Coach Ricky Doyon has already led the North Yarmouth Academy girls’ soccer program to Class D state championships in 2018 and 2019. He thinks this year’s group, off to an impressive 5-0 start, is his most advanced team yet.

“This team is more technically sound than all the teams we’ve had,” said Doyon, a lieutenant with 31 years of experience with the Biddeford Police Department. “We can move the ball really well. Technically, we see the field really well. We’re able to practice more advanced, which helps us out on game day.”

It’s certainly stronger than the group Doyon inherited when he took the job in the summer of 2016. That roster ended up being so thin that the Panthers played a JV schedule. Then they won only two varsity games in 2017.

NYA has outscored its opponents 31-1 this season, including a 6-0 home win Saturday against 2019 Class C champion Traip Academy, which entered the game 5-0.

The Panthers are an aggressive, offense-oriented team.

Junior Angel Huntsman (team-high 14 goals) scored three goals against Traip – her third game with at least three goals. Her senior sister, Jazzy Huntsman, is one of four others with at least three goals, along with junior Michala Wallace, freshman Emily Robbins and sophomore Hayden Wienckowski.

Speedy outside back Vy Tran, a junior, often helps initiate the offense and has several assists. Center backs Eliza Chace, a senior co-captain, and freshman Ella Giguere are willing to step forward and win challenges in front of junior goalie Charlotte Harper-Cunningham.

“My center (midfielders), they don’t get a whole lot of credit but, boy, Maggie Holt, she just wins the ball, and Michala Wallace, she sets everything up. Michala has great, great touch. I mean, I have a hell of a roster,” Doyon said.

Doyon added, “I got a lot of hockey players and a lot of basketball players. There are only two or three that play club (soccer) year round and the rest are just athletes,” Doyon said.

The Panthers’ strong Western Maine Conference-based schedule should also help prepare them for a playoff run. NYA plays six of its final eight games on the road, including at Class B contender Yarmouth next Tuesday and a season-ending rematch in Kittery against Traip.

COMPETITIVE IMBALANCE has increased in the Mountain Valley Conference, and that has Mt. Abram boys’ coach Darren Allen worried about the future of small-school soccer in his league and across the state.

“The team we played Saturday (Boothbay/Wiscasset) had only 12 players,” Allen said. “We should have a small-sided league for schools who can’t get enough kids, because they’re just getting crushed.”

Mt. Abram, 6-0 and ranked first in the Class C South Heal points, beat Boothbay/Wiscasset 10-0 in a game shortened by a thunderstorm. The Roadrunners also had a 14-0 win over Mountain Valley, and an 11-0 win over Oak Hill. While Mt. Abram has 26 players, many with significant club experience, and a junior varsity team, Allen says most teams in his league are varsity only and, especially this season, are being forced to play freshmen who are not skilled enough or mature enough to compete.

“I’m not going to lie, we are good, but this year (the disparity) is amplified. There are more schools that we’re beating by larger scores,” Allen said.

Allen said creating a high school 7 vs. 7 soccer league, played on a smaller field, would both encourage skill development and lessen the need to push players into varsity competition. Allen would also like to see greater scheduling flexibility. The MVC does not allow its member schools to play outside the conference.

Mike Hagerty, the veteran coach of Class B power Yarmouth, said increasing scheduling flexibility should be the first means of addressing competitive imbalance.

“I mean, if going small-sided is going to increase participation or decrease lopsided scores, I’d be all for it, but I’m the other way. I don’t think our (participation) numbers are an issue state-wide,” Hagerty said. “Most of the teams we play have more than enough for two teams and many of us have three.

“I think we’ve had too many classes in Maine, in all sports, for years. If we could go A, B, C, and you can play anyone in your class, that would open up scheduling that way.”

QUICK STRIKES: The Gorham boys, with 14 seniors, were picked by most Class A South coaches to be a top-three team. But the Rams started 0-3 with one-goal losses to Portland, Marshwood and Falmouth, scoring just two goals. Since then, Gorham has rebounded, beating Cheverus 5-0 and Deering 4-1, with six different goal scorers. “The pieces have always been there, and we know what we have in this group. It’s just been a matter of figuring out how they all fit together best,” said Coach Nick Viola. … Similarly, Cape Elizabeth in Class B South, another team tabbed as a top-10 southern Maine program, started 0-2 with narrow losses to Yarmouth (2-0) and at Greely (2-1). Now Cape is 3-2 after a late-game 1-0 win against Freeport and a 3-1 victory Tuesday at Class C power Waynflete that snapped the Flyers’ 19-game winning streak.


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