The MPA high school girls soccer season has run past the midway point and some Mid-coast region squads are really making some noise, while others are still looking to be heard from. Following records do not include Thursday’s action/games.

Morse on a roll

After a season-opening 3-2 loss at home versus Camden Hills, Morse has gone 7-0-1. They are ranked numero uno in Western Maine Class B, ahead of defending champ Falmouth (7-0-0).

“After our Camden Hills game, I didn’t know what to expect from this team and honestly the players were unsure as well,” said Morse coach Steve Boyce. “We were all anxious about living up to the standards set by last year’s team. That game and several team meetings allowed us, players and coaches, to get beyond last year and into the present. We knew that the legacy would create a problem before the season and we have now addressed it and are focused on this year alone.

MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL soccer player Chelsea Crawford and her Eagle teammates are scheduled to host Messalonskee this afternoon.

MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL soccer player Chelsea Crawford and her Eagle teammates are scheduled to host Messalonskee this afternoon.

“We are close to where I had anticipated us to be at this point of the year. Last year, we had a great core group of skilled players around which we only had to find the best support players. This year we have to find and develop that core group. We are very young and it takes some time to mature and gel as a team. I am satisfied with where we are at this point and see us maturing and improving with each new challenge. New team leaders have emerged and some hidden soccer skills have also surfaced.”

Boyce likes what he has seen thus far and the fact that younger players have stepped up.

“As we approach the later portion of the year, we have to refine our finishing skills as we continually outshoot our opponents but, at times, have had some difficulty finding the back of the net and outscoring them,” offered Boyce. “I am not surprised that sophomores Miracle Trimble and Brianna Williams are our leading scorers. I am now looking for us to take advantage of the other scorers on the team. We have begun to see more good scoring opportunities from others which, I believe, is a key component to going deep into the postseason.”

Defensively, the Shipbuilders have stepped up to the plate.

“The core defense of Nichole Laggan, Megan Hixon, Morgan Cram and Baylie Cram are beginning to feel more confident in their defensive abilities as each game passes,” said Boyce. “Together with our center midfielders Bess Howell and Paige Martin, they have developed into a solid force protecting keeper, Sadia Crosby and keeping the pressure on our opponents.”

Heading into the homestretch, Morse has some tough games, including a rematch with Camden Hills on Oct. 10.

“I told our team that every game is equally important,” said Boyce. “Some may be against a stronger opponent, more Heal Points, but we need the same effort and outcome each game. Obviously, we want to avenge our earlier loss against Camden Hills and playing them and Gardiner twice presents its own challenges. The biggest challenge is to remain focused for the remainder of the season and, if we make the post season, enter it as healthy as possible.

“As it turns out this year’s schedule gives us the final week of the season off, without games unless we have a make-up one. This is a great opportunity for us to get more fit and healthy as we go into the post season. I am also hoping for maybe a tune-up scrimmage before it all begins.”

It all comes down to confidence.

“This team is young and has begun to believe in itself,” offered Boyce. “Confidence in our own abilities and that of our teammates has helped us deal with most adversity during competition. This group has encountered all sorts of challenges along the way and is continuing to develop their ability to cope with and overcome them as they search for team success.”

Close games for Freeport

“We are currently 4-4 … I was hoping that we would be 5-4 at this point,” said Freeport coach Elayna Girardin, whose charges head to Wells on Saturday. “We had two close games with Waynflete (lost in overtime) and OOB (lost 2-1). I knew that those games would be both close and tough, but I was hoping to come out of one of them with a win.”

Injuries, as with most teams, have slowed the Falcons a bit.

“We have been plagued with injuries, but our team has shown great perseverance,” lauded Girardin. “No matter what injuries we have had and when they have come — some we found out they couldn’t play only minutes before the game so there was little time to adjust— the girls have worked hard and been incredibly flexible in formation and positioning.”

