In this 2916 file photo, Kennebunk’s Maxwell Murray looks to make a play during a Rams boys’ soccer game against Kennebunk. Murray is one of Kennebunk’s top players for the 2019 team (DEREK DAVIS/Portland Press Herald)

KENNEBUNK – One game at a time.

That’s the mindset Kennebunk boys’ soccer head coach Greg Cavanaugh has instilled in his players as the Rams prepare for the 2019 season.

With Kennebunk opening its season at Noble High on Saturday, Cavanaugh’s sole focus is on the Knights this week. He’ll wait until after the Rams’ opener to start looking at their next opponent, a home game against Deering on Sept. 13. 

“We have to have that isolated mindset,” Cavanaugh said. “The SMAA is so deep. Every team, no matter the standings, is tough. Every game can tilt with one play, one injury, one 50-50 ball, and we have to be ready for that.”

For a team that has a battle-hardened group of eight seniors who have gone through the growing pains of defeat as underclassmen, the Rams appear ready to compete.

Kennebunk finished 7-6-1 last season to earn the No. 6 seed in the Class A South playoffs. The Rams’ season ended with a 2-0 loss to No. 3 Portland in a quarterfinal matchup. Among that core senior group are Ariel Calandri, a Journal Tribune All-Star in 2018, and Maxwell Murray, a center back who’s headed to the University of Vermont next year to play soccer for the Catamounts.

Murray, a captain on this year’s squad, along with Calandri and seniors Benson Furber and Tyler Hurlburt, thinks the losing the upperclassmen experienced early in their high school careers helped them mature. When this current group of seniors were freshmen, Cavanaugh said, they suffered some defeats that could have caused players to quit on the team. But the  Rams came out of those battles with a newfound edge and maturity.

“They really could’ve given up the values our program teaches,” Cavanaugh said. “Losing can be really hard. So, with this group of seniors, to see them grow, it reminds me why I love what I do.”

Working on their game instead of giving up, Murray said, helped the Rams expand their knowledge on the field. Over time, Murray and his classmates have learned to make better reads on the field. A key cog in the Rams defense, Murray has improved his ability to see what his opponents’ offense is doing ahead of time. Much of that improvement, he said, was nothing more than repetition in practice and through trial and error during games.  

“This senior class, when we were freshmen, we were the youngest team in the league,” Murray said. “Our group of seniors has been together for a while, and we know what we need to do.” 

Junior forward Samuel Tarte has leaned on the senior group for guidance heading into the season, and he believes the Rams can go deep in the playoffs if they play with intensity and focus each time they step on the field. 

“We know (a long playoff run) is going to be difficult,” Tarte said. “But, I think we have the right components to so far in the region. I think the main thing is we all need to come to practice focused. The games are the fun part, and (the upperclassmen) have been trying to convey that.”

For Murray, he’s hoping his guidance and play on the field helps lead the Rams to a deep playoff run in his final year at Kennebunk.

“Everybody’s ultimate goal is to win the Gold Ball,” he said. “For us, we just need to stay together as a team, work hard, and try to get as far as possible.”

Cavanaugh said this year’s Kennebunk team is the most mature he’s ever coached, and while he’d love the chance to play for a Class A state championship later this fall, the head coach has stressed the importance of building a foundation of character development.

“(That foundation) is everything,” Cavanaugh said. “It drives the process of everything that we do. So for us, it’s so important because you can’t skip steps to find success. I think our guys have learned through the fire the importance of persistence and patience. They are an impressive group.”

 

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