When his two-year starting goalkeeper decided to attend a prep school in New Jersey for her senior year, Orono girls soccer coach Cid Dyjak needed somebody to step in and and fill a tough job.
Jade Keezer, a three-year veteran on the back line, volunteered to step in for Elizabeth Fox. The two-time defending Eastern Maine Class C champion Red Riots are doing just fine, as they not only boast a 6-0-1 record with half the regular season to play, but also have outscored their opponents 28-0.
Keezer is gaining more confidence in goal.
“She’s a very, very intelligent player. She’s able to make some transitions and she understands the game, which I think is much to her credit,” Dyjak said.
Keezer is a bit surprised at how well she has played so far.
“Coming into it I didn’t think I would have (seven) shutouts in a row,” she said during a break in practice last week. “I haven’t had any experience with it, I just thought I’d be good for the team.”
This group of Red Riots again boasts a team-first mentality.
“We have an exceptional group of kids, it’s just a joy to coach them,” Dyjak said. “They’re learning well, and they compete well.”
Orono’s offense is bolstered by returning players Alex Crocker, Analies Ross-Dyjak, the coach’s daughter, Kate Berry and Taylor Chasse. Newcomers Kate Ferguson and Hannah Renedo have complemented those players well.
Renedo, a freshman, is one of Dyjak’s more versatile players, as she can push up on the attack but can also patrol the midfield when needed.
“That’s always terrific to have a quality player come into your program like that,” Dyjak said.
Another player who can make her presence felt on both ends of the field is senior Shelby Wheeler, who can play either in the midfield or on the back line, while Orono’s defense is led by Caleigh Paul, Riley Mahan and Kayla Marquis.
The Riots’ depth also allows Dyjak to mix with different alignments.
“Sometimes we play a 4-4-2 (four backs, four midfielders, two strikers), 4-3-3, sometimes a 3-5-2, we change it to sort of meet what we’re trying to do with that particular week,” Dyjak said.
One thing the Riots have prided themselves on over the last few years is offensive discipline and making as many passes as possible. The team was working a lot on “wall passing,” or give-and-go’s, during a recent session.
“That’s what our team is, not a one-man team. The whole team participates and we like to move the ball around the field,” Crocker said.
While the memory of last fall’s 1-0 state championship game loss to Georges Valley does sting, the Riots are focused on the present. A state championship is certainly a legitimate goal, but it’s not something that’s on the players’ minds.
“It’s funny because we don’t spend a lot of time with that, we never have,” Dyjak said. “They just want to do the best they can every day.”
The Riots also don’t approach each game like they’re going to roll over any opponent.
“We prepare (for) each game like its our biggest competition and we never go into a game thinking they’re easy wins,” Crocker said.
Orono, which has entered the meat of its schedule, tied Central of Corinth 0-0 on Saturday while the Riots face rival Old Town today.
Orono beat Old Town 1-0 earlier this fall and another victory over the Class B Coyotes could go a long way toward the Riots potentially earning the top seed in Class C, home-field advantage throughout the postseason and avoiding a potential trip to the St. John Valley come playoff time.
Fort Kent (7-1-1) is the top team in Class C while Orono is fourth.
Redman, Smith return to boost Rams
Depth is essential to a soccer team’s success, and the undefeated Bangor girls have plenty of it, especially on defense. The Rams have only surrendered four goals at the halfway point of their schedule.
Coach Joe Johnson’s midfield and back line got boosts the last couple of games with the return of senior midfielder Sadie Redman and junior goalkeeper Mia Smith, both of whom had missed the first couple of weeks with knee injuries.
Smith returned to action in a 7-0 shutout win over Lawrence of Fairfield on Sept. 20 after Meri Wicks, who had done a strong job in net for Bangor the first half of the year, was injured against Waterville.
“It’s nice to get a goalie of her caliber back from injury when one of Meri’s caliber went down with injury,” Johnson said.
Smith had six saves in a 1-1 tie with a tough Hampden Academy team Friday night. Redman logged roughly 20 minutes of game action and can play either on the offensive or defensive side of the midfield.
“Sadie will play where we need her. She’ll go anywhere you’ll ask her,” Johnson said.
More importantly, having a player of Redman’s skill back in the fold will go a long way.
“You always love having an inspirational leader like her, a kid that plays very hard,” Johnson said.
Bangor returns to action today when it faces Messalonskee of Oakland.
Selander breaks record
Caribou senior striker Jenna Selander is now the all-time leading scorer in the history of the school’s girls soccer program.
Selander broke Beth Corrow’s record of 53 career goals on Sept. 18 against Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln.
Corrow played soccer for the Vikings from 1984-87.
Selander has 13 goals this fall for coach Todd Albert’s club, which enters this week’s play with an 8-0-1 record and a spot atop the Eastern Maine Class B Heal point standings. Selander’s 58th career goal turned out to be the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over Old Town on Saturday.
Caribou, which has five games left in the regular season, returns to action Thursday against John Bapst, which marks the Vikings’ third straight road contest.
In other action over the weekend, Bucksport junior striker Mindy Pye recorded all five of her team’s goals in the Golden Bucks’ 5-2 victory over Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor on Saturday.
“She’s one of those girls that just has a knack for getting the ball and has a nose for the goal,” Bucksport coach Bill Tracy said.
Pye scored four of her goals in the first half as the Golden Bucks raced out to a 4-0 lead, scoring the first of those goals by the 20-minute mark of the first half.
MDI responded with goals by Becca Edgecomb and Emily Dunbar to pull within 4-2 in the second half, but Pye scored her final goal with 18:39 remaining in regulation to put it away.
Bailey Blair had five saves on seven shots for 2-3-1 Bucksport while Taylor Walls stopped six of 11 shots for 1-4-1 MDI.