And, there are always adjustments to make for Freeport, currently ranked 10th in Western Maine Class B (11 teams make the postseason).

“As teams get better while the season progresses, we have to make sure that we continue to fine-tune offense and defense throughout the season.”

Everyone seems to have played a hand in the wins.

“We do not really have one person who stands out,” offered Girardin. “Our team really likes to move the ball, creating opportunities for many of our strikers and midfielders on the team

“Jocelyn Davee has been a strength in the midfield, she helps us maintain control in the midfield and works equally hard offensively and defensively,” said Girardin. “Brooke Heathco is the backbone of our defense. She helps keep them organized and does a great job of slowing down the other team to allow us to get back and help.”

There are big challenges ahead with Class B foes Yarmouth (ranked eight), York (fifth) and Poland (ninth), along with Class A Cape Elizabeth (sixth)

“Our conference is very difficult, and with us being up against other conferences for playoffs, every game counts,” added Girardin. “Between this and the many games we have in a short time, we rarely get to regroup from injuries or tough games, and so there is very little wiggle room for error. Every game we have coming up counts and we need to do our best to win so that we can get a place in playoffs.”

There is a lot to like about this squad, added Girardin.

“Their flexibility and dedication to the team,” praised the coach. “They are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team out. Whether it’s running over at an away game to be a ball girl in the last few minutes because their ball girl is missing, or playing a position that they are not comfortable with, they never question or put up a fight. They just say yes coach and work their hardest.

“I am just taking it one game at a time and hope that if I continue to work on our weaknesses that we will be solid for playoffs.”

Youth served at Mt. Ararat

“Going into the season, I thought we would struggle a bit more because of the youth on the team,” said Mt. Ararat coach Sam Chard, whose charges are 5-3 and ranked ninth in Eastern Maine Class A. “After graduating seven starters, including my goalie, I really thought we would lose more games.

“We are capable of playing a great passing game and when our strikers are on, they’re pretty tough to beat,” added Chard. “I think we need more consistency in our defense and midfield. We’ve gone away from our passing game the past couple of games and its hurt our confidence. I think we need more creative play from our strikers as well.”

Maddie Prescott is the goal leader with six, and Libby Ouellette is second with five. Sierra Gilley is the Eagles’ assist leader with four.

“We have a lot of youth on the squad (10 sophomores, four freshmen), so scoring is going to be fewer than in the past, but with more experience, they’ll hopefully come alive in the moment of need,” said Chard.

In midfield, “Priscilla Whitney has stepped up big in the last few games,” said Chard. “She’s tough, fast and relentless on defense. Sonja Robert has also stepped up in the last few games. We’ve had to change some of the lineups, but I think it’s better for the team.”

Up next are Brunswick and Bangor, among others.

“I think either team can be beat on any given day,” said Chard. “The biggest challenge will be the mind game that we often play on ourselves.

“Our first meeting with Brunswick (4-0 loss) shouldn’t have gone the way it did, but we allowed ourselves to be beat before the game even started. Not to take away anything from Brunswick, they played a great game that day, but I think we were off. We’ve changed a few things around, much to the chagrin of some players, but it needed to be done in order to be more competitive.

“I think the next meeting will be a better match with more scoring opportunities from our offense.”

Chard likes this lunch-pail group.

“Since we don’t have any superstars on the team, we’ve had to remind each other every day that it’s going to take a team effort to be successful,” said Chard. “I like the fact that they’ve recognized this and they know their full potential. My team also likes to have fun and sometimes you need that in the season to break away from the stress of playing well and winning.

“One day last week, my team had a ‘dress up like Sam Chard day’ at school, and every one of my players had blue shorts, sunglasses, lollipop and DD coffee cup in their hands. Then they all showed up for practice to show me. Gotta love it!”

There’s always an eye to the postseason.

“Consistency and focus,” allowed Chard. “Our team is capable of playing some good soccer and they have that to prove not only to themselves, but to their rivals. We need to continue with what worked well and correct some of the mistakes. Against good teams, mistakes come back to haunt us.

