First-year Bangor High School girls soccer coach Andrew Varisco said it would take time for his players to adapt to his system, since it differed from the one used by former coach Joe Johnson.
The Rams, having implementing more of a possession game as opposed to a more direct style utilized by Johnson, got off to a slow start.
But since starting the season 2-3-1, the Rams have gone 7-2-1. That stretch includes road playoff wins over Mt. Ararat of Topsham and Brunswick, which helped have land Bangor in Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. Class A North final Bath’s McMahon Field against three-time defending state champ Camden Hills of Rockport.
Camden Hills (16-0) is riding a 63-game unbeaten streak (62-0-1).
It is the fifth straight year the two teams have met in the playoffs and their fourth regional title game during that span. Bangor beat Camden Hills in the Class A North final in 2015 en route to a state championship, but Camden Hills won the next two regional title games and then ousted the Rams in the semifinals last season before going on to claim the state crown.
The Camden Hills-Bangor game follows the 4 p.m. boys championship game between top seed Lewiston (13-1-1) and No. 2 Brunswick (14-1-1).
Five freshmen have played a vital role in the resurgence of the Bangor girls.
Emilyn Streams and Anna Connors are two of their most dangerous strikers, Sasha Jansujwicz has been an influential midfielder playing alongside her senior sister Eliza Jansujwicz, and the goalkeepers are Emma McNeil and Hannah Osmer.
“They have been huge contributors,” Varisco said. “[Streams and Connors] are very active and tenacious. They do a great job disrupting the other team. Their motors are always running as is Sasha’s. Sasha has been phenomenal. She plays very well off her sister.”
Streams is one of the team’s leading scorers, and Connors has also chipped in a number of goals. They are a handful for defenders in one-on-one situations.
Sasha Jansujwicz is highly skilled and an excellent playmaker. Varisco said both goalies have done a nice job while gaining valuable experience and McNeil has allowed one goal in Bangor’s two playoff wins.
Varisco believes his team is playing its best soccer right now and is excited about facing Camden Hills.
“They’re a fantastic team, and you always want to measure yourself against the best teams,” Varisco said.
Meredith Messer’s Windjammers won their two playoff games by a combined score of 23-1. Senior forward Kris Kelly has scored 12 of those goals to move into third place among the state’s all-time goal scorers with 157.
“She has been a beast. It’s like we just let her out of a cage,” Messer said.
The Windjammers won 12 of their 16 games by four or more goals, but they were tested by Bangor twice, winning 3-1 and 4-2.
“They will make us work hard, that’s for sure,” Messer said. “They will play defensively. They did a nice job in both games against us. They were organized in the back and [Bangor fullback] Bella Parkin is so fast. She will be a good test for Kris.”
The Class C North championship games are scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday. The girls game between defending state champ and No. 1 Fort Kent (13-1-2) and No. 3 Houlton (14-2) will be played at the Gehrig T. Johnson Field in Presque Isle.
The boys game pitting No. 3 Mount View of Thorndike (11-2-3), and fourth-seeded George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill (13-2) is set for Hampden Academy.
The Classes B and D North title games will be played Wednesday.
The Class B games are in Hampden, where the No. 1 Caribou boys (14-0-2) face No. 3 Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor (12-2-2) at 4 p.m. and top seed Hermon (16-0) squares off against No. 2 Waterville in the 6:30 p.m. girls game.
The Class D contests, each of which involves the same two schools, will be played in Presque Isle. At 4 p.m., top seed Penobscot Valley of Howland (16-0) meets No. 2 Central Aroostook of Mars Hill (13-0-3) in the boys championship game.
At 6:30 p.m., the No. 1 PVHS girls (15-1) and third-seeded Central Aroostook (13-3) are squaring off in the girls title game.