Central High School of Corinth striker Max McHugh broke her right leg during basketball season last winter.
The injury could have radically changed her style of play in soccer especially considering that her right leg was her stronger leg.
But Max and her father, Central girls soccer coach Mike McHugh, agree that breaking her leg has actually been beneficial.
“That may have been the best thing to happen to her,” said Mike McHugh. “That has made her left foot stronger. I’ll bet more than half of her goals have been with her left foot. She has worked her butt off.”
Seventeen or more of McHugh’s goals have come off her left foot as she has found the back of an opposing net 34 times this fall.
“My left foot is way stronger than it has ever been,” agreed Max McHugh, who is a junior. “I can trap the ball and shoot it with my left foot. It’s a big advantage. Most players can only play one-sided (using their strong foot). It has helped me a lot. It’s been a blessing.”
McHugh scored 19 goals in each of her first two seasons but has erupted this season to lead her Devils to a 12-0-1 record and the top seed in Eastern Maine Class C.
Mike McHugh said his daughter has made great strides in improving the accuracy of her shot.
“She doesn’t miss the net much and she has been getting marked hard,” said Mike McHugh.
“That’s just maturity,” said McHugh. “I’ve grown up being under pressure. I’m a lot more calm now. I can pick my spots. That has helped out a lot.”
The McHughs also agreed that the players around her have been key components to her success.
“We have some very fast wings (sophomores Taylor Robichaud and Sigilia Pinkham) who sends crosses through the middle for me; I’ve got (senior center mid) Brianna Speed behind me and we’ve received great support from the defense in the offensive end,” said Max McHugh, a two-time All-Eastern Maine selection.
Pinkham has 16 goals and Robichaud has 15 as the Devils have outscored their opponents 85-9. Both started as freshmen a year ago and they played with McHugh in middle school so they have developed a strong chemistry.
Max McHugh is a product of the Bangor Travel Soccer Club and she continues to play for Blackbear United and the two programs “have helped me so much.”
The McHughs have a healthy relationship.
“It has been a challenge sometimes,” quipped Mike McHugh. “But I’ve been with her through Bangor Travel and Blackbear United. It’s fun.”
“He’s good to me,” said Max. “We keep the coach and parent thing apart. He treats me the same as everyone else.”
Mike McHugh has also been pleased with his team’s defense.
“That’s the key. We’ve given up 24 or 25 the last few years and we wanted to improve that this year. The girls have done a great job,” said Mike McHugh, who graduated just two players off last year’s Eastern Maine Class C semifinalists.
Max McHugh will occasionally switch positions with Speed and whoever is the central midfielder is flanked by quality veterans Megan Wittine, a senior left half, and junior Remay Burke, who plays the right side.
The back line consist of outside backs Natasha Miller, a freshman, and senior Janelle Portman, who is playing soccer for the first time, along with center backs Taylor Clark and Emilyee Miles.
Clark is a senior while Miles is a junior.
Senior Sam Brownell is a solid three-year starter in goal and also provides “veteran leadership” according to Mike McHugh.
McHugh said three of their top reserves are senior back Alyssa Poole, sophomore midfielder Marissa Lugdon and sophomore midfielder Brooke Speed, Brianna’s sister.
Central has been eliminated in the semis by Fort Kent in Fort Kent the past two years but the Devils currently hold a slim 1.6-point lead over No. 2 Fort Kent in the Heal point standings. Fort Kent has games left against 9-1-1 Presque Isle, ranked third in Class B, and Class D Ashland (1-10-1 and 14th in Class D) while Central hosts 6-5 Bucksport, ninth in Class C, on Saturday.
“We want to stay home. We don’t want to go up to Fort Kent again,” said Mike McHugh.
“We’ve always lost in the semifinals. It’s a curse and we want to break the curse this year,” said Max McHugh. “We want to bring home a banner to put on the wall.”