Leach, Hawks looking to go another step further next season

Posted Nov. 07, 2012, at 9:10 p.m.

HERMON, Maine — Adam Leach tried to accomplish a rare feat Saturday.

The Hermon High School girls soccer coach had already won a state championship in boys soccer and he was attempting to win one in girls soccer.

But his Hermon girls were edged by defending two-time Class B champ Falmouth 2-1 at Scarborough.

Leach led the Bangor boys soccer team to its first-ever state Class A title in 2006 by virtue of a 1-0 double-overtime victory over Scarborough.

In describing the two experiences, Leach said, “It felt very much the same.”

“The two teams had so much in common,” said Leach. “They had good character and were like a family. Both teams also had balance across the field. You couldn’t key on one player because someone else would step up. And both teams defended well.”

In fact, Leach said referee Jamie Russell supplied him with a “great quote.”

“He told me my girls looked like my Bangor boys team only with ponytails,” quipped Leach. “So my girls made me a T-shirt that reads ‘My boys have ponytails.’”

The good news for Leach and the Hawks is they graduate just two starters: left back Gabby Bryant and center midfielder Jessica Allen.

“The girls were talking about going back to the state game right after the game,” said Leach.

He said his team started slow against Falmouth because they weren’t used to being in a state title game.

“Falmouth was comfortable in a state game,” said Leach, whose Hawks fell behind 2-0 in the first half. “They knew what to expect. We were learning.”

Falmouth has now won six state titles in eight years while Hermon had played in only one previous state championship game, losing to Windham 3-0 in 1994.

But his Hawks rallied in the second half, earning seven corner kicks to Falmouth’s one, and pulling within one on Claire Petersen’s goal.

“I couldn’t have been more proud of their response to being two goals down. We proved we deserved to be there. We were a state championship-quality team. We proved to the soccer community that we were for real,” said Leach, who guided the Bangor boys to a 105-21-11 record over nine seasons.

Leach filled in as an interim coach at Hermon for the last six games in 2009 after coach Ben Poland was suspended. Stori Shaw became the coach in 2010 and led the Hawks to a berth in the semifinals.

She left to take a teaching and coaching position at her alma mater, Central Aroostook High School in Mars Hill, so Leach took over last year.

He led them to a 13-3-1 mark and a berth in the Eastern Maine title game where they lost to Presque Isle 2-0.

They avenged that loss with a 1-0 overtime win at Presque Isle in this year’s EM final.

Leach cautions people about assuming that just because they lost two starters, the effect won’t be felt.

“Gabby and Jessica are everything you would expect a leader to be and that’s not easily replaced,” said Leach. “They were great leaders.”

He observed during the 2009 season that Bryant and Allen were going to represent a “culture change” after a 2-10-2 season and they have done so.

Hermon finished 15-3 this season after going 13-3-1 last year.

The impressive list of returnees will be headlined by striker Kaitlin Saulter, the Penobscot Valley Conference Player of the Year in Class B thanks to her 29 goals and eight assists.

Mollie Roy (5 and 14), Petersen (6 and 12) and Savannah Allain (7 and 4) return in the midfield along with defensive mid Morgan Buck.

Kaylin Rogers, Maddie Page and Amanda Allen are the returning starters in the back and Bryanne Crouse will be back in goal.

Saulter, Amanda Allen and Jessica Allen (10 and 7) were All-PVC first team picks, and Petersen and Roy were second-teamers. Saulter and the two Allens were all-EM Class B choices, according to Leach.

Leach said midfielder Alessa Oakes and back Tiffany Tanner played in the state game and “should make significant contributions next year.”

“We also have four or five other girls who are on the verge of evolving into [good] players and we’ll have a good crop of freshmen,” added Leach.

He noted that several of his players have benefited from playing club soccer (Black Bear United, Bronco and Bangor soccer clubs) and said that trend will continue.

“We should get a constant stream of four or five good players every year,” said Leach.

He also said this year’s state title appearance should get more girls interested in soccer.

“Success breeds success,” said Leach.

Cony, Gardiner back home

The Cony High School Rams and the Gardiner Tigers have regained a nearby home rink.

The Bank of Maine Ice Vault is located where the Kennebec Ice Arena had been until ice and snow collapsed the arena’s roof on March 2, 2011.

The arena was built in 1973.

The Rams and Tigers practiced and played at Kents Hill’s Rist and Joy Bonnenfond Ice Arena in the Harold and Ted Alfond Athletics Center last season.

The $4 million Ice Vault, which opened in July and is owned by Peter Prescott, is special, according to Cony athletic director Paul Vachon.

“It’s beautiful,” said Vachon. “It’s a great facility. They did a wonderful job building it. There are conference rooms and meeting rooms and the [six] locker rooms are great. It’s a nice place to watch a game.”

Vachon said he is indebted to the administrators at the Kents Hill School for supplying them with a facility last season.

“They were wonderful hosts,” said Vachon.

But it was 30 minutes away instead of 10, so the players had to take a bus to it. There were five other teams using it on a regular basis, so they were limited to two or three on-ice practices a week with one being on Sunday.

The teams will have more on-ice practices this season and won’t have to practice Sunday.

“But we did learn something from it,” said Vachon. “Our coaches learned that dry land training can be beneficial and they’re going to implement it this year. You can do quickness and strength drills [to go with the on-ice training].”

High school hockey teams can begin practice Nov. 19.

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