Steve Lammert is having the time of his life.
The former scientist, who retired July 1, is in his first season as the head coach of the John Bapst High School girls soccer team.
Lammert previously coached middle school soccer at All Saints Catholic School in Bangor for 16 years.
“This is my dream job. This is the best gig I’ve ever had,” said the 66-year-old Lammert, an Indiana native. “I’m having a ball.”
The Bangor-based Crusaders are enjoying a nice bounceback campaign after going 5-9-1 a year ago.
John Bapst is 7-4 with two of those losses coming to 9-0 Hermon, one to 9-1 Mount Desert Island and the other to defending Class B North champ Presque Isle.
Even though the Crusaders had their six-game winning streak snapped by Hermon on Tuesday, they turned in an impressive showing in the 2-1 setback.
“They are on the rise,” Hermon coach M.J. Ball said.
That was Lammert’s primary reason for pursuing the job.
“I want to bring the John Bapst program back to the top of the table,” Lammert said. “They’ve had great teams all along but in the past several years, from watching their games, I think they’ve underperformed.
“It’s nice to see this level of talent come together and play a team like Hermon at the same level. At least it’s a competitive game,” Lammert said after the one-goal loss to Hermon.
John Bapst has not advanced beyond the Class B North quarterfinals in more than nine years.
Lammert has installed a possession style of game to go with the occasional long through-ball, similar to the style used by Hermon.
“We like to play possession ball. We like to surprise people with through-balls. But we don’t want to live on the long ball,” he said. “We play possession; we pass. The other style [constant long balls] doesn’t fit for us.”
Lammert, whose three daughters played soccer at John Bapst, brought assistant coach Mitzi Skehan with him to the program. They had coached together at All Saints.
“The first thing I did after I got the job is ask Mitzi to come out of retirement,” Lammert said.
Heather Ouellette is the other assistant.
“We are loaded with a lot of good players and most of them are juniors, only a handful of seniors [four],” he said.
The Crusaders have been stingy of late, allowing just six goals in its past seven games.
“Our defensive line has really been rock solid all season, even against a great team like Hermon,” Lammert said.
Junior Lacey Scanlon is one of the standouts on the back line and Lammert said freshman Natalea Pepin has been stout.
“[Pepin] has played every minute of every game, and I don’t think anybody has ever beaten her,” he said.
Senior Anna Dunn and junior Jamey Satterfield have also been effective defenders.
Junior Gillian Skehan headlines the midfield, and she is joined by juniors Savannah Libby and Isabelle Angelo.
Junior striker Kate Harriman is their leading scorer. Another junior, Casey Britt, complements her up front and scored the goal against Hermon off a Harriman feed. Senior Diana Harriman is another striker.
Senior Jayda Smith is the goalkeeper and has done an admirable job.
Gillian Skehan said there are several reasons for their improvement this season.
“Our team chemistry and overall attitude is a lot better,” she said. “Our working together and getting to know each other has improved a lot. Our style of play has shifted and is working really well for us.”
She said Lammert is working out well as their head coach.
Scanlon said John Bapst has better team chemistry and is distributing the ball much better.
“We have a lot more ball movement than we did last year. Our passes are nice, and we’ve been getting into open field,” she said.
Scanlon and Skehan feel the Crusaders are peaking at the right time and can make a deep run in the playoffs if they keep improving.’’
“We’re on the ascendancy, and that’s we can ask for,” Lammert said.