They are the darlings of Black Bear United.
The Under-14 girls team became the first Black Bear United team to win back-to-back state championships last season when they captured the Under-13 title.
Make it three in a row.
Dr. Jay Pyne’s Under-14 girls have allowed just one goal in 12 State Cup games over the last three seasons and claimed the crown this year with a triumph over Odyssey of Portland in the semifinals, 4-3 in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw, and a 1-0 overtime triumph over Metro Football Club of Portland in the final.
They will head to Barboursville, W.Va., with Black Bear United’s Under-16 boys and girls teams for the U.S. Soccer Region 1 championships on July 1-6.
There are 11 players who have played on all three state championship teams and that continuity, plus the addition of five new players, have supplied the Under-14 team with, perhaps, its best chance to win a game at the Region 1 Tournament. They went 0-2-1 in the previous two appearances at the U-12 and U-13 levels.
“This is the best team I’ve coached,” said Pyne, who has coached the U-12, U-13 and now the U-14 state-title teams. “We have kept our most talented players and have added some new ones.”
Pyne said he has some “outstanding athletes,” several of whom also play other sports, and the team has a special chemistry.
“What stands out is how much they enjoy each other,” said Pyne. “It’s a very tight-knit group. They have a ton of fun together.”
“We’re all really good friends and we play well as a team,” said striker Melanie Vangel of Camden, the team’s leading scorer and the girl who scored the overtime winner against Metro.
“We’re a sisterhood,” concurred Bangor’s Emily Smith, a back. “We play well together. No one hogs the ball, no one thinks they’re better than anyone else. We all understand it’s a team sport.”
They are very stingy.
They have allowed only nine goals in going 13-2-5 overall while scoring 39. They have outscored in-state opponents 24-2 in going 9-0.
Anchoring the defense is goalkeeper Abby Pyne of Dixmont, Jay’s daughter, who stands 5-foot-11 at age 13.
Vangel said Pyne is an “amazing” goalkeeper.
She has benefited from working with former University of Maine goalkeeper Nemanja Kostic, who transferred to Indiana University after Maine dropped its men’s soccer program and played in four games this past fall for the Hoosiers, who reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“He has been really good for me,” said Pyne.
She also said she has the “three best defenders” around in front of her.
She is referring to Hampden’s Kristi Reichel, who is the center back in the 3-4-3 alignment, along with Hermon’s Amanda Allen and Holden’s Tiffany Gray, who flank her.
Coach Pyne considers them first-rate shutdown defenders.
“They are very talented, very fast and very physical,” said the coach.
Smith, who can “throw the ball a mile,” according to coach Pyne, and Ellsworth’s Emily Berry, provide quality depth off the bench in the back.
Up front, Vangel has 16 goals and is a “rare player,” according to Coach Pyne.
“Nobody in the state comes close to her talent-wise as a goal scorer,” said Pyne. “She has outstanding dribbling skills, great footwork and a cannon for a shot. She’s also a very good passer who works well with our other forwards.”
Hermon’s Kaitlin Saulter, a speedster, is the second leading scorer with six goals.
Winslow’s Pilar Elias and Orono’s Hanna Renedo are the other strikers and they also have excellent skills according to their coach.
The midfield is led by Ellsworth’s Katey Curtis, Hampden’s Naomi Shearer, Bar Harbor’s Elizabeth Weathers and Fairfield’s Ahlin Sungsuwan.
Weathers is the only high school player on the team as she was a freshman at Mount Desert Island High this past year.
Surry’s Kaiti Kinney, Winterport’s Erin Jeter, Orono’s Diana Tyutyunnyk and Hermon’s Mollie Roy have also provided productive minutes in the midfield.
“There isn’t a major drop-off when we bring players in off the bench,” said Vangel. “We have a lot of good players who don’t start.”