FORT KENT, Maine — Injuries are frustrating for athletes, but it’s how they deal with them that measures mental toughness.
Fort Kent High School senior midfielder Taylor Boucher is a prime example of that.
In January, a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee wiped out the remainder of Boucher’s junior season of basketball and softball, but the Warriors’ star didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her.
After having surgery in Portland in late February and attending physical therapy sessions three times a week, Boucher is finally back in Warrior colors, returning to action for Fort Kent’s soccer game against Houlton last Wednesday, a 2-1 Warriors victory.
Even after she went down, Fort Kent soccer coach Kevin St. Jarre was fairly optimistic the hardworking Boucher would return to lead his front line this fall.
“I think you’d be very hard-pressed to find a work ethic like Taylor’s,” he said. “She works very, very hard. She always pushes herself.”
That type of work ethic is nothing new at Fort Kent, as Warrior athletic fans might recall the story of basketball star Marissa Albert, who played out the rest of her senior year after tearing her ACL.
She now plays basketball for Husson University in Bangor, and attended last Wednesday’s soccer match.
“We grow them tough up here,” St. Jarre said.
Instead of pouting, Boucher showcased that mental toughness over the winter and spring and did all she could to get back on the field.
“It was frustrating, but I knew what I had to do to get back,” she said. “I went to every [basketball] practice, and I helped with the team wherever they needed help.”
She was rewarded for those traits last winter, as Fort Kent girls basketball coach Travis Delisle let Boucher play in the final seconds of an Eastern Maine Class C quarterfinal game against eventual regional champ George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill.
“It means a lot to come back and play,” said Boucher, who hadn’t had her operation at that point.
After the surgery, she underwent sessions at County Physical Therapy in Fort Kent, where her rehabilitation consisted of strength and core training, weight training, running and planting.
Boucher’s left leg is her plant leg in soccer.
Concerned about rushing her back too quickly, St. Jarre is easing Boucher back into Fort Kent’s lineup gradually, and she logged roughly 20 minutes of action against Houlton.
“We’ve got to go slow with an injury like that,” he said. “She’s worked her way back step by step, and she wants to get out there to help the team no matter what.”
Boucher’s presence on the field has helped the Warriors to a 3-0 start, including an impressive 1-0 home victory Friday night over Class B contender Caribou.
“The other seniors love to see her out there,” said St. Jarre. “Everybody likes to see Taylor back on the field. She’s just a humble kid who does her best and works very hard.”
Owls flying high
Success on the soccer field is nothing new to Madawaska boys coach Ben Sirois, as his Owls played for the Class C state championship in 2007 and hosted the regional final last fall after earning the No. 1 seed.
Madawaska has all the in-gredients for another run this fall, with nine returning start-ers.
“Pretty much, my team is the same guys as last year,” said Sirois.
Among them are three-year starter Nathan Beaulieu, who returns to anchor the Owls’ attack. Senior sweeper Aaron Marquis, also a three-year starter, will be key on the back line.
Sirois feels his team has some unfinished business to take care of after falling to Washington Academy of East Machias in the 2008 regional final.
“It’s nice because we get to continue on from where we left off last year and build to be big-ger and stronger,” he said. “The guys are all on board as far as being better than last year.”
The Owls also learned a lot about being at the top of the pack.
“Being undefeated last year, we learned that there’s a lot of expectations that go with that,” Sirois said. “We’re willing to take that on and roll with it this year. I think learning from that experience made them a little tougher and hungrier this year.”
Madawaska, which has four games scheduled this week, has two victories and a tie without a loss to its credit thus far.
The Owls will also be one of the more versatile teams in Class C, as Sirois loves to mix things up a bit on the field.
For example Beaulieu, a po-tent offensive presence, can also play fullback.
“I’m optimistic about what we’re doing,” Sirois said.
Goalkeeper Jamie Cyr has been solid in his first three games in a starting role in goal this fall, and his 6-foot-7 frame is quite imposing.
“He’s a leader and he’s our sparkplug,” Sirois said. “He’s pretty nimble on his feet, he’s athletic.”
Off and running
The remnants of Hurricane Danny, which moved up the coast Saturday, forced the cancellation of the PVC’s lone preseason cross country meet.
With drenching rains and gusty winds bearing down on Mount Desert Island, organizers of the MDI Relays, an exhibition meet that attracts teams from throughout the PVC, decided to cancel the meet.
The preseason did begin in earnest last weekend, however, as the Scott Laliberte Invitational was run Friday at the Augusta Civic Center course.
The meet, which honors the memory of former Cony High runner Laliberte, is unique in a sense that the boys and girls all race together over 3.1 miles and team scores are combined.
Cony’s Luke Fontaine and Maranacook of Readfield’s Abby Mace ran to individual victories while Falmouth won the overall team crown.
Fontaine was clocked in 16 minutes, 30 seconds while Mace came in at 20:00.87.
Regular-season action begins Friday with a full slate of meets, including a five-team competition at Bangor featuring Bangor, Brewer and Hampden Academy, along with Lawrence of Fairfield and Waterville, starting at 3:30 p.m.
The Ellsworth Invitational, a well-attended opener, is set for Saturday at 11 a.m.