Bulldogs had to believe

In order to pull off one of the biggest upsets in New Hampshire high school soccer history, the Bedford girls soccer team had to look back in time.

Back to last season, when the Bulldogs were just happy to be in the championship game in their first year in Division I, and lost to Exeter, 5-1.

“The difference between last year and this year was that last year was our first time making it,” Bedford sophomore goalie Brooke Barrett said. “We were happy to be here.”

Back to the regular season, when the Bulldogs again lost to the Blue Hawks, this time 3-0 on Oct. 1.

“We played them in the regular season and we knew they weren’t as good as last year,” Bedford senior captain Abby Kokkinos said. “If we just play with our heart and know that we can beat them …”

Back to the semifinals last Wednesday, when the Bulldogs watched Bishop Guertin put a lot of pressure on Exeter in the second half of a 3-0 win for the Blue Hawks.

“We watched film of the semifinal, and up until that point, I don’t think we did believe,” Bedford coach Michelle Winning said. “We watched film and we started to realize we could play with these guys. They’re not unbeatable and we can play with them.

“I think a lot of times we’ve just kind of shown up and said we hope to give them a game. But after watching film and seeing that they’re just high school kids like us, we can play with them and that helped them believe.”

It all became a reality Saturday night, as the third-seeded Bulldogs (15-2-2) handed No. 1 Exeter (18-1) its first loss in 43 games by beating the Blue Hawks 1-0 in the Division I championship game. Not only did it snap Exeter’s consecutive win streak, but it also stopped its consecutive championship streak at four.

Asha Steele scored the game’s lone goal off a pass from Regan Schiappa in the 63rd minute. Steele found space in the middle of the field at the top of the penalty box and placed a perfect shot over goalie Jessica Long.

“There had been that gap there previous times and I told them to look out for it,” Steele said. “I called for it and when (Schiappa) passed it to me, I just, I don’t know. It was an opportunity and we capitalized on it.”

It’s the first championship for a program that’s been around since 2007, and it could just be the start of another girls soccer dynasty.

“We played four freshmen out there for 40 minutes and a bunch of sophomores,” Winning said. “Our leadership pulled through for us. We’re there and we’ve got to maintain and keep on top of our game every day. These girls didn’t take days off during the week this year. They came to practice and they worked every minute of it. We’ve got to keep doing that.”