ROCKPORT — Soccer, by its nature, is a beautiful and fickle game, but one aspect of the sport always defines the outcome — namely, which team is able to put the ball in the net.

Ultimately, the game’s ebbs and flows, as well as which team controls a majority of play, does not matter because it comes down to which squad can score.

From left, Camden Hills’ Ella Powers, Sydney Stone and Amelia Johnson. Photo by Ken Waltz

With scoring opportunities a premium, Wednesday’s much-anticipated regular-season match between Camden Hills and Bangor, two of the most talented teams in the state, came down to one play late in the game.

That second-half play was an indirect kick by Ram Hannah Sherwood that ended up near teammate Devon St. Louis, who put the ball just inside the post to the goalie’s right with 2:43 left to give the visitors the 1-0 victory and put an end to the Windjammers’ impressive, a possibly state-best (for high school varsity girls soccer), 71-game unbeaten streak that spanned five years.

In fact, the remarkable streak stretched to 75 games, including Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championship games, though those are not recognized by the Maine Principals’ Association.

Camden Hills’ Ali Tassoni, left, and Bangor’s Ashley Schultz. Photo by Ken Waltz

Ironically, Bangor also was the last opponent to beat the Windjammers before doing that again on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at sun-splashed Don Palmer Field.

In that game on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016 — 1,835 days previously — Bangor netted a 3-2 win over Camden Hills on the same field.

Since that previous game, the Windjammers and Rams played a bundle of classic regular-season and playoff games, even in the regional final.

In all, the Windjammers won 57 straight games, with their most recent tie coming against, of course, Bangor 2-2 on Sept, 15 2017.

Camden Hills’ Sydney Stone, left, and Bangor’s Anna Connors, among others. Photo by Ken Waltz

Previous media research by George Harvey of the Penobscot Bay Pilot stated Gorham went 68 games without a loss in the early 2000s, so Camden Hills may have set a state girls soccer standard with its 69th game without a loss, although that historical Maine high school girls soccer information could not be independently confirmed.

Camden Hills, with its patented beautiful player-to-player and foot-to-foot passing style, certainly played well enough to win on Wednesday, had the better of the scoring chances and, in fact, controlled play for at least 60 percent of the 80-minute affair. However, in the end, the Rams capitalized on a rare scoring chance to earn the victory.

Camden Hills’ Ali Tassoni, middle, and Madeline Tohanczyn, left, along with Bangor’s Devon St. Louis. Photo by Ken Waltz

Camden Hills finished with a 10-3 edge in shots and 4-2 advantage in corner kicks.

The Windjammers had won four straight state Class A titles before it was unable to play other schools in 2020 due to the pandemic. Thus, this year’s version of the Windjammers essentially are learning to play in hard-fought games against opponents, some of whom are equally talented and motivated.

And for veteran Windjammer coach Meredith Messer, that makes this fall’s campaign, with this new group, more interesting and fun — especially considering what the team had taken away in 2020.

Thus, it is a new and unique adventure and challenge each game after losing a sense of continuity last fall, the coach said.

She said dealing with the emotions of winning — and losing — help to fuel teams, stay centered and find success.

On Wednesday, the longstanding rivals played well and certainly should be in the mix for regional and state titles, when all is said and done. The Windjammers and Rams had opportunities to score on field and set plays, but missed shots high and wide. Camden Hills even had a shot clang off the crossbar in the first half.

Goalies Madeline Tohanczyn (2 saves) for the Windjammers and Emma O’Neil (10 saves) for the Rams played well in net.

For Camden Hills, the defense was sturdy, anchored by Tessa Whitley, who stymied Ram pushes up the field and often started the Windjammer offense from the backfield with long, accurate kicks.

“Going into freshman year I had a goal to make varsity,” said Whitley, a senior. “After I achieved that goal I had the opportunity to play with some of the best players to come out of Maine for two years. I was and still am very honored to be a part of this amazing legacy that started before I was even a part of the team. Being the only three starters remaining, I know that Ella Powers, Ali Tassoni, and I really felt the pressure to keep this amazing win streak alive. We worked hard to beat the Maine state record of consecutive wins [or ties for girls soccer], and we are proud to have achieved this goal.

