OAKLAND — Sadie Garling has started using her head.

The senior winger scored a pair of first-half goals with her noggin on Tuesday afternoon at Veterans Field, leading the No. 2 Waterville girls soccer team into the Class B North semifinals courtesy of a 3-0 win over No. 7 Maine Central Institute. The Purple Panthers, who also got a goal from right back Sophia Poole, will meet either No. 3 Mt. Desert Island or rival No. 6 Winslow in the next round of the regional tournament.

Waterville goalie Jacie Richard (35) makes a punch save on a corner kick as Maine Central Institute’s Kayla French, second from left, tries to score on a header with Waterville defender Jayda Murray (16) defending in a Class B North quarterfinal game Tuesday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

The Winslow-MDI game, originally slated for Tuesday, was rescheduled for Wednesday.

“During the regular season, the goals were a little slow for us,” said Garling, who has always been a goal-scorer in her career for Waterville (14-1-0). “We’re getting used to each other’s balls and we know where exactly each other is going to be to get the (offense) going.”

Waterville scored three times in the first 32 minutes, first from Poole when the senior stepped into a blocked shot in the midst of corner-kick chaos in the 19th minute. Garling then followed with her head-ball heroics.

She got on the end of Paige St. Pierre’s cross at the left post during the run of play to make it 2-0 in the 27th minute. Then Garling made a nearly identical run to the same spot on a St. Pierre corner kick five minutes later, nodding the ball through traffic and into the back of the goal.

“It was a little bit unexpected,” Garling said. “I’ve been practicing those a lot. I’ve been working on waiting for the ball to get it on the perfect side of my head to get the perfect weight on it.”

“It’s great to score a couple early,” Waterville coach Mark Serdjenian said. “It set them back a little, and then they’ve got to adjust. It worked out well.”

All three Purple Panther goals resulted — directly or indirectly — from tremendous build-up through the midfield.

“It’s just the overall ball movement,” Serdjenian said. “Through the midfield, it was really nice. That gave us options up top. Targeting Paige and Sadie made us dangerous.”

Garling knows as well as any current Purple Panther about the importance of scoring early in postseason games. It was her goal as a freshman in 2016 against top-seeded Hermon late in the second half which broke a scoreless deadlock and led Waterville to the regional title.

“It’s important to score first, because it will get the other team a little frazzled,” Garling said. “That will give us the advantage.”

The second half did an about-face, with MCI (6-10-0) more on the front-foot thanks to some lineup adjustments. Notable among them was moving Alexandria Mason from the back line to the front to add some needed speed for cracking Waterville’s stout back four.

Waterville’s Caitlin Smith gains control of the ball as Maine Central Institut’es Danielle Dow, back left, and Lillian Hopkins (28) try to defend in a Class B North quarterfinal game Tuesday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

It nearly worked.

“They had a good couple head balls off of corners, off of set pieces, and it was tough to come back from,” MCI coach Dale Overlock said. “I thought our girls really kind of dominated the second half.”

The Huskies, though, couldn’t get a game-shifting goal. When they did create one of their few quality goal-scoring opportunities, Panther keeper Jacie Richard (seven saves) was up the task to parry the ball out of harm’s way.

“(MCI) had a little more force behind them coming out in the second half,” Richard said. “We were trying some new things that didn’t necessarily work for us. But our defense works together really nicely — I trust them with my life.”

Comments are not available on this story.