RICHMOND — The Buckfield girls soccer team was buzzing, and had just turned its dominance of the first few minutes of its D South semifinal into a one-goal lead.

The score had a galvanizing effect, but for the other side. The Bucks’ opponent, top-seeded Richmond, knew it had to get to work.

“We had to get punched in the mouth,” coach Troy Kendrick said.

The Bobcats knew what to do from there. After a shaky 10 minutes, Richmond dominated for 70, and came away with a 2-1 victory over the fifth-seeded Bucks that sent the Bobcats to the regional final and allowed them to play for a ninth straight state championship berth.

“It feels great,” said Caitlin Kendrick, who along with Abby Johnson had a goal. “There’s nothing us Richmond girls like to do more than play soccer.”

The Bobcats (12-3-1) have become a lock for the regional final, but after Buckfield (9-6-1) dealt them a 1-0 loss in the regular season finale, the faith had started to dip. Especially against this opponent.

“When they beat us up there at their field, it was a real knock to our confidence,” Johnson said.

“Our confidence was shaken,” coach Kendrick acknowledged. “They had us rattled a bit.”

That appeared to be the case, as Buckfield started hot, put a shot on goal that keeper Liz Johnson knocked away, and then got one past her when Isabell Laughton curled in a pretty shot under the crossbar in the sixth minute for a 1-0 lead.

The Bucks were rolling. But the Bobcats, rather than becoming deflated, were energized.

“That just motivated us to come out even harder,” Johnson said.

Johnson backed up those words in the 13th minute. Lindsie Irish had a corner try that was deflected back to her, and she kicked the ball back toward the back post, where Johnson was on hand to boot it by a diving Ruby Cyr (10 saves) and tie the game at 1.

“My whole mindset the whole time was to just put it in the corner,” Johnson said. “And when it went in, it was the best feeling.”

Richmond took the lead at the end of the 21st minute. Cyr got her hands on a shot, but Kendrick saw the chance developing, ran in and knocked in the rebound for a 2-1 advantage.

“I saw a shot go in and I was in position,” she said. “She knocked it down and I just got a toe in and it bounced off her, then bounced off my chest and I just walked it in.”

That was it for the offense — but that’s all Richmond needed. The Bobcats completely stymied the Buckfield attack, allowing no shots on goal after Laughton’s score, while maintaining its own pressure and generating one late chance after another that Cyr was able to steer aside and keep her team in the game.

“We were playing Richmond. You either come out and play 80 minutes, or you don’t win,” Buckfield coach Larry Thornton said. “We came out and we did really well in the first 10 minutes or so, and then I think we laid back a little bit, kind of got stuck. We were kind of stuck in our back end, couldn’t get out, couldn’t get out, and Richmond capitalized on it.”

Coach Kendrick praised his midfield group of Johnson, Kendrick, Rylie Irish, Leah Wescott and Paige Lebel, which was able to possess the ball, transition quickly and get back in time to thwart one Buckfield rush after another.

“The midfielders were outstanding today,” he said. “I like the way our defense played because I didn’t think we gave them many good looks, but that’s the midfielders checking back and helping, that’s the forwards possessing the ball. … I thought we won that possession battle.”

It was the result teams around Class D South have gotten used to seeing. It just took the Bobcats a little while to get started.

“Other than the first 10 minutes of the game, I thought we played pretty good,” coach Kendrick said. “That last 70 was pretty good.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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