BUCKSPORT, Maine — Junior Alanna Davis had been one of the Bucksport High School soccer team’s top scorers the past two seasons.
Head coach Bill Tracy said she scored “seven or eight goals” each season.
But when the Bucks lost goalkeeper Amber Embleton to a season-ending injury at the outset of the season, Tracy was in a bind.
Embleton had been the JV goalkeeper and was going to replace the departed Bailey Blair.
Tracy said that during summer soccer, they had “issues” when the goalkeepers couldn’t show up, so he and his staff had to do some soul-searching in looking ahead to the fall.
“[We asked ourselves] ‘Who is our best athlete? Who has the right mentality to play in goal? Who is fearless?’ Alanna is a catcher on the softball team. Alanna’s name was the first one we came up with,” he said.
It didn’t happen right away.
But after three games, it was clear that they needed to make a move, and Tracy had a talk with Davis.
“I pulled her aside after practice and I told her ‘We know what kind of athlete we have in you and we know we’re going to lose a lot when we pull you out of your striker position. But we really want to take some time and train you in goal,’” said Tracy.
Tracy sent her to his goalkeeper coach, Miles Bisher, and after a couple of practices, she made her first start against Orono on Sept. 11.
Orono beat Bucksport 4-1, but Davis and the 5-3-2 Bucks have allowed just four goals over their next six games, including a 1-1 double-overtime tie at Orono on Tuesday and a 6-1 win over defending state Class C champ Central of Corinth. They have surrendered just one goal in their last four games.
“I was pretty nervous going into it. I didn’t know if I should do it, but I wanted to step up for the team so I took it on. It has worked out well,” said Davis. “I like it a lot better than when I played in that first Orono game. I work with Miles a lot every day in practice and I’ve gotten better. I feel a lot more comfortable now. It’s natural for me, I guess.”
“Alanna has made tremendous progress,” said Bucksport senior midfielder Chloe Carmichael. “She was probably a little nervous at first, but she was glad to take it and ready to help us out. She has put everything into it.”
Carmichael said Davis’ strengths are her courage and fearlessness.
“She’s not afraid to run into someone to take the ball when she needs to,” said Carmichael, who added that Davis has enabled the team to play with more confidence.
“She has helped us out tremendously,” said Carmichael. “When our defense gets beat, all you can do is hope and when she comes out, you know she’s going to get the ball. She jumps, she dives, she’s everywhere. She’s perfect [for the position].”
“I just try my best and hope to make the saves,” said Davis, who is also a shooting guard on the basketball team. “I’ve been happy [with the way I’ve played] so far. There are a few goals I think I could have gone after and saved. But I’m used to playing forward and it’s very hard for me going back into the goal and knowing [how to play] the position. But since I’ve been working with Miles, it’s a lot better.”
She said the most difficult aspect of the transition has been “knowing when to come out after the ball when [the opponents] are coming toward you, learning the angles and [deciding] whether to come out or stay back when they shoot high on you.”
Bisher and Tracy said the move has been a rousing success.
“She’s been phenomenal,” said Bisher. “She is so naturally athletic. She has great instincts for the game and great hand-eye coordination. The hand-eye coordination comes from softball and it really helps when you have to make a reaction save. She moves a lot better than most goalies because she’s so athletic.”
He also said she works hard.
Tracy added that Davis has great hands.
“You know when she gets the ball, she’s not going to bobble it,” said Tracy.
Tracy does allow her to play up front if the team is leading and firmly in control of the game and she scored a pair of goals in a recent 9-0 win over Searsport.
But her primary job these days is keeping the ball out of her net.
And, so far, so good.