“The Bangor girls have always been great opponents of ours. They are fast, strong, and physical. They bring an intensity to the game, and I’m sure they will be our rivals for years to come. The game [Sept. 22] didn’t end the way that we had hoped, but a certain amount of pressure has been lifted and we now have a new perspective and drive leading us to victory.”

A number of Windjammer players also turned in strong all-around performances, led, as usual, but the sturdy, consitent effort of Ella Powers.

“[This] loss was definitely a big disappointment, but it has taken some of the pressure that I have had since freshman year, off my shoulders,” Powers said. “Coming onto this team as a freshman and knowing what I was walking into, a two-time state championship team, and a long winning streak, I was beyond nervous. I never wanted to be the team, or the reason that the record was broken. Of course, at some point we were going to lose, and that is okay. It is normal for teams to win games and lose games, so it is nice to have that pressure of keeping the streak alive off. I love this team and this loss has definitely lit some fire under us. We are ready to work even harder. I am very proud that I was able to be a part of at least 40 of those wins, as well as achieving the most consecutive wins for girls soccer in Maine, but now that there are no expectations for us, we are ready to set some new records.”

Messer said her players were disappointed by Wednesday’s outcome because they played well enough to win and wanted to carry on a legacy built by them and the players before them. That feeling was especially acute for this year’s seniors and a couple of juniors whom had experienced playing time on state championship teams in the past and were “vested” in the streak, before being unable to compete in 2020.

Camden Hills’ Tessa Whitley. Photo by Ken Waltz

Messer said it was a fun, competitive game between strong, longstanding opponents.

“Winning always feels better when you win against a worthy opponent,” she said. “Losing always hurts more when you lose in a game you feel you won, at least with possession [of the ball]. So, for me, it hasn’t been about how many [wins or ties] in row but are we playing our best in each match and I thought we played our best in this match with the exception of not finishing. And if that is what we have to get better at then that is what we have to get better at. The girls feel that obligation to previous teammates to continue to win, but, the reality is they are their own team and their own group and they have to make their own statement and they have to learn from their own mistakes.”

She said the leadership on the field by her players was “phenomenal.” The coach said Powers, Whitley, Ali Tassoni and Sydney Stone stepped up “and played really calmly in a situation where they were having a hard time breaking through and finishing.”

Players on the squads appeared exhausted at various points of the game after giving their all to score the go-ahead — and, ultimately — deciding goal or, on the other hand, prevent one.

The game was physical, but fair for the opponents, who refused to give an inch and battled toe-to-toe for the 80 minutes.

Messer said the team’s defense also played well against the Rams, and that has been a focus. “We did not give away a single shot on frame in the box, so, if you can do that against the number one team in Class A [North], you are doing a good job.”

The coach said her message to her team after the heartbreaking defeat was those who love soccer always understand that one team can outplay another over 80 minutes and still lose. It is the nature of the sport.

“For me, that is the challenge of the sport — you have to find your way to the win,” Messer said. “Even though it is frustrating and sometimes painful, it is the most wonderful feeling when you are successful at it.”

Thus, the Windjammers now are in a position to start their next unbeaten streak. To flip the switch as they did after the previous loss to Bangor.

“My message to them was this isn’t the ending of something, it is the beginning of the next day we get to work harder to be better,” Messer said. “And that is the way we have to look at it.”

In the Maine Principals’ Association Heal Point Standings for Class A North, Bangor (7-0, 233.6139 points) is first and Camden Hills (5-1, 132.3278 points) second. Earlier in the season, the Rams also beat third-ranked Brunswick 3-2 in another battle of unbeaten foes.

Camden Hills’ Ella Powers, left, and Bangor’s Olivia Scott. Photo by Ken Waltz

Camden Hills’ Leah Snyder. Photo by Ken Waltz