Fielding competitive teams is nothing new for the Blackbear United Football Club, based in Hampden.
The soccer club’s U-12 girls squad qualified for the U.S. Youth Region I regional tournament last summer by capturing the Maine Cup and, just a year later, the team, coached by Jay Pyne, is at it again, this time in the U-13 division.
The team of 17 local players will represent Maine in the regional tourney once again this year by virtue of its 3-0 victory over Portland-based Odyssey Sport to claim the State Cup.
The regional tourney is set for July 2-7 in Barboursville, W.Va.
The East region consists of teams from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia.
The Blackbear squad is on a roll as of late, having posted nine consecutive shutouts while compiling a 17-2-4 record, including 14-0-2 against in-state competition.
“Having a good defense like that in the game of soccer can keep you in any game,” said Pyne, whose daughter Abby is the team’s goalkeeper.
Blackbear United’s first game in the regionals is July 3 against a representative from Connecticut, while its other pool-play matchups are July 4 against New Hampshire and July 5 vs. Virginia.
The team will have to win its group against those three foes to advance to the semifinals July 6. The finals are July 7.
“Making the [semifinals] would be extraordinary,” Pyne said.
While Abby Pyne has posted a lot of shutouts, her back line has done an extraordinary job keeping teams in check, something Jay Pyne hopes will continue, especially against tougher competition.
“As a coach and knowing the level of competition we’re going to face, I’m eager to see how successful that defense can be against the truly top-notch talented teams,” he said.
It was stingy in the Maine Cup, as Blackbear United knocked off Maine Coast United 6-0 in the semifinals before defeating Odyssey Sport in the final.
However, Pyne knows goals are going to be at a premium in the tourney.
“Offensively I think it’ll be more of a struggle for us to score goals against the other teams,” he said.
Since the team is going to be driving to West Virginia — roughly a 17-to-18-hour excursion — the team will be doing some fundraising to pay for expenses such as gasoline and hotels.
“The girls have been individually trying to fundraise and they’re doing what we call a juggling-thon, juggling soccer balls [with their feet] for long periods of time,” said Pyne.
The team is eager to face some dynamite competition.
“This team, they’re brimming with confidence, eager to see how well the can do against the best teams from the East,” Pyne said.
“This is something that pretty much every premier level soccer player has as their dream when the season starts, to win the State Cup and get to go on to the regionals,” he added.
Team members are Tiffany Gray, Kristina Reichel, Mollie Roy, Melanie Vangel, Hanna Renedo, Katelyn Curtis, Amanda Allen, Claire Peterson, Emily Smith, Alexandria Winchester, Abigail Pyne, Pilar Elias, Diana Tyutyunnyk, Naomi Shearer, Amanda Levasseur, Mackenzie Winchester, Kaitlin Saulter and manager Sarah Pyne.