YORK — After playing Class B state champion Yarmouth to a standstill in a Western Class B soccer semifinal last October, the York boys appear ready to show they can play with all of the powerhouses from the Western Maine Conference.

“We earned some respect last year,” York midfielder Liam Langaas said. “We weren’t necessarily a team that you highlight on your schedule as a tough game. But last year you definitely did not want to see us coming off the bus. We want to keep that going this year.”

After winning only two games in the 2009 season, the Wildcats finished the 2010 regular season with a 9-6-1 record in the tough WMC and picked up a win in the regional tournament before the Clippers eked out a 1-0 win against them in the semifinals.

“I think they all got a taste of success last year, and they feel success breeds success, and they want more of it,” said York Coach Mike Masi, in his second year at his high school alma mater. “They know now they really can compete at that highest level, and they’re really excited about going toe-to-toe with teams like Yarmouth, Falmouth, Greely and Cape Elizabeth.”

But the Wildcats aren’t getting carried away.

“We’ve got to respect the Falmouths and the Yarmouths and the Greelys,” said Pierce Touhig, a senior striker who led the team in goals in his first varsity season last fall. “Even if they think we’re loaded, they’re probably just as good.”

Masi, who teaches physical science and astronomy at Oyster River High School in Durham, N.H., played for the Wildcats when they won Class B state titles in 1996 and 1998.

For the past decade, football has been the more popular fall sport at York, and the players on the soccer team hope their success will generate more interest in their game.

“There’s always lots of folks at football games,” sweeper Kyle Robinson said.

“The stands are packed with fans, and we want to bring some of those fans back to the soccer games.”

Nearly everyone returns from last year’s tournament team, which is a good reason for the Wildcats’ optimism.

“We’re very versatile, and we have a lot of players who can play different positions,” Langaas said.

Also, most of the players on the team play soccer year-round.

“Pretty much everybody on the varsity team plays or has played for Seacoast United,” Touhig said, referring to the soccer club based in Epping, N.H. “It definitely helped me a lot with my touches.”

Masi said the York Soccer Club, the town’s youth program, is primarily responsible for the resurgence of soccer at the school. “They’ve done a great job producing good players,” he said.

Since his return, Masi, who played at Bates College, has gotten the Wildcats to play a fast-paced game designed to keep the pressure on opponents.

He also has moved some players to different spots in the formation.

Last season, Robinson, a striker in his first two varsity seasons, was moved to the back line.

“I was kind of bummed out not scoring goals, but (Masi) knows what he’s doing and what is best for the team,” Robinson said. “As long as it helps the team, I’m all for it. I’d rather have us go deep in the playoffs than me score a lot of goals.”

That unselfish attitude permeates the York lineup.

“Sacrificing your own personal stats for the good of the team is the big theme this year,” Langaas said. “For us to win, that’s what it’s got to be. It comes down to playing for the team and not for yourself.”

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: PaulBetit