HOMER -- Bolton made it to halftime in a scoreless tie with Poland on Saturday, and there was hope.
Aside from the last two minutes of the half, the Eagles had played a fairly even game against the state's top-ranked team. After that, things went downhill for Bolton.
Poland dominated the last 40 minutes, scoring two goals less than a minute apart midway through the half, on the way to a 3-0 victory in a Class D semifinal of the State Girls Soccer Tournament. Poland moves on to Sunday morning's championship game against Weatland-Chili.
The Eagles finished the season 16-5 with their second state semifinal appearance in three years, but they'd hoped to do more than just make the trip this time around. The Eagles were young this year -- with two freshmen, two eighth-graders and a seventh-grader in the starting lineup -- so most of the team can come back for another try.
"It's tough always knocking on the door," coach Patrick Morency said. "Eventually we want to get inside that door and bring home the title, and these young kids have that experience and the hope is that they continue to work."
The pace had been tepid in the first half, with few scoring chances for either team. That all changed after halftime as Poland put on the pressure.
Riley Wisheart scored on Leah Basel's cross through the box in the 59th minute, and Jordan Batson made it a 2-0 game 33 seconds later.
"There (weren't) really any surprises in terms of the challenges that Poland was going to present us," Morency said. "I was happy for the most part with the way we played in the first half. The big difference in the game was our composure. We struggled with our composure at times, and it kind of got the best of us."
The Eagles were shut out for only the second time this season and had few good scoring chances. They had no corner kicks and no free kicks within range of the goal, where Abbie Seamans has been so dangerous this season.
"We struggled finding answers in the attacking third," Morency said.
A bright spot was senior goalie Caitlyn Johnson, who made 15 saves. Despite never having played goal before this year, she gave Bolton everything it needed in the back.
"I'm proud of her," Morency said. "She's done exactly what I wanted her to do in big games, and it's a credit to her and all the hard work she put in this year."
The only other graduating senior is Seamans, and it will be a big loss for the Eagles. She played varsity for six seasons and finished with an even 100 goals.
"It's going to be tough on the field without her," Morency said. "I get a little emotional thinking about it. ... I know she's going to go on to great things. It's been a pleasure coaching her. I feel like I've learned more from her over these six years than she's learned from me."