Richmond 'curse' again comes back to haunt islandersLongtime nemesis Bobcats claw to three first-half goals en route to win
Richmond — The Vinalhaven-North Haven boys soccer team started and ended the 2013 season the same way — namely, with a tough-to-swallow loss to longtime nemesis Richmond.
And veteran island coach Richard Carlsen feels he knows why his squad has had so much trouble against the talented Bobcats over the years.
It is because of a "curse."
And before one begins to laugh and think Carlsen's comment is nothing more than a Halloween joke, the coach may know of what he speaks. That is because he has led the islanders for 29 years and his squads have only beaten Richmond twice — both times in games on the island — in about 50 meetings between the teams.
In recent years, Vinalhaven-North Haven has been competitive with the Bobcats, even losing a close, competitive postseason game in recent seasons.
And, this year, the islanders lost to Richmond in two regular-season contests, 4-3 to open the campaign in Richmond and 2-1 in a game later on Vinalhaven.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 30, the Richmond "curse" reared its ugly head once more as the host Bobcats beat Vinalhaven-North Haven 4-0 in a Western Class D quarterfinal playoff game.
The No. 2 Bobcats (11-2-2) scored three first-half goals and added a fourth late in the second half to outlast the No. 7 islanders (6-7).
Carlsen said despite the fact Richmond usually has strong teams, thus will always be tough for the islanders to defeat, another element that conspires to hurt Vinalhaven-North Haven each year is student-athletes with summer jobs and, more often than not, lobster fishing.
Carlsen said each fall when most other high school soccer teams are practicing with a full compliment of players before the regular-season begins, he usually only has a handful of players because most are finishing their summertime jobs, many lobster fishing.
So, when Vinalhaven-North Haven finally gets all its players on the field for practice, the regular season is under way and the islanders have their feet to the competitive fire. Thus, it takes the islanders a few weeks to round into shape and become a cohesive unit, which hurts them record-wise and, ultimately, in the final Heal Point Standings. That, in turn, often forces the islanders to have to play at Richmond to start the regional playoffs.
For example, the Vikings started this season 0-4 and then won six of their final eight games.
"We don't start winning games until three weeks into the season," Carlsen said. "We lose a bunch of our games and then end up at the end of the seedings instead of in the middle."
After finishing this regular season 6-6, including two one-goal losses to the Bobcats, the islanders felt they were ready to give Richmond another competitive game in Wednesday's playoff. But that scenario never materialized as the Bobcats grabbed the momentum with three first-half goals.
Cody Tribbett gave the hosts a 1-0 lead 8:10 into the game, on an assist from Jon Simmons. That cushion grew to 2-0 when Nate Tribbett scored 22 minutes into the game. And it was 3-0 for the hosts when Brandon Emmons scored, on an assist from Cody Tribbett, 30 minutes into the first half.
The islanders came out and played hard during the final 40 minutes but, by that time, the writing was on the wall. And Richmond added a fourth goal from Brady Johnson with three minutes left.
Aiden Emerson (9 saves) played in goal for the islanders and Dustin Sullivan (3 saves) in net for Richmond. Richmond held a 18-10 edge in shots and 7-4 advantage in corner kicks.
"We just stopped playing our game," Carlsen said. "We just played kick the ball away. We didn't make any passes that we are used to making, we didn't come to any of the balls. The first five, six, seven minutes of the game, [the Bobcats] were nervous. We had the ball up there [in their end]. I was like, 'Yeah. There is my team.' And for some reason that went away. I think it is just the Richmond curse of us coming up here. Every time we go into a playoff spot we get this game here. So we psyche ourselves out, we panic, we start kicking the ball and we don't communicate. I don't know."
Carlsen said the team's season-opening game at Richmond this fall "was probably one of the better games we played all season."
So, the islanders have, at times, been competitive with the Bobcats.
In recent playoffs, Vinalhaven-North Haven lost to Greenville 3-0 last year, lost to Richmond 4-2 in 2011, lost to Richmond in 2009 (score unavailable), lost to Richmond 3-0 in 2008 and lost to Richmond 2-0 in the 2007 regional final.
"We have been close to beating [Richmond] many times," Carlsen said. "We have been in some overtime games. [But we also have] lost some 9-1 and 9-2 games [to them]. We have been on both sides of it. It just came down to the team that was going to bring the game today would win the game and, unfortunately, it wasn't us."
Carlsen said after Wednesday's game that he hopes to return to coach for his 30th season next fall but does not know, at this point, if that will happen.
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Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
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