, the girls just want to sit back and defend,” Troy Kendrick said. “We were having that debate all game. We wanted to be smart and keep plenty of people behind the ball, but we also said, ‘We’ve got to get forward.'”

That didn’t happen again until the first five minutes of the second half, when the Bobcats got out to a good start and applied some pressure of their own. But the longer the half wore on, the less Richmond ventured forward.

Sweeper back Emma Carbone, a junior, played an extremely good game in snuffing out the most dangerous chances throughout the evening. Not until the 78th minute, when Richmond was caught upfield after a small spell of possession, was Ashland able to pull one back.

Amber Chasse’s incisive through ball to the left side found a speedy Morgan Doughty, and the senior drilled her chance into the left side of the net to make it a 2-1 game.

It was too little too late for an Ashland team that was shutout in the first half for the first time all season.

“We needed to do something in the sequence of a half,” Belskis said. “We thought we could come back and score two or three goals, but we just couldn’t get that first one (sooner).”

“We got an early lead, which always throws you for a loop,” said Kendrick, whose side closed out the year with a 12-game unbeaten streak (10-0-2). You wrestle with should we try to get an insurance goal or play defense… It was just a hard-fought battle for 80 minutes.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.