PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Ralph Michaud never played high school soccer. Rather, he was the No. 1 player on his Fort Fairfield High School golf team for four years and a four-time All-Aroostook choice. But while attending the University of Maine at Presque Isle and discovering the school didn’t have a golf team, Michaud decided to test his skills on the soccer field.
He eventually transitioned his playing abilities to coaching, and Saturday, Michaud earned his 200th career victory in his 16th season as coach of the Presque Isle High School girls soccer team.
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of great players,” said Michaud who recorded the milestone with a 1-0 victory over Old Town.
“It was humbling. The girls were really happy for me. My assistant coach [Dillon Kingsbury] had told them. … For once in my life, I was speechless,” he said.
Michaud began his soccer coaching career at Presque Isle High School and coached the junior varsity boys for 13 years.
When Chris Casavant left as the girls head coach after the 1997 season, Michaud took over the following school year.
He mentioned career highlights included four undefeated regular seasons, one in Class A and three in Class B.
His teams notched Eastern Maine Class B titles in 2008 and 2011, losing to Falmouth 2-0 and 1-0, respectively, in the state finals. Falmouth has won four of the last five state Class B championships.
Three other Michaud-coached teams (2004, 2010, 2013) played in Eastern Maine Class B championship games.
But Michaud’s successful coaching stint isn’t just reserved for soccer.
He has assisted Jeff Hudson with the girls basketball team, and they have won two straight state Class B championships.
Michaud is a physical education instructor at the Mapleton Elementary School, and he said that has been beneficial “because a lot of the girls I’ve wound up coaching have gone through the school. So I’ve known them several years. It doesn’t hurt being able to work on soccer skills during class.”
He said one of the most rewarding aspects of coaching is staying in touch with his former players.
Michaud also said he has been blessed by coaching in Presque Isle.
“You look at the fact we have [artificial] turf and warm locker rooms, and we have great support all the way up through. The administration has been great to me, and I’ve had some great assistant coaches. It has definitely been a team effort,” Michaud said.
This isn’t a typical year for Michaud. His Wildcats are 4-6-2, and he has had to alter his philosophy from an attack mentality to a defensive approach. Eight starters graduated off last year’s team.
After opening the season with a 1-0 loss to Fort Kent and a 5-1 loss to Caribou, the Wildcats changed their formation to a 4-5-1 (four backs, five midfielders, one striker) to keep the games low-scoring and to frustrate the opponents.
They have held teams to one goal or less nine times and have allowed more than two goals in a game just once since the Caribou game to a 3-0 loss to undefeated Hermon on Monday. And Michaud feels his team can be a threat in the playoffs.
Junior Hannah Graham has scored five of their 11 goals, and Krystal Kingsbury and Taylor Williams have anchored the defense along with sophomore goalkeeper Jillian Flynn.