RICHMOND — No slide tackling. Fewer players in the box on corner kicks.

Those are two of the major changes that came to high school soccer in Maine in order for it to be played during a pandemic.

The changes meant defense would take on an even greater role this fall — and that was certainly on display Thursday when the Oak Hill and Richmond girls soccer teams played to a scoreless draw.

Throw in some conditions — it was cold and rainy — and offenses were slowed down considerably.

“I think there were a lot of rushed choices out there by both sides (Thursday), not because of pressure but because of the conditions,” said Oak Hill head coach Jeremy Young. “I don’t ever like to make excuses, but the conditions (Thursday) didn’t help anyone out.”

The teams did not play an overtime period because of the wet field, and looming darkness. 

Oak Hill’s Audrey Bauer, left, and Richmond’s Sophia Wells play through a downpour Thursday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

While both teams had their chances, the goalies held their ground. So, too, did the defenses.

“We have definitely had to change our approach on defense this season,” said Richmond senior captain Marybeth Sloat.

The Bobcats have now allowed just one goal over their last three games. 

When asked how he has approached the new rules this season, Bobcats head coach Troy Kendrick emphasized the need to work more as a collective unit rather than individually. 

“We’ve really just been working on communicating with other teammates and playing as a team,” Kendrick said. “To shut out a team like that (Oak Hill), I was really pleased with our defense and how we have played all year.”

For the Raiders and coach Young, his team adapted to the modifications quickly this fall.

“We’ve been playing with three in the back all year, which has worked out for us positionally with the new adjustments,” Young said. “I’m blessed that all these girls are willing to work hard on that side of the field.”

Oak Hill took the first meeting, 2-1. The Bobcats were determined not to fall short again.

Richmond’s Alana Hixon, left, and Oak Hill’s Emily Dillman, fight for the ball Thursday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“We came out a lot better than we normally do (Thursday), and I think the team is proud of how they played, I know I am,” Sloat said.

The best opportunity in the first half for either side came when Oak Hill forward Elise Worth was fouled in the penalty box, setting up a penalty kick. 

Worth took the kick, but was denied by a diving Liz Johnson, who finished with nine saves.

As the first half was winding down, Bobcats forward Laura Brown fired a couple shots toward the net, both of which were blocked by Raiders defenders. 

As the second half started, the rain picked up, resulting in fewer chances for either side. 

As the clock was winding down under five minutes, Oak Hill had one final great opportunity to score with a corner kick. The ball was sent in right to the foot of Worth, whose shot struck the post.

Oak Hill goalie Paige Gonya finished with 10 saves.

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