Washburn High School senior midfielder Carmen Bragg expected to be hooting and hollering after her team captured the school’s first ever state soccer championship for either boys or girls by virtue of its 2-1 win over Richmond in the Class D final in Bath on Saturday.
“But all I could do was cry,” said Bragg. “I was so proud of all the girls. It meant a lot for our school. It was the first time we had ever accomplished that.
“We had come so close. It has been our goal all season long,” added Bragg.
Bragg is one of a remarkable group of athletes which have already won three straight state Class D basketball championship and a Class C cross country title. That’s at a school with enrollment of just 120.
But the soccer title had eluded them until Saturday.
Washburn lost in penalty kicks to Richmond in last year’s state final.
The previous season, Washburn lost to Van Buren in the Eastern Maine final despite outshooting the Crusaders by a lopsided margin. The season before that, a late goal in a semifinal to take a one-goal lead over archrival Ashland had Ashland answer with less than a minute remaining and a win in overtime.
“After losing in penalty kicks a year ago, we really wanted to get back and win it,” said junior striker and 50-goal scorer Mackenzie Worcester. “We worked real hard to get back. There is a lot more competition for us in soccer, so it meant a lot more. All of our hard work paid off.”
Worcester and several of her teammates attended the Dutch Soccer Academy in Presque Isle last summer to try to get back to the state game, and it was beneficial.
“The coaches were real good, and we incorporated some our drills into our own [high school] practices,” said Worcester.
“We’ve been waiting for this forever,” said senior midfielder Carsyn Koch.
Koch has won four state Class C cross country races, has several state outdoor track event titles, and is a prominent contributor on the basketball and soccer teams. She said because they have already captured championships in basketball and cross country, winning one in soccer was that much more meaningful.
And she said the fact Saturday’s game was “so rough” added to the accomplishment.
“So many girls got hurt Saturday,” said Koch, who sustained an ankle injury within the game’s first three minutes and came to the sidelines briefly. “But we had a burning desire in our bellies to win, and when we did, it was awesome.”
Larry Worcester, Mackenzie’s father and the superintendent of schools in Van Buren, said one player’s father marveled about the resilience of the team.
“Just when you think they’ve done everything they possibly can, they come up with even more,” said Worcester in relaying the father’s sentiment.
The Beavers wear down teams in the second half of games. They are also fast and relentless.
“A lot of it has to do with our fitness from cross country, but it also has to to with our tenacity,” said Koch. “Part of the reason we run so much is our attitude that we will never give up. It’s one thing to be fast and it’s another to have endurance. It’s rare to have both.
“It’s funny, in the middle of the game, one of the Richmond girls said [to her coach], ‘What do you want me to do? They’re everywhere,’” said Koch.
“These girls can run for hours,” said soccer coach Marcie Barbarula. “It’s a unique group. They’ve been playing together since they were young.”
“We’re also incredibly competitive. It’s kind of crazy,” said Bragg. “We hate to lose.”
Bragg said running cross country gives them a mental strength that carries over to the other sports.
“You don’t only win races with your legs and your lungs but also with your mind at the end of the race,” she explained.
The players are close friends and that leads to valuable team chemistry and communication.
“They are very high achievers. Four of them are the top four students in our senior class. They work very, very hard at everything,” said Washburn athletic director Ron Ericson.
Eastern Maine champs could repeat
Washburn will graduate five seniors but, like the other three Eastern Maine champs, should contend for another regional crown next year.
Worcester will be back after her 50-goal season, and fellow junior Joan Overman had 15 goals to provide valuable supplemental scoring. Several other key players will also return.
Class A champ Bangor, 3-0 loser to Windham in the state game, will have to revamp its back line with Anna Morris, Emily Brookings and Tiffany Gray graduating. However, impressive back Grace Morris returns, and the four-time regional champs will be strong in the midfield and up front with the likes of Anna-Maria Dagher, Alli Boulier and Mary Butler. They will have plenty of depth in goal with Emily Gilmore, Maddie Hodgdon and Cordelia Stewart, who missed the entire season with knee surgery.
Class B champ Waterville, loser to Cape Elizabeth in penalty kicks, has quality players returning in every position led by 45-goal scorer Pilar Elias, 25-goal producer Lydia Roy and midfielder Sarah Shoulta.
Orono, loser to Waynflete of Portland in double overtime in the Class C state final, will lose just three starters and has leading scorer Diana Tyutyutnnyk (19 goals), dynamic striker Becky Lopez-Anido and talented Brinsley Chasse back to headline the list of returnees along with goalkeeper Vicki Goodwin.