YARMOUTH — It took a little longer than the North Yarmouth Academy boys’ soccer team would have liked, but the Panthers are going back to a state championship game.

Matt Gagnon’s goal on the fifth set of penalty kicks lifted top-ranked NYA past third-ranked Temple Academy, 1-0, in the Class D South championship game at NYA. The Panthers had a 4-2 advantage in penalty kicks, with goalkeeper Julian Etauri making two diving saves.

“This means so much,” said Gagnon, a senior defender. “This team is amazing. It was a team effort. I love my team.”

NYA (15-2) will play the North D champion in the state Class D title game Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at McMann Field in Bath. It will be the Panthers first appearance in a state championship game since 2010. The Bereans had a 15-game winning streak snapped to finish 15-2.

It was a tightly-played game with both defenses standing out. For NYA, Finn Murray, Gagnon, Xander Kostelnik and Lody Lathrop made several strong plays to keep Temple from scoring. For the Bereans, Nathan Riportella, Nick Blaisdell and Stevo Kruta continually turned back NYA rushes.

After 90 minutes of regulation play and two 15-minute sudden-death periods, the teams went to penalty kicks.

It was 2-2 entering the third set when Temple goalkeeper Nathaniel Wiles stopped NYA’s Chas Rhode. But then Etauri, in his first year of playing goal, dove to his right to stop a shot by Temple’s Will Paradis.

“I knew I had to make a save,” said Etauri. “I was 100 percent certain we were going to score and that I needed to make that save.”

TXT.bodycopy: Alasdair Swett then scored for NYA, beating Wiles to his right. Then Etauri made the big save, diving to his left to stop Temple’s Gian Marco Rossi. The ball deflected off Etauri straight up – off the cross bar and straight down, where Etauri grabbed it.

“It was a great kick, got lucky,” said Etauri. “I wanted to make sure after it hit the cross bar that it didn’t roll back in.”

Then up stepped Gagnon, considered by NYA coach Martyn Keen his best penalty kicker. “Coach tells us to pick a spot,” said Gagnon. “So I picked my spot and I placed it there.”

It was low to the left and just out of Wiles’ reach. And then Gagnon turned and was swarmed by his teammates.

“It’s exciting to win that way,” said Keen. “But it’s a tough way to lose.”

The Bereans were making their first appearance in a regional final.

“We had a couple of chances in the second overtime,” said Phil Hubbard, the Temple Academy head coach. “But I give them hats off. They group-defend well. Both teams group-defended well.”

 

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