Oak Hill’s individual goal for Paige Gonya for her senior season was simple: to score fewer goals than the year before.
The fourth-year Raiders goaltender had allowed just six goals in the COVID-affected 2020 women’s football season, so meeting her 2021 goal was a daunting task.
She was more than successful, however. Gonyea supported a regular season in which Oak Hill did not allow any goals. Twelve games, 12 shutouts.
“When the final whistle blew against Madison and we ended the season scoreless against us, I was beside myself and so happy for the girls,” said Raiders coach Jeremy Young. “I’ve never heard of it, and the coaches I’ve talked to have said the same thing. I’m sure this has happened, but it’s obviously a rarity.
Just as Gonya wanted to improve, Young was also looking for the loyal goalkeeper to keep improving.
“We weren’t expecting that, however,” Young said.
Gonya defying herself and her coach’s expectations, and denying every blow that came to her during the regular season, earned her the 2021 Sun Journal All-Region Girls Soccer Player of the Year title. .
“As a goalkeeper shutouts are amazing, especially the ones that force you to work,” Gonya said. “When you play against a good team and win a shutout, you really feel like the training and all the hard work is paying off.”
Gonya admits shutouts are difficult to achieve. They require trust between the goalkeeper and the outfielders, she said.
She also had to trust her instincts, even though one of the times she did scared her teammates, Young said.
“We had a situation – I forget which game – when Paige left a goal behind because she knew the shot was coming from an offside position,” Young said. “The girls on the bench had a momentary heart attack, but Paige knew about it. It was a pretty obvious call, but the gasps on the bench stand out. “
Young also remembers a save Gonya made at home against Mount Abram, when she slipped and a shot went under and behind her, and she had to scramble to reach the ball before a Roadrunners attacker could take advantage of a rare case of Gonya. in a vulnerable position.
One save that stood out for Gonya was in the regular season finale against Madison.
“I remember being very nervous. We still had one game to play to achieve the “perfect” record, ”said Gonya. “I remember making a save right on the goal line in that game. Two more inches forward and that would have ended our goal of having 12 shutouts. At the end of the game, our team were so proud of what we accomplished.
Not allowing a goal was not a goal for the Raiders until mid-season. Young said he noticed the streak of shutouts after Game 5, but didn’t want to tell his players too much. After the next game, a victory at Buckfield, Young let the cat out of the bag and rewarded his team with donuts.
Next come two of the Raiders’ toughest games of the season – against contenders Monmouth / Winthrop and Hall-Dale, both on the road and on an opponent’s senior night. It was after Hall-Dale’s victory that Young and the team decided they would continue the shutout streak for the regular season, and that Gonya would no longer be taken out of goal as she had in unbalanced games. earlier in the season.
“If she was going to hold this shutout record, which was possible with the games we had left, it would be her turn to win or lose. It wouldn’t be fair for that kind of pressure to be put on a replacement. Said Young.
Oak Hill substitute Mackenzie Vattaso got some playing time earlier in the season in the second half of games, when Gonya would move onto the field. Gonya even ended up on the scoresheet a few times, including an assist on a goalie punt in the victory at Monmouth / Winthrop.
“As a goalkeeper, going out of goal to play on the pitch is a rarity. When that happens, however, it’s a lot of fun, ”Gonya said. “Scoring goals is thanks to my team that allows me to play on the pitch. Sometimes seeing a whole new perspective on the ground compared to the net is very interesting. It makes you enjoy the game even more.
The Raiders got a new perspective during their special season when they finally allowed a goal in the Mountain Valley Conference Championship game against Hall-Dale – a game that didn’t count in the standings but ultimately left the Raiders without a trophy after losing 2-0 to the Bulldogs.
“They scored against us after an unusual error, but I was very happy with the way the team came together and continued,” said Young. “After the goal the team got together before kick-off and had a moment. I could tell that giving up the goal had brought them together rather than torn them apart. This may be the moment I’m most proud of this season.
With the loss of the MVC title game in the rearview mirror, the Raiders still had the Class C South playoffs to look forward to as a No.2 seed – and the shutout streak in Maine Principals’ sponsored games. Association.
Both sets ended in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Old Orchard Beach.
“I think we lost a very winnable game,” said Young. “This one was especially tough because I wanted so much more for this girl group, but we packed half of our season’s games in the last week and a half and survived that challenge. I think we were just exhausted – mentally, mostly – and we just have to accept it. It’s overwhelming, but I’m extremely proud of their ability to give everything they have.
Gonya also put the season in perspective.
“Even though we didn’t get as far as we wanted in the playoffs, I couldn’t be more pleased with the way we played as a team,” she said. “Record aside, whether we won or lost, I will always be proud of these girls. What we have accomplished this year makes the season even more special. I’m glad my last season was with these girls, and I can’t wait to see where people are going.
Gonya still doesn’t know where she’ll end up in college, but playing soccer is on the cards.
Young said that wherever Gonya goes, she will be lucky to have him. But for him, it will be difficult to abandon it.
“Every time you lose a player of Paige’s caliber, it’s a loss. His communication on the pitch, his intensity, his knowledge and of course his net ability will be missed, ”said Young. “But even bigger than that, we’ll miss all the other things she brought to the program. She was captain for three years and really did a great job leading the team. She always has a positive mindset and does a great job of keeping things in perspective. I never had to blame him for working harder or challenging himself. She lives up to anything asked of her and if she isn’t quite there the first time, she will be the second.
Sun Journal 2021 women’s soccer teams from all regions