YARMOUTH — It was an odd question to ask the coach of a team that dominated its opponents last season, but North Yarmouth Academy girls’ soccer coach Ricky Doyon was quick with an answer.

After scoring 105 goals and allowing just five in 2021, including outscoring opponents 22-1 in the playoffs in winning a third straight Class D state championship, how can the Panthers improve this year?

“There’s always something you can improve on. A little more ball control, not give the ball away, and take advantage of opportunities,” said Doyon as he waited for his team to take the field for Tuesday morning’s practice. “We’ve had games where we’ve had many, many shots and we scored four or five goals, but we could’ve scored more. Not that we needed to score more. Take advantage of opportunities early. We’d make up for it in the second half, but we’ve got to get better in the first half.”

Last season, NYA went 17-0-1, the tie coming against Class B powerhouse Yarmouth. The Panthers made the long drive to Presque Isle to beat Wisdom 3-0 in the state championship game, their third state title since the start of the 2018 season (there was no state tournament in 2020 because of the pandemic). Last season’s championship run was the high point of the NYA girls’ soccer resurgence that began in 2017.

NYA is scheduled to open the season Sept. 1 at Old Orchard Beach. Like last season, the Panthers’ regular-season slate is primarily against Class C competition, with a few games against Class B and D opponents. It’s a tough schedule designed to get the team ready for the Class D playoffs.

“We want to prepare and be ready. There’s some good D schools out there that can play with B and C all day long. Especially up North. Wisdom, that’s a very good team,” Doyon said.


Michala Wallace, a senior midfielder, is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s going to be a lot of work to get to the place we were last year, but it’s going to be exciting to see how we improve and connect,” Wallace said.

The Panthers won five straight Class C state titles from 2003-07 before beginning a decade-long slide. After winning just two games in Class C South in 2015, NYA played a junior varsity schedule in 2016, Doyon’s first season as coach. In 2017, the Panthers were back to a varsity schedule in Class D and won just two games again. In 2018, they rebounded to win the Class D state championship with a 4-1 victory over Central Aroostook in the title game.

NYA’s recent dominance comes at a time when high school athletes play sports year round. Many of the Panthers do too, though they’re not playing soccer in the summer. Senior midfielder Angel Huntsman pointed out that no one on the current NYA roster plays for one of the premier soccer clubs in the area. Huntsman spent her summer focused on basketball, which she plans to play at Bates College. Wallace focused on ice hockey this summer.

“A lot of that (success) has to do with our coach, Ricky. Keep in mind, nobody on our team now currently plays soccer outside of this. It’s really a group of athletic girls. Girls who play hockey and basketball and come together and have fun,” Huntsman said.

It helps to be able to build the program around strong athletes like Huntsman, who scored 33 goals last season, Doyon said.


“Angel, she’s one of those players that you can put anywhere, anytime. You want a whole team worth of Angels,” Doyon said. “The dynamics will be a little different this year. We lose some strong players. Not only strong at soccer, but the physicality. They were able to knock girls off the ball and win it and push the field. I think we’ll lose that piece of it. I think we’ll be a little more finesse this year.”

Once again, the Panthers will focus on controlling play and increasing the pace. Doyon is confident about his defense, including sophomore center back Ella Giguere and senior goalie Charlotte Harper-Cunningham, but it’s better if they’re keying the transition to offense rather than playing on their heels.

“If you have the ball and you’re attacking, great opportunities happen,” Doyon said. “We want to attack up high. We don’t want to wait for them to break our lines and attack our defense. If you have the ball, they’re not scoring.”

The goal of the season also is to prepare the next generation of players for varsity roles while winning games. With a big lead in most games last season, that was easy, Doyon said. Giguere learned on the job in the middle of the defense.

“Last year as a freshman, there was a lot of pressure. Especially going in the state game, I was extremely nervous. But everybody helps each other,” Giguere said.

Doyon pointed to junior midfielder Kailyn McIntyre as a player who made the most of those opportunities, improved, and is ready to take on a greater role this season. The captain of the JV team last season, McIntyre kept getting better, and was a key player in NYA’s victory in the state title game, assisting on one the three goals.

“She just kept winning the ball back,” Doyon said of McIntyre’s effort in that game. “It just goes to show you, as the season progress how some of these players really get it.”

McIntyre is eager to take another step in her development as a player, and wants it to come with another run at a Gold Ball.

“You need to show in practice that you’re ready and you want to be out there. You’ve got to pay attention on the bench. You’re not joking around and stuff like that,” she said. “I’m ready and I’m looking forward to the season. I think we have a good team, and we can do something with it. I’m excited.”

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