CORINTH, Maine — The defending state Class C schoolgirl soccer champion Central High School Red Devils didn’t get off to the start they wanted this season.
Coming off a 17-0-1 campaign, Central went 2-2-1 in its first five games, including a 6-1 loss to Bucksport that capped the streak.
But the Red Devils were without some key players or were using players at less than 100 percent due to injury.
The bad news for the rest of the Class C playoff teams is the Red Devils are healthy and will be entering the playoffs with wins in eight of their last nine games, including a season-closing 2-1 win over Bucksport.
Coach Mike McHugh said his team has been playing its best soccer of the season thanks to its health and a lineup change that has solidified the back.
Junior striker Taylor Robichaud, a 19-goal scorer a year ago, has been moved to center back and McHugh said it has made a big difference.
“It has been a game-changer,” said McHugh. “She is excellent defensively and is very fast. She’s quick to the ball and does a very good job controlling it and passing it [out of the back].”
His daughter, Max, scored 39 goals a year ago but was slowed by a broken leg at the outset of the season.
She isn’t 100 percent but she gets stronger every day and has found the back of the net 26 times to reach 103 goals for her career.
She broke her right leg for the second time, but it has forced her to continue to use her left leg and Max McHugh said, “Over half of my goals have been scored with my left foot.”
“I’ve also learned to trap the ball with my left foot,” said McHugh.
Max said there is still pain and weakness in the right leg and there was some atrophy.
“But I’m finally getting there. My endurance isn’t what it was, but it’s getting better,” she said.
Her dad said she is about “90 percent” right now.
She is pleased with breaking the 100-goal plateau.
“It felt really good to get [the 100th]. It’s a great accomplishment,” said Max. “It helped getting 39 last year.”
She agreed with her dad that the team is playing its best soccer now.
“We’re peaking at the right time. We had a rough start, but we’re working well as a team. Having Taylor in the back has helped out a ton,” said Max McHugh.
Max McHugh can play both striker or attacking midfielder depending on the opponent.
Remay Burke, a senior, joins her in the midfield and she began the season with a sprained ankle.
Senior Emylee Miles is the sweeper and combines with Robichaud to give Central an imposing duo in the back.
Junior striker Sigilia Pinkham has given them “eight to 10 goals,” according to Mike McHugh and junior Mckenzie Gibbs also plays up front.
Konnor Kirlin, a sophomore, and Reyanne Hoyt, a junior, are midfielders.
Freshman Tiffany Smith and junior Brooke Speed join Miles and Robichaud in the back.
Burke, Miles, McHugh, Pinkham and Robichaud are the returning starters.
Standout goalkeeper Sam Brownell, who made 15 saves including four breakaways in the 2-1 win over St. Dom’s of Auburn in the state title game, graduated.
Her successor, Natasha Miller, suffered a season-ending injury in preseason, so sophomore Ali Crocker has become the starter.
“She’s coming along. She’s learning,” said Max McHugh.