A more defensive approach has helped McAuley get off to the best start in its history.

The Lions have not allowed a goal while opening the season with three victories.

“In previous years, we started the game and it was win, win, win, and this year it’s been more about starting with the defense and building up as a team,” said Maura Esten, a four-year varsity player in her first season as the starting sweeper. “We want to make sure we have control of the game. We want to have more control of the ball than when we use to kick and run.”

McAuley, which employs a 4-4-2 alignment in front of sophomore goalie Molly Miller, is not packing it in in the defensive end of the field. It’s just trying to maintain control of the ball longer than in the past.

“If anybody watches our games, they will see our four defenders and four midfielders are all at one time or another on the other team’s half of the field,” said Vince Aceto, in his third season as coach.

“Everyone understands, and they’re buying into a system where they’re defensive-minded first and build an attack as a team, and they know it only takes one goal to win.”

In chalking up victories against Portland, Biddeford and Massabesic, the Lions have scored a total of five goals.

“We don’t focus on just going in and putting the ball in the back of the goal,” said Olivia Crozier, a junior who splits time between fullback and center midfield. “Now, we focus on building it up and getting a nice goal, rather than just shooting away.”

Miller, an SMAA second-team selection last fall on a 3-8-3 team, has been another key to the Lions’ early success. “Since we’ve had her (in goal), things have been a lot easier,” Esten said. “She does really well communicating with us. We know exactly what she wants us to do all the time. She can see the whole field, so it just helps us out.”

Miller, who has 26 saves in her first three games, said it has been a team effort.

“I think we’re pretty solid from defense all the way up to forward,” she said. “We’ve got girls back (on defense) I can trust. I wouldn’t want anybody else back there. We’ve got girls up top I know are determined to score.”

YARMOUTH COACH Rick Smith reached the 200-win plateau when the Clippers eked out a 3-2 victory against Falmouth on Saturday night.

Smith has coached the squad ever since the varsity program started in 1987.

The top-ranked team in Western Class B, Yarmouth is 4-0. The Clippers have a showdown Monday night with Class A power Greely.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com