HOULTON, Maine — It is easy to see why the Houlton High School girls soccer team is 10-2 and sitting in second place in the Eastern Maine Class C Heal Point Standings.
The Shiretowners have allowed only 10 goals in their 12 games and only division leader Fort Kent, which has given them their only two losses, has scored more than one goal against them.
Fort Kent beat them 3-2 and 3-1.
Houlton has scored 52 goals.
The Shires have an All-Penobscot Valley Conference goalkeeper in senior Marina Cameron but seventh-year head coach Tim Tweedie said a lot of the credit should go to his four backs.
Juniors Abby Deveau, Sam Keegan and Jessy Dicksion are three-year starters and have been joined in the back by freshman Chelsea Gentle.
“They have done a great job containing the other teams’ front six and getting the ball up to our front six,” said Tweedie.
He said the four backs are very similar.
“They’re all quick and they’re all good athletes who play two or three sports,” said Tweedie. “They’re also best friends, and that also helps.”
He said one of the most important aspects of being effective in the back is communication, and that has been among their strengths.
“Since they’re best friends, we don’t have any issues with that,” said Tweedie.
Gentle has been a nice addition, according to Tweedie.
“She’s probably the fastest kid on our team, so she can stay with pretty much anybody on the other team. We put her on the other team’s fastest player,” said Tweedie.
Deveau will also be used as a marking back.
He said he varies their alignment in the back, depending upon the opponents.
“That helps keep them more focused. It gives them something to shoot for,” said Tweedie.
Mikaelah Tracy headlines the midfield and is the only other senior starter along with keeper Cameron.
Tweedie said Tracy was a 12-goal scorer a year ago but has accepted a new role as a holding (defensive) midfielder and played very well.
“We’ve received 24 goals from our freshmen, so we’ve asked Mikaelah to be more of a possession midfielder and do the dirty work to allow the freshmen to put the ball in the net,” said Tweedie. “But I also have to remind her that she can score goals, too. She can make runs, and she has scored four goals in our last three games.”
Tracy leads the team in assists with eight.
One of those freshman scorers is midfielder Katie Condon, who has nine goals. Another is striker Natalie Hill, who has eight.
Joining Tracy and Condon in the midfield are junior Bre Longstaff and sophomore Emily Mooers.
Up front, junior Alana Pratt is believed to have broken the school single-season goals record with 19, according to Tweedie.
“She’s very quick. She has scored seven goals the last two games,” said Tweedie. “She was sluggish and tired at the outset of the season, and she found out she had a hyperthyroid condition. She has been on medication the past few weeks and has been scoring a lot of goals.”
Hill joins her up front, and Mooers will sometimes play there.
Tweedie said another key to their season is many of their players are versatile and can play different positions.
Cameron, for example, can play up front, and Tweedie said she is capable of scoring 10 goals. She has seen some duty up front, thanks to the fact they have a capable backup keeper in junior Tanika Toby.
The fact 26 players between the junior high and high school teams attended summer soccer camps has also been a plus.
And the future looks bright.
“The junior high team went 8-2-1, and that’s the best season they’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Tweedie, whose Shires played Hodgdon/Greater Houlton Christian Academy on Wednesday and finish up the regular season at Madawaska on Monday night.
Cavanaugh nears 100-goal mark
Now that Central High School striker Max McHugh has reached the 100-goal plateau for her career, next in line could be Calais’ Meaghan Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh has 95 goals and has scored 35 this season despite being heavily marked.
Her 9-3 Blue Devils finish the regular season Saturday against Madawaska. They will also play in a Downeast Athletic Conference championship game before the playoffs.
They are fifth in the Eastern Maine Class C Heal Points.
“[To score 100 goals] would be awesome,” said Cavanaugh. “But it’s not the most important thing. Winning is more important.”
Calais coach John Braughton said there are several reasons behind her success.
“She’s very fast and that’s also with the ball at her feet, not just running,” said Braughton. “She’s a very accurate finisher. She hits the corners.”
The 5-foot-3 Cavanaugh is also “very physically tough for her size,” which enables her to shed players trying to mark her.
“She’s tenacious. She never gives up on a play,” said Braughton. “And she has very good composure. She’s not just a goal scorer. She makes the right plays. She’ll make the [right] pass.”
Houlton coach Tim Tweedie said, “She’s tough. She’s super fast and has that drive to score. She gets the ball and goes strong to the goal.”
Cavanaugh said being marked has been an unpleasant challenge, “but I’ve had a lot of help from my teammates. They have made good passes to me.”
Braughton said juniors Jamie Fein and Kaitlyn Cundiff have been valuable distributors to Cavanaugh, along with sophomore Madison McVicar.
Cavanaugh also plays softball and basketball and is following in the footsteps of her older brothers Sean and Ryan, who were also three-sport athletes at Calais. Meaghan Cavanaugh is also the president of the National Honor Society, as were her brothers.
“I learned from them,” she said.