“I think there are several teams this year that can go far. It’s not just the usual top-4 or top-5, but anyone in the playoff picture has the potential to upset someone ahead of them.”

Under the radar

The Lisbon girls are coming off a 3-0 win over highly-regarded Wiscasset, which boosted the Greyhounds to fourth in Western Maine Class C.

Lisbon quietly sports a 7-0-1 record with five shutouts and a 25-4 goals differential.

“The season is going well for us,” said head coach Jake Gentle. “We have had some close games. We started of the season trying to find out what we do and do not do well. The girls are improving as the season goes along.”

Gentle can draw a lot of positives from the season thus far.

“The positives are that we have been able to win games while battling injuries,” said the coach. “Players have stepped up in the absence of other injured individuals. Our goalie play has also developed. Courtney Martel came into the season with no experience at the position and has done a terrific job.

“There are aspects we as a team still need to improve on,” continued Gentle. “We must get better at increasing our quality opportunities on net with our restart plays. Our offensive leader has been Kayla Angelico (13 goals, four assists), with Renae Samay-Houle and Chelsea Huston also providing goals. Our defense has been anchored by Gabby Ouellette at sweeper. Chantal Bisson (back) and Shantal MacWhinnie (midfield) have also done an outstanding job with their defensive assignments. Kailyn Hill and Drew Stewart-Staples have also done a great job defensively.”

There are a lot of important games down the stretch. Fourthranked Dirigo today and secondranked St. Dom’s on Oct. 11

“We have several challenges that lay ahead,” said Gentle. “Every game is very important. For us to achieve our team goals we must focus on one game at a time and treat each as the most important game on the schedule. We must also try to get everyone healthy for the last stretch of the season. What I like most about these girls is their hard work and determination. They play hard and leave it all on the field. I also like that they have great team chemistry.”

Gentle won’t look too far ahead.

“As a coach I do not focus on peaking. We concern ourselves with playing better every time we step out on the field. We try to get better as individuals and as a team every day.

“I feel if the team continues to improve and play well we can get have great season.”

Brunswick perfect so far

The Brunswick girls are riding high, coming off an emotional 2-1 win over defending state Class A champion Bangor last week.

The Dragons are 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in Eastern Maine Class A.

“We are a little ahead of where we thought we would be,” said coach Martyn Davison. “I don’t think may people thought we would go to Bangor and defeat them on their own field. Apart from that result we are where we thought we would be, although we have some tough games coming up.

“The positives I can draw from the first games are the mental strength of the team,” added Davison. “We looked a little light in matters of talent than we have been in recent years, but this group has more than made up for this with their heart and endeavor. For example I haven’t been able to sub as much as I like due to injuries and options, and some players have had to play the entire game without a break, which is tough to do.

“For example, Paige Tetu and Anna Cowan have run their socks off in every game and have dug deep to find the strength and determination. The game at Bangor epitomized this with the team having to defend for large periods of the game, but finding the courage to get the job done. At times we have played some great soccer, but our close games we have won with spirit.”

Still, lots to do at both ends.

“We need to work on passing the ball quicker and not allowing the opposition time and space to play,” offered Davison.

Offensive leaders have been Cowan, Tetu, Rachel Moroney and Kassidy Scarponi, while in the midfield Madeline Cowan, Julia Champagne, Libby Arford, Lena Martin and Jena Libby have shined.

And the postseason?

“We need to keep our focus and remain strong for the remainder of the regular season,” said Davison. “We have tough games to come and I am a firm believer in team spirit, so we try to do fun things outside of soccer to keep the girls mentally fresh and ready to play.

“At this stage of the season, we are as fit as we will be and the team is pretty much set, so it’s a matter of keeping us mentally sharp for the tough games ahead.”

GEORGE ALMASI is the Times Record sports editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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