Top Dogs

Brooke Barrett walked around Southern New Hampshire University’s Larkin Field Saturday night as if she were in a trance.

“It’s like a dream,” said the sophomore goalkeeper for the Bedford High School girls soccer team. “I can’t describe it. The feeling when that third whistle blew and the time was over, it was just unreal. I couldn’t believe it and I still don’t believe it.”

Whether Barrett believes it or not, it happened – the No. 3 Bulldogs did what not many thought they could not do, as Asha Steele’s goal in the 63rd minute was enough to give Bedford a 1-0 win over No. 1 Exeter in the Division I championship game.

Not only is it Bedford’s first girls soccer title, but it snapped Exeter’s streak of 42 wins in a row and four straight Division I/Class L championships. The Blue Hawks had also won six of the last seven such titles and were ranked by some polls as the No. 1 team in the country.

“I’m out of my body right now,” Steele said. “I don’t think I could ever be happier.”

The junior made her Bedford (15-2-2) teammates very happy when she took a pass from Regan Schiappa and drilled it over the head of Exeter goalie Jessica Long. Time stood still for Steele as she watched her shot hit the back of the net.

“It was the right time, right moment, right position,” she said. “When I saw (the shot) starting to rise, I knew it was either going to skyrocket or it was going to drop over the goalie’s head.

“I think the world stopped for a moment. There was no noise, nothing, and then one of my teammates slammed me and it was back to reality.”

The reality was that the Bulldogs were still 17 minutes away from the title.

“I was less relaxed at that point because you can’t give Exeter a minute,” Bedford coach Michelle Winning said. “You let up for one minute and they’re going to take the game back. There were 17 minutes left and if we had let up for one of those, it would have been different.”

Bedford fought hard for those 17 minutes, even if it didn’t feel like that long.

“That was the longest 17 minutes of my life,” Bedford senior captain Abby Kokkinos said.

Steele agreed. “I looked up at the clock and it looked like time was actually added.”

The Bulldogs were in position to win by withstanding an onslaught of Exeter (18-1) shots. The Blue Hawks took 18 total, including 13 in the second half. Of those, eight were on goal and Barrett stopped all of them.

“They had a lot of pressure and Brooke Barrett came up huge,” Winning said. “It really could have gone either way. We didn’t really have many chances. I hadn’t seen her play this way. She really broke out of her shell and showed the state that she’s there to play. She played phenomenal.”

While Exeter’s chances were plentiful, it’s best opportunity came with under two minutes to play.

Barrett tried to gather in a free kick, but the ball bounced in front of her and was knocked away by Exeter’s Taylor O’Donnell. As Barrett dove to her left for the ball, O’Donnell kicked it back toward the center of field, where Heather MacDougall was waiting in front of an empty net.

MacDougall’s shot made it past two Bedford players before Christina Campbell kicked it away. Exeter was given a corner kick, but Katie Day’s header went wide of the goal and the Bulldogs avoided disaster.

“Just get it out, don’t let it go in,” Kokkinos said of what she was thinking as the play unfolded. “It was our game.”

And now its the Bulldogs title to defend.