LEWISTON — The Mustangs lost track of Emily Harper for all of about 30 seconds Saturday. It was all the Maranacook sophomore needed.

Harper made good use of the sudden space, breaking a scoreless draw 15 minutes from full-time to lift No. 4 Maranacook to a 1-0 win over top-seeded and previously unbeaten Monmouth in a Class C South girls soccer semifinal at Don Roux Field. The Black Bears (12-2-3) advanced to their second straight regional final with the win, where they will meet No. 2 Traip Academy on Tuesday.

Mountain Valley Conference champion Monmouth (15-1-0) saw its season end with the only blemish on its schedule.

Maranacook’s Kate Mohlar and Monmouth’s Annalyse Lewis charge the ball during Saturday’s Class C South girls soccer semifinal game in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I got passed the ball and I just remember creating a little bit of an opening and shooting it,” Harper said. “I didn’t know if it was going to go in or not. It felt really good.”

How Harper got free in the first place was a master stroke of both tactical adjustment and good fortune for Maranacook.

Worried that central midfielder Addie Watson was tiring, Black Bear coach Travis Magnusson dropped the striker Harper a bit deeper in the formation just a minute or so before the game-winning goal arrived.

“I was worried that Addie was getting gassed, playing up and down the whole time,” Magnusson said. “I wanted to get Addie a break and give Emily a little bit of room. It paid off quickly.”

When Katie Ide carried the ball deep down the right flank and had her cross blocked out to the middle, Harper was all alone to unleash her vicious left foot in the 65th minute. After Monmouth senior Libby Clement had done such a brilliant job man-marking Harper up top, getting Harper away from the Mustang center back proved critical for the reigning regional champion Black Bears.

“At times I have (moved into midfield), but not much,” Harper said. “It created more space for me and confused the defense. (Clement) is a really amazing player. That was a lot of work. I think moving positions helped.”

Playing in place of an injured Skyeler Webb, sophomore Anna Erb made five saves to post the clean sheet in her only goalkeeping action of the entire season.

“You get an All-State goalie that gets hurt three days before the game and you have to make some adjustments,” Magnusson said. “A number of people stepped up. Natalie Whitten played sweeper, Anna went in the net and Skyeler even gave us some minutes out in the field. I think that shows a lot of good mental toughness from us.”

Monmouth’s Alicen Burnham (8) kicks the ball past Maranacook’s Natalie Whitten during Saturday’s Class C South girls soccer semifinal game in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The contest was largely one-dimensional in the scoreless first half.

Both teams were extremely narrowed in their focus — both figuratively and literally. With Maranacook trying to run its attack through Harper and Monmouth doing likewise with 100-goal scorer Audrey Fletcher at the other end, the opposing back lines were content to disrupt flow through the middle and simply boot the ball back the other direction. It led to very little time spent beyond a narrow, 20-yard patch of turf running directly down the middle of the park.

At halftime, both sides introduced a bit more width into the proceedings, and it was Monmouth that benefited from that early after the break.

Fletcher and Alicen Burnham tried to link up with no success, and it took Ide at the back post to bail out the Black Bears when a good Burnham cross from the right nearly pulled Monmouth level in the 69th minute.

“We had some opportunities. The kids played well, real well, gave me everything they had,” Monmouth coach Gary Trafton said. “But a loss is a loss. We were good enough to go onto the next round.

“You can’t ask for any more.”

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