Seldom do high school archrivals meet with a championship on the line.
But when Aroostook County rivals Presque Isle and Caribou meet today for the third time this year, an Eastern Maine Class B girls soccer championship will be at stake. Longtime PI coach Ralph Michaud believes it’s the first time the two schools have met in such a game in any sport, which should bring in a big crowd.
“I think its going to be really big,” said Michaud, whose club travels to Caribou for a 6 p.m. match.
Elsewhere in the East, Brunswick will host Bangor in Class A at 2 p.m., Orono travels to Fort Kent for the Class C final at 1 p.m. and Van Buren will face Ashland in Class D, with that championship being played in Presque Isle at 4 p.m.
Caribou owned its rival during the regular season, beating the Wildcats 5-3 and 3-1, but defeating a team three times in a row is one of the toughest tasks in all of sports.
Just ask Presque Isle, which beat Caribou in two regular-season matches last fall before the Vikings ousted the Wildcats in the regional semifinals.
“Last year we were the team that beat them in the playoffs after losing twice. We’re hoping the tables aren’t turned,” Caribou coach Todd Albert said.
The experience of a humbling 6-1 loss to Winslow in the regional final last fall provided added incentive for the Vikings.
“I think last year it was a big momentum for us to beat Presque Isle, it hadn’t happened in such a long time, then we got to the Eastern Maine finals, it was like, OK, that’s good,” Albert said. “Now I’ve got 16 girls who were a part of that last year, who know what it’s all about.”
Caribou and Presque Isle last played on the last day of the regular season, and at that point were ranked first and second in the Heal points, and Caribou’s victory solidified home-field advantage.
But the third-ranked Wildcats, who won the Eastern Maine title in 2008, are confident, having outscored Winslow and Camden Hills 9-1 in their two playoff games, including a shutout of a Windjammers club that hadn’t been blanked all season.
“We had a game-plan going in to stop their leading scorer and the girls stopped it perfectly,” Michaud said.
Presque Isle’s main offensive threats are Chelsea Nickerson, Chandler Guerrette, Shae Adler and Kayla Richards, while Caribou is led by one of Class B’s top players in Jenna Selander, along with Olivia Sleeper.
Selander has been hard to stop vs. Presque Isle in 2010, as she has five goals in two games against the Wildcats.
The Vikings’ defense has been stout with shutouts of Ellsworth and Hermon in two playoff games, and Morgan Swan has improved vastly in goal, Albert said, with Katie Keaton shining in the back.
Caribou’s backs will have to be aware of the direct and corner kicks of Presque Isle’s Nickerson, who like Sarah Porter a couple years ago, does a nice job of setting up scoring chances on restarts, especially with her left foot.
“That’s what got us going down (at) Camden,” Michaud said. “You don’t face a lot of lefties. The ball comes in from a different angle.”
The Class C contest is a rematch, as Orono and Fort Kent met in the regional final last fall, with the Red Riots coming away with a 1-0 victory.
This time, second-ranked Orono, the two-time defending champs, will have to make the long trek to the St. John Valley, but coach Cid Dyjak isn’t overly concerned about that.
“It is something that is a challenge and I think we’re going to try to handle that. We talked about that today a little bit, we should be OK,” said Dyjak. “We’ll get there in plenty of time to get off the bus and get our legs about us.”
Orono has certainly played like defending champions with a 5-0 quarterfinal shutout of Washington Academy while the Red Riots handled Madawaska 3-0 in the semifinals on Friday.
Orono has a blend of veterans and young guns, led by seniors Alex Crocker (midfield), Ruth Mares (striker), Jade Keezer (goalkeeper) and Riley Mahan (midfield) plus junior Caleigh Paul (sweeper).
But younger players, such as sophomore Analies Ross-Dyjak, the coach’s daughter, and freshman Hanna Renedo, have made strong contributions, and Renedo is developing into a strong offensive threat.
“I certainly think (Renedo) has the potential to be a wonderful player, there’s no doubt about it,” Dyjak said. “She does possess a lot of patience and she doesn’t seem to overshoot the ball. She seems to try to be accurate, and that’s a good sign for a first-year player.”
Top-seeded Fort Kent has also looked sharp with shutouts of Penquis of Milo and Central of Corinth to the Warriors’ credit, and even though the Red Riots are the defending champions, they aren’t looking past Fort Kent, especially on the road.
“We try not to put the cart before the horse,” Dyjak said. “We’ve heard Fort Kent is a very good team, I’ve heard they do have balanced scoring, so we’re going to have to play well defensively to match up with them.”
In Class D, No. 3 Van Buren is coming off a 2-0 shutout of two-time defending state champion Southern Aroostook while top-ranked Ashland outlasted a gritty Washburn club in overtime in its semifinal.
The Crusaders feature a talented freshman in Parise Rossignol, daughter of former Van Buren standout athlete Matt Rossignol, while Ashland’s main offensive weapon is Brooke Labelle.
The state championship matches are Saturday in Hampden and Falmouth, and the Maine Principals’ Association will announce the schedule Thursday.