PORTSMOUTH — What could be better than 80 minutes of dominant playoff soccer for Traip Academy?
The news it got when the match was over.
Second-seeded Traip was clinical in its 3-0 win over No. 14 St. Dominic in the Class C South girls soccer semifinals on Saturday, a game moved across the river to the turf at Portsmouth High School due to poor field conditions.
Moments after closing out the win, they got word that their opponent in the regional final would be No. 4 Maranacook, the team that ousted the Rangers in penalty kicks in last year�s regional final.
Maranacook took down top-seeded Monmouth, 1-0, to reach the final. The rematch is Tuesday night in Lewiston, Maine.
�I�m really excited,� said senior back Sophia Santamaria. �Ever since we lost to them last year we�ve wanted to beat them so badly. Now we have the possibility to get redemption.�
Freshman Noelle Denholm scored twice, her goals sandwiching a tally by Kate McPherson. In beating the Saints (5-11-1) for the third time this season, the Rangers (14-2) finished with a 28-3 edge in shots and 17-0 advantage in corner kicks.
There�s no perfect game in soccer, but this was a strong one.
�Yeah, but there�s always the opportunity to get better,� said senior back Emma McGonigle. �We�re going to be working hard to come out really strong on Tuesday.�
The Rangers carried play consistently in the first half but didn�t break through until Denholm poked in the remnants of a Caroline Couperthwait corner kick in the 17th minute.
It was 2-0 nine minutes later. Julia Durling collected the ball deep on the right and found an outlet in McCluskey, who passed to McPherson in front of the net. McPherson turned quickly on her defender and beat St. Dom�s keeper Hannah Kenney with a left-footed shot.
Kenney was a big reason the score didn�t get out of hand. She used her size and athleticism to get to balls and made sure her body was in the right place. The only other shot that beat her came in the second half, Denholm from the top of the box on a strike that was deflected to make it 3-0.
It was a tilted field, with Traip goalie Abigail Pitcairn handing the ball so infrequently she might have had trouble identifying its shape. In short, everything a coach could ask for.
�Yeah, we were happy with the result,� said Traip coach Kristin O�Neill. �We were really excited coming into the game. The girls were looking forward to this. They didn�t go in underestimating St. Dom�s at all. They were ready to play today.�.
The Rangers got some practice time on the Seacoast United outdoor turf fields in Epping and looked comfortable from the start.
�It�s an adjustment but it�s not anything too hard for us,� said Santamaria. �We�re a team that�s able to adapt to any new environment. It was just another challenge to add to our list. And honesty, it was really fun.
�This game was great for Tuesday. Now we know how fast the ball will go and what to expect.�
�I think a lot of it, especially for the girls that haven�t played much on it, is to really build the confidence that it�s not that different,� said O�Neill. �It�s a faster speed of play, so we have to make sure we�re expecting what�s coming and be ready for it, be proactive.�
And now they�re ready for another shot at Maranacook (12-2-3).
�I think the girls are really excited,� said O�Neill. �We didn�t want to look beyond today�s game, but hearing about that right at the end of our game was exciting. The girls are excited about that matchup.�
�Last year, we knew we didn�t leave everything we had out there,� said McCluskey. �This year I know we�re going to go in stronger.