Nov. 5—MANCHESTER — Kat Dornan felt the pressure of expectation as she stepped forward to take her penalty kick in the NHIAA Division III final.
Dornan scored the game-winning penalty kick goal for the St. Thomas Aquinas girls soccer team in the semifinals and had the chance to clinch the Division III title with another on Sunday at Chabot-McDonough Field.
The senior back/midfielder scored on a shot nearly identical to her one in the semifinal — into the top far corner of the net.
The goal earned St. Thomas a 2-1 victory over Gilford after winning the penalty kick round, 5-4, securing the Division III title for the Saints in their third straight championship game appearance.
“I made the cross symbol when I looked back at my team and I just really trusted that I can do it,” Dornan said. “I was just trying to stay calm because the more nervous you get, the more likely youre going to mess up.”
Top-seeded St. Thomas finished with an 18-0-2 record and advanced to the final with a 2-1 penalty kick victory over fourth-seeded Stevens in the semifinals.
The state championship is the Saintss first since 2009 and third overall. They finished runner-up to Gilford last year and to Hopkinton in 2021.
Senior Kate Burrus built the Saints 1-0 halftime advantage with her goal on a counter attack in the 13th minute. Burrus scored on a beautiful, contested, curling shot from about 25 yards out into the far corner of Gilfords net.
The Golden Eagles (18-2) pulled even and forced overtime with senior Millicent Caldons goal in the 51st minute. The midfielder weaved through two Saints into the penalty box before firing a shot past St. Thomas goalkeeper Genna Bolduc.
The Golden Eagles put pressure on St. Thomass backline for most of regulation but almost all of their 17 shots on goal were right at Bolduc (16 saves).
Bolduc made a diving save in the first 15-minute overtime frame on a shot by Gilford senior Elizabeth Albert.
“Genna had the game of her life (Sunday),” Saints coach Patrick Hureau said. “Her goal kicks were all great, deep and targeted, too … When we were on our heels a bit, she was there to save us, for sure.”
Bolduc also received help from her goal post and sophomore teammate Charlotte De Tolla.Gilford junior back Grace LeBlanc had a free-kick shot from about 20 yards out bounce off the far post in the fourth minute. Caldon had a point-blank shot in front of goal cleared by De Tolla about 11 minutes after LeBlancs try.
The Golden Eagles heavy possession advantage and aggressive play after Burruss tally seemingly cost them late. They appeared tired over the final several minutes of regulation and both overtime periods, the second of which St. Thomas dominated the pace of play.
“I think they ran themselves out, especially in the second half after they scored and then toward the end of the game as well,” Hureau said.
Burrus, Madeline Karsonovich, Elizabeth Flynn and Caleigh Bronson also scored penalty-kick goals for the Saints.
Gilford received penalty kick goals from LeBlanc, Caldon, Albert and Addison Harris.”It feels amazing,” Dornan said. “Weve gone three times and I didnt want to graduate without a championship win.”