DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Foxcroft Academy field hockey team was dealt a blow during its second week of preseason training.
Popular head coach Gene Philpot, who guided the Ponies to more than 350 wins in a career that spans 35-plus seasons, took a leave of absence for undisclosed reasons.
Stephanie (Higgins) Smith, a recent Foxcroft Academy Sports Hall of Fame inductee, was named to take over the job on an interim basis.
The Ponies haven’t missed a beat.
They are 9-0 and leading the Eastern Maine Class B points standings.
Foxcroft has outscored its opponents 25-1.
“We have our off moments but I think the girls have played very well,” said Smith, who started the field hockey program at John Bapst High School in Bangor.
The Ponies posted a 1-0 victory over the Crusaders on Monday.
“We’ve got a good all-around team. We have a lot of great players,” said Smith. “I’m a little harder on them than I should be. They work hard.”
“I’m not sure what we expected with the coaching change and everything else,” said Ponies senior forward Monica Miles. “Coach Smith has done a great job conditioning us and pushing us to keep the intensity up. We knew we needed to come together as a team.”
“We were all a little worried about the coaching change and the fact we lost a lot of key players off last year’s team,” said junior center back Mackenzie Coiley. “But we knew if we worked as hard as we could, we could do it. We’ve all worked hard in practice and tried to continue it in the games.”
“We love our coach. She has been amazing,” said Foxcroft senior forward Gabi Henderson. “We always had confidence we could go far. We have a lot of skilled players who work real hard and put in extra time to become better players.”
The Ponies make life difficult for their opponents because they pressure the ball all over the field. Their high fitness level and quickness enable them to win most of the 50-50 balls and keep opponents on the back foot.
“We have a lot of speed,” said Henderson. “We hustle. We do a lot of sprints during practice.”
The Ponies are strong all over the field.
Miles and Henderson are their offensive catalysts along with sophomores Julia Annis and Fern Morrison, junior Amber Anderson and senior Lindsey Arno.
Coiley and sophomore Abigail Simmons are the defensive specialists along with Whitney Arno.
Emily Higgins is a junior who starts in the midfield.
Freshman Avery Carroll has been the goalkeeper.
Hawks loss teaches lesson
The Hermon High School girls soccer team was rolling along, winning its first seven games by an aggregate score of 36-2.
It appeared as though the Hawks were going to put up another digit in the win column as they took a 2-0 lead into the intermission of Tuesday’s home game against Ellsworth.
But the Eagles scored three second-half goals to beat the Hawks 3-2.
Hermon coach Adam Leach and standout striker Kaitlin Saulter feel the loss can be beneficial.
“We learned we can’t take anything for granted,” said Leach. “In our first seven games, we scored in the first five minutes and had comfortable leads for the whole game.
“We were under pressure this game and it will build character for us going forward,” added Leach. “We need to be more solid defensively inside the [penalty area]. We have to make sure we don’t leave our marks when the ball is served. And we need to have sharper first touches.”
Leach speculated their substandard first touches may have been the result of a one-week layoff. They hadn’t played since beating Orono 7-1 on Sept. 18.
“We started the season with five games in 11 days and now we just had a week off [from games]. Maybe the first touches were the result of not having a steady routine. But, hopefully, we’ll be back at it now,” said Leach, whose Hawks finish with six games in 17 days beginning with Thursday’s test against a good Old Town team.
“This [loss] will make us play harder,” said Saulter. “We have to realize people are out to beat us. We don’t have easy games every day. We just need to play real hard.”
She said they also learned “not to let up after we get up by two goals. We can’t make mistakes. And we’ve got to finish every chance we get.”
Fort Kent leading Class C
The Fort Kent High School girls soccer team sits atop the Eastern Maine Class C standings with its 7-3-1 record.
“We probably aren’t going to stay No. 1 because we’ve played so many early games but, hopefully, we can stay up there in the top two or three anyway,” said third-year coach Robby Nadeau. “The girls have played hard and well and we’re still improving.”
“We pass well and the girls are unselfish. Sometimes they’re too unselfish. They’ll pass up open shots to make a pass,” said Nadeau.
Senior attacking midfielder Alexis Desjardins is the catalyst and their leading scorer.
Senior Brittany Theriault and sophomores Erin Chasse and Danielle Pelletier are the other midfielders and they all started last year as did Desjardins, along with junior strikers Lauren Doak and Chelsey Plourde.
The Warriors are inexperienced in the back where only senior sweeper Abby Stevens is a returning starter.
But Nadeau said junior stopper Steffany Paradis and junior outside backs Demi Pelletier and Lindsay Soucy have been solid as has sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Pelletier, who started as a freshman last year.
“Alexa continues to get better every day,” said Nadeau, who added he has been receiving plenty of good advice from assistant Larry Murphy, a longtime coach.
Nadeau said they want to “continue to shore up our defense. You can’t win in the playoffs without solid defense.”