Bangor High has evolved into soccer school

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 25, 2012, at 5:41 p.m.

The Bangor High School girls soccer team’s winning streak was snapped at 25 by Brunswick 2-1 in overtime last Friday night.

A 25-game winning streak is an impressive accomplishment.

Soccer is one of those sports in which the best team doesn’t always win.

It is difficult to score goals and superior teams can have a game when the ball just doesn’t want to find the back of the net.

You run into a hot goalie, you hurry your shot and shank it, or you pass when you should shoot or shoot when you should pass.

Bangor High School has turned into a soccer school although swim coaches Phil Emery (boys) and Cindy Howard (girls) could successfully argue that it’s a swimming school.

The Bangor High School boys soccer teams won Class A state championships in 2006 under Adam Leach and 2010 under Dave Patterson.

The girls won the state championship a year ago after losing in the state-title game two years ago. Joe Johnson coached both teams and will try to make it two in a row this season.

Bangor’s ascension in soccer should come as no surprise.

It began approximately 20 years ago with the advent of travel soccer in eastern Maine.

Bangor followed in the footsteps of longtime rival Hampden, the first community in the Bangor area that began a travel soccer program.

A travel program, when run properly focusing on player development, is a terrific feeder system.

It does require a financial and time commitment on behalf of parents and players but it isn’t very expensive and tournaments in Cumberland, Falmouth, Sanford and Brunswick are a joy to participate in.

Players who wanted to play at a higher level were able to play for Black Bear United and other soccer clubs.

Let’s not forget the Bangor recreational leagues in the fall and spring that gave youngsters their first taste of the sport.

Bangor High School athletic director Steve Vanidestine and the administration at BHS made a smart move several years ago when they began offering a freshman soccer program for both boys and girls to go with the junior varsity and varsity programs.

Young athletes can be late bloomers and freshmen who may have quit soccer if they didn’t make the JV team had another option.

It has paid dividends.

Former Ram striker Dylan George carved out a nice career at the University of New Hampshire and Ashley Robinson is getting useful playing time at the University of Maine as a freshman striker this fall after leading the Rams to the state title a year ago.

Soccer is a unique sport.

You don’t have to be big to play.

Argentina and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi, the three-time FIFA Player of the Year, stands 5-foot-7.

Soccer is inexpensive.

All you need is a ball and it doesn’t even have to be a soccer ball.

In impoverished Third World countries, they make due without a ball by creating a substitute (i.e. tin can).

You can use anything as goal posts: clothes, rocks, sticks.

With hard work, anyone can make themselves a respectable soccer player.

And soccer isn’t as structured as other sports.

You learn to play your position but most good coaches will allow players flexibility.

There is also a terrific exercise value to soccer because of all the running and indoor facilities such as the Field4Kids on the Beal College campus in Bangor and the Mahaney Dome in Orono enable people of all ages to play year-round.

Some will say Bangor should be good in soccer because it has the largest enrollment north of Lewiston.

But enrollment certainly doesn’t guarantee success.

The parents, coaches, administrators, soccer lovers and athletes in Bangor have made a long-term commitment to the sport. Several players play year-round.

It is a wonderful sport to play.

Now my hope is that the University of Maine will reinstate the men’s soccer program some day and the university gets an artificial turf field.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/09/25/sports/bangor-high-has-evolved-into-soccer-school/ printed on December 19, 2014