KITTERY — The Maranacook girls soccer team survived the second half. It withstood first one overtime, and then another.

And then, finally, there was a chance to capitalize on all that resiliency, with the ball on Grace Despres’ foot and only one penalty kick separating the Black Bears from a spot in the state championship game.

“I definitely felt nervous,” she said.

She didn’t look it. Despres calmly shot the ball past Traip keeper Olivia O’Leary, lifting No. 4 Maranacook over the second-seeded Rangers 4-3 on penalty kicks following a scoreless draw in the Class C South championship game.

“There’s nothing better, honestly,” Despres said. “We talked about getting this far in the playoffs the whole season. To make it there and make history for our school, it’s unreal, and it feels so good.”

It’s the first trip to the state final for the Black Bears (12-2-3).

“We’re really resilient, we’re really tough, and they bought into being a family all year long,” coach Travis Magnusson said. “Teams that are close and teams that love each other find ways to win these games.”

The Rangers (15-2-0) made no effort to hide the hurt. Not after a game in which they owned possession and dominated with chance after chance, only to see each shot end up either wide of the net or deflecting off Maranacook keeper Skyeler Webb’s gloves.

“It’s a cruel game,” coach Michael Jackson said. “Their will to win was there, and I think it separated us from that other team. We just didn’t get a goal. That’s where the game gets really cruel sometimes.”

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Maranacook celebrates after beating Traip Academy in the Class C South regional final Wednesday in Kittery. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

The scoring drought sent the teams on to penalty kicks, and the Black Bears quickly seized the advantage. Traip’s Sophia Santamaria and Maranacook’s Katie Ide opened with goals, but while Traip’s Cala McEllin shot hers over the goal, Black Bear sophomore Natalie Whitten — who didn’t play in regulation or overtime — skipped her shot into the bottom left corner for a 2-1 Maranacook lead.

“This is a tough situation,” Magnusson said. “That, just staying ready and being in that moment, that’s a huge play for somebody to make that hadn’t played all game.”

After Traip’s Sydney Auclair hit the crossbar and Maranacook’s Emily Harper was stopped by O’Leary, Traip’s Jen McCluskey and Molly Sawtelle and Maranacook’s Kate Mohlar scored to make it 3-3. That brought up Despres with a chance to end it — which the senior captain had a feeling was going to happen.

“I was like ‘OK, if this person makes it and that person misses, then I don’t have to shoot!’ ” she said. “But I knew I’d have to shoot.”

Despres’ shot was never in doubt, finding the twine on the right side of the goal.

“I knew if I kicked it low and in the corner, it’d go in,” Despres said. “I took a deep breath, pictured myself doing that, and then it happened.”

The Black Bears could finally celebrate, following 110 minutes in which they could hardly breathe. After an even first half, Traip took run after run at the Maranacook net, and kept swinging for the knockout blow.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Traip’s Kathleen McPherson, left, and Maranacook’s Allyse Bonenfant go up for a header during the Class C South regional final Wednesday in Kittery. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“In the second half, we totally picked it up,” Traip senior captain Lilly Kemp said. “It was our game, our field.”

None, however, landed. In the 42nd minute, Webb was out of position after a save following a corner, but Sawtelle’s follow-up shot skipped wide of the left post. In the 65th, Auclair won a race to the ball and tried a tight angle shot from the left side, beating Webb but missing wide of the right post. And in the 74th minute, Sawtelle found the right post with a close look from the right, and Webb made a stop on Lilly Kemp’s follow-up try.

“It’s so frustrating,” Kemp said. “It’s the most frustrating thing ever, especially when you think it’s going in, ‘Yes, this is in!’ Then you think ‘Oh.’ ”

The chances continued in the first overtime, but were scarcer in the second as more than 100 minutes of action took their physical toll. While Traip felt snakebit, Magnusson said the zero that remained on the scoreboard said a lot about his defense and his keeper.

“We have a great defense, and Skyeler’s an unbelievable goalie,” Magnusson said. “So it’s hard to crack us.”

“Saving the shots, I don’t think about it at all,” said Webb, who made 10 saves, eight coming in the second half. “Once I’m in the game, I’m so motivated. … I definitely did not want to lose this game, so I knew I had to keep it together.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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