Thursday, December 12, 2013
By DALE DUFF Special to the Telegram
BANGOR - The Bangor girls' soccer team is in a familiar place atop the standings in Eastern Class A.
The defending state champions lost a number of key players from last year, including Ashley Robinson, the Maine Sunday Telegram player of the year, but still have opened the season with three straight wins, outscoring opponents 16-2.
"I miss a lot of our good seniors from last year, but we've had a bunch of kids who have been waiting a long time to show what they can do," said fifth-year coach Joe Johnson. "It's been a long time coming. A lot of lessons learned on how to prepare and to compete."
Talk about a great mix -- Johnson's team includes 10 seniors, 11 juniors and seven sophomores.
"It gives us great balance," said Johnson. "Kids are just fighting for spots, competing as hard as they can."
Robinson, who had a school-record 28 goals and 13 assists last year, is now playing at UMaine. Grace MacLean, a senior striker who had 24 goals and 24 assists last year, combined with Robinson to form a nearly unstoppable tandem. But now she is the marked player.
"I may be a target at times, but with good passes from the midfield we can get behind them," she said. "I can usually beat the defenders."
For MacLean, speed is a year-round endeavor. She holds the Penobscot Valley Conference indoor track record in the 55-meter hurdles and finished third at the state championship meet in February.
"Track does help with speed; it helps with the offseason of soccer, keeping in shape and working hard," she said.
Seven goals in the first three games is proof.
"People mark her at their own peril," said Johnson. "We've got a lot of able bodies out there waiting like piranhas, waiting for the ball to come to them to shoot. She'll have two or three players around her but she's so fast. She's got to be one of the fastest players in the state."
It may be tough to duplicate last year's 14-0 regular season and dominating playoff run, where the Rams outscored opponents 18-0. For now, Johnson has his players focused on straightforward goals.
"I try to keep it simple," he said. "Play as hard as you can. Practice as hard as you can. Try and see how good you can be at the end."
MILESTONE: Orono's Bob Sinclair is in his 25th year as a head football coach in the Little Ten Conference, which also includes stints at John Bapst and Hampden Academy. That puts him No. 1 on the all-time list for the conference, which has been in existence for 61 years.
LONGEST YARD: The Ashland soccer teams played their first home games in more than four years Tuesday. It took two years to construct a new school on the site of the old soccer field. Then it took two more years to tear down the old school and build the new athletic complex. The teams practiced and played in Presque Isle, about an hour bus trip. The girls' and boys' teams both scored wins over Van Buren on their new field.