They are both tall and athletic.
And their high school girls soccer teams are reaping the benefits of having them in goal.
But Houlton High School’s Katie Condon, who stands 5-foot-10, and Penobscot Valley of Howland’s Sami Ireland, who is 6 feet tall, have taken different routes to success.
Condon had scored 22 goals in her first two seasons as a striker for the Shiretowners and was looking forward to putting more balls in the back of an opposing net this season. But when projected starting goalie Hannah Foley suffered a knee injury during summer soccer play, coach Tim Tweedie turned to Condon.
She has responded by allowing only four goals with five shutouts in nine games for Houlton, which is 8-0-1 and sits atop the Eastern Maine Class C Heal Points.
Ireland didn’t even like soccer when she first began playing it at the age of 6.
“There was so much running and I didn’t want to do that. But if I was the goalie, I wouldn’t have to run,” reasoned Ireland, who has been a goalkeeper ever since.
Penobscot Valley is 10-0 and has surrendered only three goals. Ireland, who missed two games with a finger injury, has five shutouts.
Abby Davis subbed for her and posted shutouts.
Tweedie said he decided to put Condon in goal because “she was our best overall athlete. The transition would be quicker. She has great size and she is a very gifted athlete. She has been tremendous.”
Tweedie said Condon is aggressive and won’t hesitate to charge off her line to get to a loose ball.
“The ball is safer in my hands than it would be if the other team gets a throw-in,” explained Condon, referring to what would occur if she stayed back on her goal line and forced her fullbacks to kick the ball over the sidelines.
Tweedie also said Condon communicates constantly with her backs.
“I enjoy directing the defense. It’s hard to just sit back and watch,” said Condon.
Her teammates will pass the ball back to her and she likes “to try to get a quick counterattack going.”
“There are some games where I barely touch the ball, so that keeps me going,” she added.
Condon feels comfortable in goal and enjoys it. She has been pleasantly surprised with how she has adapted to her new position and gets a thrill out of making a good save.
“It feels good,” she said.
It didn’t take Ireland long to fall in love with the position.
“You do a lot of diving and sliding around and I found myself thinking, ‘This is kind of fun,” recalled Ireland. “I enjoy sliding into people.”
Penobscot Valley coach Ryan Reed said Ireland, who has started since she was a freshman, has improved every year and is an imposing figure in net.
“She’s a lot stronger this year and smarter with her ball distribution,” said Reed. “She’s tall and has a real good wingspan. She plays the position very well and isn’t timid. She looks forward to breakaways. She really excels in one-on-ones.”
Like Condon, Ireland gets involved in starting counterattacks because her backs will play the ball back to her.
“I want to be involved. I don’t just like to make saves,” said Ireland, whose 28 career shutouts are eight shy of the school record.
Ireland has benefited from playing for the Seacoast United club team during the offseason.
She said that her club team isn’t as dominant as her high school team “so I get a lot more action. I have to make a lot of saves. I love it so much. It helps me get better.”
As strong as the goalies have been, both teams have exceptional supporting casts.
Center back Chelsea Gentle and All-Penobscot Valley Conference midfielder Natalie Hill (5 goals, 9 assists), both juniors, and senior striker Emily Mooers (9 goals) supply Tweedie with outstanding players down the middle.
Despite losing seven starters, the Shires haven’t missed a beat.
Juniors Evelyn Pratt and Emma Drew and sophomore Elizabeth Ward have complemented Gentle in the back while senior Madeline Anderson and freshman Mia Hanning have been productive in the midfield. Up front, freshman striker Kolleen Bouchard has scored eight goals in her last six games. Freshman Tyra Gentle, Chelsea’s cousin, has seen service up front.
The key reserves include Claire Gilpatrick, Aspen Flewelling, Rebecca Mooers, Alexis Miller and Kelly McLaughlin.
Reed said this team is the fastest he’s had in his five years at Penobscot Valley and headlining his list of speedsters is center back Morgan Moon, a four-year starter.
“She’s the fastest player I’ve ever seen,” said an appreciative Ireland. “She is always there (for us).”
Sophomores Tori Watts and Elizabeth McKinnon and juniors Malloree Workman and Mikayla Roy have been steady performers in the back; senior Meghan Howey has been influential in the midfield after scoring 29 career goals as a striker and junior midfielder Amy Hallett shares the team lead lead in goals with 12. Freshman Ryley Buck has contributed three goals and three assists.
Up front, junior right wing Arianna McKinnon (12 goals) and senior striker Logan Tozier (9) lead the attack. Senior Rebecca Bouchard and juniors Taryn Reed and Sophia Carson alternate in.
Important reserves include Ashley McKenzie, Miranda Brown, and Taylore Crawford along with Davis, who is a back and the backup ’keeper.