Traip Academy sophomore midfielder Molly Sawtelle moves the ball upfield as senior captain Sophia Santamaria supports the play during the No. 2 Rangers’ 6-0 regional quarterfinal win Tuesday against Mt. Abram. Dave Durling photo

KITTERY — All the pieces are there. Quality players across the field. Plenty of depth. A coaching staff with over-qualified resumes.

Kathleen McPherson and the rest of the Traip Academy girls’ soccer team are intent on fusing the pieces into a Gold Ball whole.

“Our goal is to win states. That is the goal. We’re going to do it with integrity. And we really want to win fairly and be proud of what we’re doing, for our town,” McPherson said.

The second-seeded Rangers took their first playoff step with Tuesday’s emphatic 6-0 Class C South quarterfinal win against No. 7 Mt. Abram on their natural grass home field at the Shapleigh School.

McPherson, a junior midfielder, scored three goals off quick redirections of spot-on crossing passes. Senior forward Sydney Auclair had a goal and three assists. Sophomores Julia Durling and Nora Gilbert, part of a talented group of underclass players, scored once each. The defense was sound and poised when infrequently challenged.

The Rangers (13-2) will make their third straight trip to the regional semifinal, hosting No. 14 St. Dominic Academy (5-10-1) on Friday. Traip beat St. Dom’s twice this season.


“We just knew we had to come out as strong as we could and try to make a statement, not only for today but for the rest of the season,” Auclair said.

Auclair put the Rangers on the board 12 minutes into the game, calmly converting a breakaway chance past busy Mt. Abram keeper Emily Kidd (13 saves). Auclair set up McPherson on her first two goals. The second was so perfect, McPherson looked apologetic after scoring.

The past two Traip seasons have ended with penalty-kick losses, in the semifinals in 2017, and 1-0 at home to Maranacook in the 2018 regional final.

“Last year we were happy with how we did but we felt we could have done more,” Auclair said. “So this year we really want to get out there and take this opportunity while we have it.”

This season, Traip’s two losses came in a span of three days, 1-0 against Class B York on a goal with 33 seconds to play and then 3-1 at Class D South No. 1 North Yarmouth. Since then, Traip has won eight straight, six by shutout.

“The last couple of games they’ve really hit their stride and they were playing great soccer today,” said Traip Coach Kristin O’Neill.


Traip won the Class C title in 2001 and was the Western regional champ the following year. But from 2010-2016, the Rangers won one playoff game.

O’Neill, a school counselor at Shapleigh School and former midfielder at the University of New Hampshire, became the head coach in 2014 after seven years as a club coach. Assistants Casey Hopwood and Carley O’Brien are former Traip athletic standouts. Hopwood played soccer at St. Joseph’s College. O’Brien, the Press Herald’s 2011 girls’ track MVP, ran track at Keene State College. Volunteer assistant Michael Jackson was head women’s coach at UNH for 18 years.

“We are so grateful for the coaching staff that we have,” McPherson said. “Having a D-I coach and D-I player and our two assistants Casey and Carley have been incredible. They’ve been so helpful. They’re really pushing us in the right direction to win states.”

Mt. Abram Coach Andrew Delcourt saw a title-worthy team, and his squad played No. 1 Monmouth (a 3-0 loss) in the regular season. If the seeds hold the rest of the way, Monmouth and Traip would meet in the regional final on Tuesday at Lewiston High.

“That’s just a skilled team. Holy mackerel, It was next-level play,” Delcourt said. “Probably the best team, undoubtedly the best team, I’ve seen all year.”

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