The Richmond High School girls soccer team celebrates after they edged Van Buren 1-0 in the 2010 Class D state title game. Morning Sentinel file photo

The Richmond girls soccer team was far from overlooked entering the 2010 season.

The Bobcats were already established in Class D, with six state titles and nine championship game appearances dating to 1989.

But Richmond established itself as the premier program in its class by winning three consecutive state crowns from 2010 through 2012. The Bobcats went an astounding  47-2-1 in their run.

It was the second time in program history the Bobcats managed to win three straight Class D, the first coming between 1992-1994. Richmond was also the first team to a pull a three-peat in Class D girls soccer since Waynflete from 1995-1997.

It wasn’t a process that happened overnight. Although the Bobcats reached the 2009 playoffs, forward Danica Hurley said the team needed to add numbers to the program for it to compete on a state level.

“My freshman year, we actually even struggled to have enough girls to have a team,” Hurley said. “We actually ended up recruiting Megan DeRaps, who was a big basketball player. She played soccer for the first time ever that year, because we were so desperate (for players). We had a feeling, with the class coming in the next year, we’d have not only enough numbers, but girls who I had grown up playing with. We knew, hopefully, if we could just get through (2009 and 2010), use it as a building and learning year, hopefully the years to follow we’d be super successful.”

Noell Acord, a forward on all three state title teams, said many players grew up together, which certainly helped.

The Richmond girls soccer team celebrates its 3-1 win over Rangeley in the 2010 Western Maine Class D championship game in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“My class, particularly, just had the highest number of athletic people (participating),” Acord said. “My class overall, were just super strong (athletically) and we all got a little bit more acclimated to high school sports, and we all grew and got stronger together each year that we played together. We’ve all known each other our entire lives, played with each other our entire lives. We all just worked really well together, and it only got better. But we knew we had a special team.

“Soccer in Richmond, at least when I was growing up, was just a huge thing,” Acord said. “I love fall, because it’s soccer season. It’s just the Richmond way.”

“They had a lot of success, in basketball and softball also,” added Richmond coach Troy Kendrick, who has led the program to all 11 Class D state titles and is wrapping up his 32nd year. “Just a talented and fun group. Of course, it’s always fun when you’re winning games and winning Gold Balls. I just remember really being on the field with that group of kids.”

Richmond went 15-1-0 in 2010, with playoff victories over Vinalhaven and Greenville in the regional final. It would be the first of three consecutive victories over the Lakers in the regional final.

“I just loved to crush them,” Acord said. “Greenville has always been a huge rival with us, particularly in soccer. Honestly, losing the Western Maine championship (to Greenville in 2009), it always kind of stuck with me, and I also just had a personal vendetta against Greenville. I loved every bit of (beating them).”

The Bobcats would meet Van Buren in the Class D final at Hampden Academy. The game was scoreless until the second half, when Sadie Gosse found an open Hurley, who then buried a shot in the lower left corner of the net to give Richmond a 1-0 lead. Minutes later, Richmond had the Gold Ball with a 1-0 victory.

“We were so fired up,” Hurley said. “And we end up winning a handful (of titles) after that, but that one was just so sweet. We had a year of struggle, and we looking forward (to success) so much to that point. We were just so fired up. I can still remember hanging out of bus windows (on the drive home), screaming, posting it all over social media. It was a huge deal to us.”

“That was a crazy game, it was such a good game,” Acord added. “It was freezing cold, and I got my first concussion in that game. That game was a battle. It felt so good. I remember jumping into Danica Hurley’s arms. I was so tired, it was such a grueling game. But I had enough (energy) to slowly tear up a little bit. We worked so hard for it, it was amazing.”

As the defending state champions, the Bobcats entered the 2011 season with targets on their backs. But Richmond rose to the occasion and went 15-1-0. It cruised past Rangeley (6-0 win in the semifinals) and Greenville (5-0 in the regional final) to reach states again. Hurley, a senior during the 2011 season, was particularly effective on offense, scoring 37 goals for the season.

“We had lost a couple of key players (from 2010) for sure, but we still had a core group of girls who worked hard and were dedicated,” Hurley said. “We loved each other. On the field, off the field, we all had great relationships. And we were still just so fired up from the previous year. We were ready to do it again.”

The Bobcats would once again face Van Buren in the Class D final. This time, Richmond won 4-1, with Hurley scoring two goals, with Acord adding one as well. Richmond’s defense, led by Brianna Snedeker, was just as impressive as the offense, as the Bobcats were able to shut down Van Buren’s Parise Rossignol, who entered the game with 33 goals on the season.

“We had girls that had incredible stamina, and were great in the midfield,” Acord said. “Brianna Snedeker was amazing defensively. And even though we did score a lot of goals, and maybe we were on offense for a lot of things, our goalkeeper, Lindsay Hoopingarner, phenomenal. Even when we got tested a little bit, we were solid in the back.”

Richmond continued to roll during the 2012 season, finishing 16-0-1. After beating Buckfield (5-0) in the semifinals and edging Greenville (1-0) in the regional final, the Bobcats were set up to face Washburn in the Class D final at Hampden Academy. It was a matchup the Bobcats were heavily invested in. Several members of the team also played on the girls basketball team, and Washburn had beaten Richmond in the Class D basketball final each of the previous two seasons, by a combined score of 103-65. It was a fact not lost on the Bobcats.

Noell Acord, left, hugs teammate Danica Hurley after Hurley scored a goal during the 2010 Western Maine Class D championship game in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Two years in a row they’ve beat us in basketball,” Snedeker told the Kennebec Journal before Class D soccer final. “It can’t not be in the back of your mind.”

Richmond got its revenge with a 2-1 victory, but it didn’t come easy. Tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and overtime, the fate of the Bobcats’ third consecutive state title rested on penalty kicks. Thankfully for Richmond, it was a situation the team could handle.

“In the postseason, I always start practicing team PKs,” Kendrick said. “Where everyone is taking PKs, and you’re trying to find your shooters. We had practicing for weeks. Once the tournament starts, we shoot rounds and rounds of PKs, and I always figure out who my top 10 shooters are. We’re up there in the state game, and Noell is the second or third shooter. I can remember her asking me ‘Coach, which corner should I shoot for?’ And I said ‘Well, Noell, the one we’ve been practicing for the last month.'”

“Troy was always big on us (practicing) PKs, in case it ever came down to that,” Acord said. “Luckily we didn’t let our nerves get to us and we pulled through.”

Acord and Amber Loon each found the back of the net on their penalty shots, but it was Snedeker who sealed the game, ripping a shot past Washburn goalkeeper Rayah Saucier to win the Gold Ball.

Richmond’s three-peat gave the program a jolt, as the Bobcats would reach the Class D final each of the next five years, winning Gold Balls in 2015 and 2017, Richmond’s last appearance in a state game.

“We really did have such a great team,” Hurley said. “At the time, it was just so awesome, that we almost were used to winning. There was a point in my senior year, where I’d go into some games and in my mind, there was no way we were going to lose. That ended up being the case. We were playing well, we were on a roll, as evidenced by our record. We had a great coaching staff, great relationships on the team. And we were confident.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5610

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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