DYER BROOK, Maine — For Brittany Charette, Emma Senzek and their Southern Aroostook girls soccer teammates, this is new territory.
For first-year head coach Holly Vining, it’s a shot at redemption, of sorts.
Vining played on the last Warriors team to reach the Class D state championship game back in 1993. SAHS lost to Richmond 3-0.
Now, Charette and Senzek, Vining’s only seniors, have a chance to piece together the final chapter of their own storybook season as the Warriors vie for the state championship against Western Maine champ Greenville on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Schenck High in East Millinocket.
In other schoolgirl championship action around the state, Gorham takes on Waterville in the Class A game at McMann Field in Bath at 10 a.m., Presque Isle faces Falmouth in the Class B game and Orono meets Waynflete of Portland in the Class C contest, both at Hampden Academy.
Charette is no stranger to the big stage in athletics. She was a member of the Warriors’ basketball team that advanced to the Eastern Maine final in 2006.
However, this feeling of success is not the same.
“It’s a lot different. We’ve never been this successful in soccer before,” Charette said before practice Thursday. “I mean we’ve always had a good basketball team, but it’s just everything changed completely in just this one year.”
Charette, a striker, has been one of the Warriors’ offensive catalysts with 14 goals, spearheading a balanced attack which has received great contributions from Janel Rockwell, Rachelle Nadeau, Liz Goodall and Evangeline Goodall.
“It’s been a real team effort,” Vining said. “They pulled together as a team I think more so than they had ever experienced in soccer before.”
Center fullback Senzek helps anchor a solid back line of Jasmine Rockwell, Lauren McGary, Cassie Garcelon and Shelby Hartin, which has helped ’keeper Emily Cummings post two shutouts so far in the postseason, including a 1-0 triumph over Ashland in the regional final.
“Coach set goals for us and we exceeded every one, that’s how we did it,” said Senzek.
Having seen the Hornets twice in the regular season, Senzek had a good feeling what to expect.
“We basically went over [our game plan] again and again,” she said. “Coach just inspired us, we just pulled through.”
Vining feels the 15-1-1 Warriors match up well with Greenville.
“I hear that they’re very strong at midfield [and] they play a lot of boot-and-run style,” she said. “We may need to keep our game out on the wings.”
As Southern Aroostook kept piling up the victories, the Warriors kept reverting to the Bill Belichick style of staying humble and not looking ahead of anyone on the schedule.
“We took it one game at a time,” said Charette, who scored the only goal of the regional final against Ashland.
Once the Warriors realized they had a chance to be atop the Heal Point rankings at the end of the season, they elevated their play even higher.
“Basically, our goal was to host Eastern Maine,” Vining said. “It wasn’t until [near] the end that we realized we had a shot with Heal Points. We had decided if we could win our last two games, no one could catch us in Heal Points.”
Senzek’s lifelong fantasy of playing for a gold ball has certainly come true.
“It’s been amazing, I mean how often do you get this chance to be on a great team and make such strong friendships with everybody?” said Senzek. “We have our dream. We’re not chasing it anymore.”
Now, there’s just one more step in making that dream an even better reality.
Class C: Orono head coach Cid Dyjak is making his first appearance in a state final in his 26th year.
The Red Riots’ defense has been stingy throughout the Eastern Maine playoffs, with two shutouts in three games.
Lauren Dwyer, Riley Mahan, Jade Keezer and Caleigh Paul have been stout in front of goalkeeper Elizabeth Fox.
Orono will be looking to slow a Waynflete team which defeated second-seeded Georges Valley of Thomaston and top-seeded North Yarmouth Academy to reach the state final.
Class B: Presque Isle had to withstand a furious charge from Winslow to end the Black Raiders’ four-year stranglehold on the championship.
Coach Ralph Michaud’s Wildcats feature one of Class B’s top scoring tandems in Kayla Legassie and Sarah Porter.
Presque Isle jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Winslow before the Black Raiders rallied to tie it. Legassie’s goal late in the second half sent the Wildcats into the state final.
Second-seeded Falmouth up-ended top seed York 1-0 in a low-scoring Western Maine final, but the Wildcats should feel right at home playing on Hampden’s FieldTurf surface.
Class A: This game is a rematch of last year’s state final, won by Gorham 2-1.
Waterville outlasted Brunswick by that same score in a tough Eastern Maine final, and coach Ian Wilson’s Purple Panthers, led by Jordan Pellerin and Stephanie Whitten, seek their first state title since 1984. Gorham has won the last three.