WATERVILLE — It was new for everybody on the pitch Tuesday afternoon.

It was new for Maranacook, which finds itself unbeaten this deep into a season for the first time in Travis Magnusson’s coaching tenure at the school. It was new, too, for Waterville, which has found itself in games decided by three or more goals seven times already this season. And it was new for Black Bear freshman Grace Dwyer, who found herself thrust into a striker role with a game on the line for the first time in her career.

Dwyer delivered nonetheless, one-touching a feed from fellow freshman Emily Harper past Waterville goalkeeper Jacie Richard deep into extra time for the golden goal, lifting Maranacook to a 3-2 win over the Purple Panthers in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference game on a rain-soaked Webber Field.

The Black Bears (6-0-3) remained unbeaten through nine games to open the season, while Waterville (4-5-0) sits below the .500 mark for the first time in Mark Serdjenian’s three years at the helm.

“We’re a tough team. That’s what we talk about and we try to practice, being mentally tough and physically tough all the time.” Magnusson said. “I saw a different team in those 10 minutes of overtime than I did in the second half. They didn’t want to go for our fourth tie of the year. They wanted to win, and they just made a great play to make it happen.”

Dwyer, whose been employed regularly as Maranacook’s staring left back, watched as Harper drew three Waterville defenders to the left side of the 18-yard box before crossing. She never stopped her run down the middle of the park and deftly finished off the winning goal inside the right post.

“I saw the gap and I just ran, and I knew Emily was going to cross it in,” said Dwyer, whose goal was the first of her career. “No one wanted a tie, so we gave it our all in the overtime.”

That Waterville paid too much attention and was so keen to knock Harper out of possession made perfect sense. The striker had scored twice in an eight-minute span in the first half to give Maranacook a 2-1 lead after the Black Bears opened flatly and found themselves in an early deficit.

It was in important victory for Maranacook, which had drawn even against the opposition in three of its previous four outings. And given that Waterville’s Paige St. Pierre scored the equalizer — her second of the game — in the 69th minute against a sagging Black Bear midfield, it felt for long stretches of the second half as though the best-case scenario for the visitors would have been escaping with a draw.

“There was a little period where we were a little bit less than we normally are, but I think we were really motivated,” Maranacook senior midfielder Grace Despres said. “A lot of it, for some players, is just one really good play — winning a ball in the air or having one really good play from a player can just motivate the whole team. We had a lot of players that really stepped up, and it brought us up to another level.”

Waterville likely deserved better.

The Panthers controlled the play for the first 20 minutes of the match but could only produce one goal to show for it, and as they chased the tying goal and a potential winner in the second half, they doubled the shot attempts of the Black Bears. Even when Maranacook did get forward, it only served to open the midfield to quick, crisp Panther counter-attacking opportunities.

Yet, for all of that time on the ball, Waterville seldom was able to call Black Bear keeper Skyeler Webb (four saves) into action.

“I thought we might have deserved better,” Serdjenian said. “We did create. … Maybe we could have shot a little bit more. We had good possession, we got the ball, we penetrated with some good passes, but it didn’t always result in a shot.”

Maranacook did generate the on-target chances that ultimately produced a winning result, putting the only two shots on goal of extra time.

The second, of course, belonged to Dwyer.

“It was a good fight for our team,” Magnusson said. “We wanted to be more aggressive in overtime. We were going for either a win or a loss, if that happened. We just wanted to be aggressive.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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