DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — After longtime and highly successful Foxcroft Academy field hockey coach Gene Philpot decided to take a leave of absence from coaching and teaching a year ago, one of her former players, Stephanie Smith, took over on an interim basis.
Under challenging circumstances, Smith guided the Ponies to a 14-3 season and a berth in the Eastern Maine Class B title game where they lost to Belfast 2-1.
Philpot eventually retired and Smith, a Foxcroft Academy Sports Hall of Famer, had the “interim” lifted from her title. Now, she and her Ponies are off to a fast start this season.
Entering Tuesday’s game against Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, the Ponies were 4-0-1 and leading the Eastern Maine Class C points standings. They hadn’t allowed a goal while scoring 26.
An impressive 5-0 win over previously undefeated rival Dexter proved that the Ponies are among the teams to beat in Class C, after they had spent the previous two years in Class B.
“In our last three games, we have played very well,” said Smith.
The only blemish on their record was a season-opening 0-0 tie against Old Town, which took a 4-0-1 record into a Tuesday game against Hermon.
“We were really flat in that game. We didn’t play our best. But Old Town played well,” said Smith. “Old Town improved tremendously at the end of last season. So I knew they were going to have a good team.”
Foxcroft graduated six seniors, but many familiar names are back.
And the Ponies have added a productive transfer in goalkeeper Brianna Skolfield, who played for Central of Corinth a year ago but has moved back to Dover-Foxcroft.
That meant last year’s goalie, Avery Carroll, has been moved to left back.
“I promised her if she stuck it out [in goal], I’d put her out on the field this year,” said Smith.
Carroll, a sophomore, has teamed up with shutdown senior center back Mackenzie Coiley to anchor the defense along with juniors Aliviah King and Abby Simmons.
Senior Amber Anderson is the team’s “offensive catalyst” from her midfield position according to Smith.
“She’s a wonderful player. She sets up a lot of attacks,” said Smith.
Junior Jennifer Boyer is another quality player in the midfield, and the other veterans who will be making life difficult for opposing backs and goalkeepers are senior Emily Higgins and juniors Julia Annis and Fern Morrison.
“We have a lot of quality players. To be honest, it’s going to be difficult to defend us,” said Smith.
She noted that her team is fundamentally strong.
“We lost a lot of skill off last year’s team but this team plays well together. We have a lot of really good team players. We have a great passing team. They connect well with one another,” said Smith.
The Caribou High School girls soccer team certainly didn’t get the result it wanted Saturday when it lost to defending Eastern Maine Class B champ Hermon 5-0 in Hermon.
But coach Todd Albert feels his team learned a lot from the loss and is optimistic it will lead to bigger and better things.
The Vikings bounced back with a 4-0 win over Madawaska on Tuesday.
“The Hermon game was a good test, and it will make us improve,” said Albert.
“We’re a young team. We graduated 11 players, and I think the girls are further ahead than I thought they’d be,” said Albert. “We’re going to try to get better each week and see where it takes us.”
Caribou had opened the season with noteworthy victories: 5-1 over archrival Presque Isle and 6-0 over Old Town.
“We’re a smart team,” said senior back Sammy Camy. “And the underclassmen are good listeners. That will really help us.”
“We’re young but I think we’re a very strong team and we play together well. I think we have a bright future,” said junior midfielder Sarah Doak. “We didn’t play to our full potential against Hermon.”
Albert feels his Vikings are strong in the middle of the field where Doak, senior Clara Collins and junior Erin Patton are the difference-makers.
Junior Bria Judd, sophomore left wing Eileen Patton and freshman right wing Madison Doucette will be counted on to put the ball in the net, and the back line features Camy, senior Delaney Williams and sophomores Sara Boyer and Molly Adams. Junior Morgan Outing is the goalkeeper.