BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor High School girls soccer team isn’t feeling any pressure or anxiety after winning its first state title last fall.
The Rams shut out Western Maine winner Scarborough 4-0 in the Class A championship game in November, and the girls are eager to defend the crown.
“It really makes us go out and work a lot harder,” said senior defender Morgan Johnson, daughter of coach Joe Johnson. “We really want to get another one, so we just keep working as hard as we possibly can and try to get to where we need to be.”
Monday was the first day the Maine Principals’ Association allowed the state’s high school fall sports teams to practice and hold tryouts, except for a small number of Aroostook County teams that break for the fall harvest and have started to play regular-season games already. The fall sports are football, boys and girls soccer, golf, cross country, fall cheering and volleyball.
The Rams opened practice Monday at Union Street Complex with a number of question marks due to the number and quality of players who graduated.
Ashley Robinson was Bangor’s top scorer last year, and she will be playing for the University of Maine this fall. Goalie Mia Smith, the last line of defense for a team that gave up only eight goals last year, all in the regular season, also has graduated, along with backs Erin Boulier and Liz Hintz, midfielders Hanna Colpritt and Jade Baumrind and backup goalies Meri Wicks and Kristen Henigan.
“That’ll be a big loss for us,” said Joe Johnson, “but we’ve had a lot of kids who’ve been training a long time, playing a lot of soccer, waiting for a chance to play.”
Morgan Johnson will be the closest one to a lot of the new faces on the field, but she is confident they’ll be all right.
“There’s been a lot of the younger players that have shown up a lot this summer and worked really hard to step up and fill those positions,” she said.
In addition, junior back Tiffany Gray had surgery on her right knee to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the season.
“As much as it’s going to hurt to miss Tiffany, I think we’ve got a couple of kids who are quite capable of filling in for her,” said Joe Johnson.
“Here at tryouts today I think we’ve seen a lot of good things happening. It went well,” said senior striker Grace Maclean. With 26 goals and 24 assists, she was the No. 2 scorer last year on a team that scored 98 goals.
Maclean said most of the team members participated in a summer program that concluded near the end of July.
“We’ve been working all summer really hard, trying to get in shape,” said Maclean. “We love soccer, so we’re ready to get out here and start playing.”
Maclean feels that the summer program was a big help in preparing for the coming season.
“We were just trying to get in shape, stay in shape, work together as a team, get to know the younger kids, introduce ourselves,” said Maclean.
“I would say they’re in really good shape this year,” said Joe Johnson. “We had a good corps of kids show up and work out pretty hard this summer. It’s been the norm for a few years around here. They’ve really bought into the conditioning part of it.”
Maclean also was among the seniors who took it upon themselves to supplement the summer program by organizing light workouts during the two-week layoff before the start of the high school preseason.
Joe Johnson had mixed feelings about that.
“They need their breaks, too,” he said. “If they want to go do that on their own, it shows great leadership, but that two weeks, there’s a lot of healing that happens.”
He added, chuckling, “It wouldn’t have bothered me if they just stayed home. … They know what hard work is, I don’t know if they know what the right amount of rest is sometimes. They go, go, go. Rest is important.”
The Rams begin their title defense Aug. 31 when they host Lawrence of Fairfield at 6 p.m.
Despite a significantly changed lineup, Joe Johnson believes the Rams will be competitive.
“We’re going to miss some senior leadership and you go a long way with senior leadership,” he said, “but this bunch of seniors that’s stepping up this year, they’re pretty confident what they want to get done, too.”
And they know what they want to get done.
“I think we’re going to do really well,” said Morgan Johnson. “Last year’s state championship kind of boosted our confidence a little bit and it’s a goal that we’ve reached, so we want to reach it again.”