PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Presque Isle and Hermon met in the Eastern Maine Class B girls soccer title game last fall. The two teams could very well meet again for the regional championship as each returns a healthy nucleus.
A possible preview of the title game will be played on Saturday when Presque Isle visits Hermon for a 1 p.m. showdown.
The Wildcats blanked the Hawks 2-0 in the title game after splitting their regular-season games. Falmouth beat PI 1-0 in the state game.
Presque Isle is 4-0 while Hermon is 2-0.
“This is a different style of team than I’m used to having,” said Presque Isle coach Ralph Michaud, who is in his 15th season. “This is more of a finesse team. And we’re a little deeper than we were last year.”
The Wildcats lost shutdown sweeper Chelsea Nickerson and leading scorer midfielder Kayla Richards (18 goals) but they return seven starters and nine seniors.
“The nine seniors have been together for a long time. They work real well together,” said Michaud.
The senior starters include striker Chandler Guerrette and center midfielder Megan Ireland. Guerrette scored 12-14 goals last year, Michaud said, including both goals in the EM title game. Ireland scored 12 goals.
Ireland has scored four already this season and Guerrette has three.
Goalkeeper Meredith Stewart is a 6-footer who allowed only four regular-season goals last season and is a three-year starter.
The Wildcats, who went 15-2-1 last year, have allowed four this season as they outlasted archrivals Caribou 6-4.
Senior Karlee Bernier inherited Nickerson’s sweeper spot and brings a contrasting style. She defends with finesse while Nickerson was more of a physical presence.
Senior Emma Bartlett and sophomore Emma Kinney are the outside backs, with sophomore Krystal Kingsbury being the stopper. Junior Danielle Allen and sophomore Macy Desmond supply depth in the back.
Ireland is joined in the midfield by sophomore Hannah Graham, senior Abbie Carrier and freshman Taylor Williams. Seniors Kali Warner and Liza Buck and freshman Olivia Hudson also will see time in the midfield.
Guerrette is joined up front by senior Katelyn McPherson along with sophomore Jordi Legassie, who has three goals.
The Wildcats also will benefit from a winning mentality since Bernier, Guerrette, Stewart, Graham, Kingsbury and Ireland were important components on their 22-0 basketball team that won the state B crown.
Hermon builds around 8 starters
Second-year Hermon coach Adam Leach has eight starters back and feels his team will benefit from reaching the B final.
“I think we’re a little more poised because of last year’s experience,” said Leach. “Last year was an emergence and now our expectations are higher.”
He said it gave his players some confidence.
The Hawks, 13-3-1 a year ago, have the potential to be very explosive, according to Leach.
“But the team is far more patient. They don’t get frazzled. They don’t panic. They know and trust the game plan and work very hard to make sure the game goes our way,” said Leach, who has only two seniors.
The Hawks have exhibited that explosiveness, beating Class C title contender Orono 5-0 and Mount Desert Island 5-1.
The berth in the Eastern Maine title game also generated interest.
“We had 21 girls last year but we have 30 this year so we’re able to have a JV team. We didn’t have one last year,” said the former Bangor High School boys soccer coach.
Speedy junior striker Kaitlyn Saulter, the team’s leading goal scorer last year with 14, has already racked up four goals and two assists in the two victories.
“She used to be more of a goal scorer but now she’s a more balanced player. She defends very well. Her transition from offense to defense has improved immensely,” said Leach.
Saulter is the only striker in the 4-5-1 alignment but freshman Alessa Oakes, who already has scored her first goal, will spell her. Oakes also can play in the midfield.
Sophomore Claire Petersen and senior Jessica Allen, who had 7-8 goals each last year according to Leach, will be the attacking midfielders and already have combined for two goals and five assists. Petersen has a goal and four assists and Allen has a goal and an assist.
Junior outside midfielder Mollie Roy has tallied three goals and an assist already and sophomore Savannah Allain is the other outside mid.
Freshman Morgan Buck has impressed Leach as a holding (defensive) midfielder.
Senior Gabby Bryant and juniors Amanda Allen, Maddie Page and Kaylin Rogers start in the back.
Bryant saw limited service a year ago due to a broken arm but is healthy now.
Freshman Bryanne Crouse has inherited the goalkeeping job from departed Mikayla Treadwell and has been “excellent,” according to Leach.
She has made eight saves on nine shots so far.
Junior Ashley Boyce and sophomores Tiffany Tanner and Katrina Smith supply depth in the midfield.