BANGOR, Maine —- Last fall, Emily Gilmore had just arrived at Bangor High School after transferring from Brewer and was set to vie for a spot in the Ram midfield.
But the Rams needed a goalkeeper because Cordelia Stewart, who eventually earned the goalkeeping job the previous year and led Bangor to an Eastern Maine Class A title, had to sit out the season after undergoing knee surgery. She injured her knee during a summer league basketball game.
So Bangor coach Joe Johnson moved Gilmore back, she earned the starting goalkeeper job and helped lead the Rams to a fourth straight Eastern Maine crown.
Gilmore, who is a junior, was back in goal on Monday as the Rams and all of the state’s fall sports teams, with the exception of Aroostook County squads, held their first practices as mandated by Maine Principals’ Association guidelines.
Aroostook County teams have already started because many of the schools take a three-week break because of the potato harvest from late September to early October. The County games started Friday.
The Ram girls, who have gone 65-5-2 over the previous four seasons, will be looking to make another run at a state championship. They captured the 2011 title.
Windham dealt the Rams a 3-0 setback in last year’s championship game when Gilmore made 16 saves during an exceptional performance as the Rams were outshot 33-5.
“I’m really excited for this year,” said Gilmore. “I think I came a long way last year. When I first started [in goal], I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t comfortable. But I learned a lot from [assistants Dave McMahon and Mark Boulier] along with coach Johnson. They gave me a lot of little tips.
“I gained a lot of experience so, hopefully, I’ll start the year off strong,” added Gilmore who will never forget her first appearance in a state championship game.
“I was really nervous before the game. I had never even played in an Eastern Maine [playoff] game. Playing in a state game was a big deal,” she said.
Stewart has elected not to play soccer her senior season, so Gilmore will be backed up by Maddie Hodgdon, a sophomore who transferred to Bangor from Hampden and got some playing time last year.
“Cordelia decided to get ready for basketball season, and she is taking a huge course load with five [advanced placement] courses,” said Johnson. “It was a hard decision for her.”
Johnson had approached Stewart about coming out for soccer two years ago, and he said she “served us well. She got us to a state title game.”
But he likes what he sees from Gilmore and Hodgdon.
“Emily is one of the best goalies in the state. She’s a phenomenal athlete. She’s one of the best athletes in the school. And Maddie is also a very good goalie,” said Johnson.
Hodgdon has been a goalie since second grade and is ready to earn some playing time.
“I feel like I’m in a lot better shape and more prepared for this year,” said Hodgdon, who added that her transition from Hampden to Bangor was an easy one.
“I feel very comfortable here,” said Hodgdon, who came on at the end of the state game and made one save.
Johnson said the goalies will have a “very good team” in front of them.
“That makes our job a lot easier,” said Hodgdon.
Meanwhile, the Bangor High School boys soccer team will be one of several teams in Eastern Maine with a new coach as former Ram assistant Billy Shannon takes over for Dave Patterson, who died of lung cancer in July after leading the Rams to a remarkable 81-11-8 record and a state title in his six seasons.
Brewer, Hermon and Old Town high schools have undergone significant coaching changes.
Nick Arthers has replaced Don Farnham as the football coach at Brewer with David Hamel taking over the girls soccer program from Tom Coleman, and Sarah Estes coaching the field hockey team after Mike Turner stepped down.
Hermon has a new coach in football (Brad Duering), boys soccer (Harrison Dieuveuil) and girls soccer (M.J. Ball), replacing Ken Frederick, Scott Deabay and Adam Leach, respectively.
Lance Cowan is the new football coach at Old Town, and the Coyotes also will have new coaches for girls soccer coach (Mike May) and field hockey (Jamie Flagg). Cowan replaces Arthers, and Flagg takes over for Estes. May follows Chuck Neely.
And defending state Class B field hockey champ Nokomis of Newport will have a new coach in Kristy Veazie Staples, who takes over from Katie Thompson, who led Nokomis to two state titles over the past four seasons.
Practices also are underway for field hockey, football, golf, cross country and volleyball.