The Penobscot Valley girls soccer team from Howland had to replace four seniors who started in the back for them last season.
That can be a daunting task.
But the Howlers haven’t missed a beat.
Penobscot Valley has surrendered only 11 goals while going 9-1-1 and it is currently in a tight battle with Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook for the second spot in the Eastern Maine Class D Heal point standings behind top seed Washburn.
“And three of the goals we’ve given up have come off penalty kicks,” pointed out second-year coach Ryan Reed.
Versatile senior Reese Leonard is one of the vital ingredients in the defensive scheme.
She can be a defensive midfielder, marking back or stopper and plays each position effectively.
Sweeper Eliza Pelletier and outside backs Kristin Mackin and Lyndsee Libby are veterans but are all first-year starters.
The midfield is comprised of seniors Kirstin Batchelder, who started most of the games last year according to Reed, along with juniors Bethany Heald and Kayla Dube and senior Alissa Whitten. Batchelder and Heald are the center midfielders while Dube and Whitten are on the flanks.
Whitten, according to Reed, is the “fastest girl on the team.”
Striker Meghan King, a four-year starter, is the offensive catalyst with 15 of their 34 goals and five assists.
“She’s a dominant player and a leader. She has great skills,” said Reed. “She has a really strong leg and she’s versatile. I can also play her in the midfield.”
King is joined up front by Kassy Taylor, a junior who is playing soccer for the first time in high school and has racked up five goals and an assist.
“She has been a real pleasant surprise. She’s a great hustler,” said Reed.
Senior Jocelyn Thomas, a second-year starter in goal, has improved dramatically under the
tutelage of assistant coach Mark Thibodeau, according to Reed.
The Howlers are deep as Reed said he usually uses 20 players in a game.
Headlining the list of substitutes who receive plenty of productive playing time are sophomore forward Jenna Hope, who used to be the backup goalkeeper; sophomore back Morgan Roy, sophomore forward Desi Heald, Bethany’s sister, and freshman stopper Morgan Moon.
Reed, who used to help his late father, Sonny, coach the Howler boys soccer team, said his girls have a “very good attitude and come to practice ready to play every day.”
He said expectations are high with his eight senior starters.
“They’re very determined and hard-working,” said Reed. “They’d like to get to the state game.”
SKOWHEGAN ROLLS TO 14-0 MARK
There are certain things you can count on in the state of Maine.
Snow, tourists and the Skowhegan High School field hockey team playing in the state Class A championship game
Coach Paula Doughty’s Indians, who have won nine state championships over the past 10 years, have concluded their regular season at 14-0 and will be the top seed for the Eastern Maine Class A Tournament.
They have outscored their opponents 95-7.
Doughty is in her 31st season directing the fortunes of the Indians and said “this is the most talented team I’ve ever had as a group.
“Most of my players can play three or four different positions,” said Doughty. “We have some very talented kids.”
The lengthy list of talented players includes a quintet that qualified for the National Futures Tournament, comprised of the best high school players in the country: seniors Jessica Skillings, Nicole Sevey and Mikayla Fitzmaurice; junior Sarah Finnemore and sophomore Allison Lancaster.
That was held in Virginia Beach, Va., in June.
Skillings and Sevey will be bringing their skills to the University of Maine in the fall and Fitzmaurice will head to Bryant University (R.I.).
Skillings scored two goals in the 3-0 win over Cheverus of Portland in last year’s state-title game.
The leading goal scorer is junior forward Makaela Michonski, who has scored “around 25 goals” according to Doughty.
Skillings is one of several Indians who have scored “around 15 goals” said Doughty.
Fitzmaurice, AJ Martineau, Erica Blake and Mikayla Bolduc are rock-solid in the back protecting goalies Anne-Marie Provencal and Shelby Obert, who share the duties.
Haley Holt starts up front with Skillings and Michonski and is one of the team leaders in assists.
Doughty’s Indians have outstanding depth and the list of valuable subs includes junior Gabrielle Tenan and sophomores Logan LeBlanc and Holly Lupo.