The Camden Hills girls soccer team hoists the gold ball in 2019 after beating Scarborough 2-1 in the Class A state championship game in Hampden. Credit: Ali Tobey / BDN

The last time the Camden Hills High School girls soccer team played, the Windjammers defeated Scarborough 2-1 for its fourth straight Class A state championship.

The Nov. 9, 2019, victory extended Camden Hills’ unbeaten streak to 65 games (64-0-1).

It has taken nearly two years for the team to defend its stranglehold on the state Class A championship, as there was no season last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Head coach Meredith Messer will have just three starters off her 2019 team in the lineup when the Windjammers open the season against Lewiston on Thursday.

Five regulars graduated last spring and six players who could have participated this fall, including both goalkeepers, decided not to play.

So Messer will be relying on a freshman, Maddy Tohancyzn, who has never played goalkeeper before.

But Messer and her players aren’t feeling sorry for themselves.

“We have quality players. The kids love to play and they play a lot,” Messer said, referring to her players’ participation on club teams as well as the high school team. “We’re focused on how we blend our skills together. It will take some time to click. But the kids are willing to work.”

If the Windjammers’ two exhibition games are any indication, scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem.

Camden Hills beat 2019 Class B North champion Hermon 6-3 and 2019 Class B South finalist Yarmouth 5-2.

Messier said the build-ups to the goals were a little ragged but her players were clinical when it came to finding the back of the net with their shots and they were tenacious attacking the goalmouth.

“We’re still learning how to make the simple pass,” Messer said.

The Windjammers will be led by center back Tessa Whitley, midfielder Ella Powers and striker Ali Tassoni. They are seniors and the only returning starters from the 2019 team.

Whitley said even with the loss of 11 players, “we’re still pretty good. We’re really hungry this year. We want to keep the [unbeaten] streak alive.”

“We feel we’ve got a pretty strong team, especially in the middle of the field,” Powers said.

“And we have a lot of speed up front which will really help us,” said Tassoni, who scored the game-winning goal in the 2019 state final. “The new players have powerful shots which will add a lot to our team.”

Messer called Whitley a smart player with great speed who is difficult to beat one-on-one.

Powers, according to Messer, creates a lot of offense with her crosses into the penalty area. She is always ready to defend or attack and keeps the team in a good position around the ball. Powers also has a great shot.

Tassoni is really fast and tenacious, according to Messer, and holds the ball well.

Whitley will be joined in the back line by four juniors: Kara Andrews, Auren Teel, Darian Langille and Lily Engass. The juniors will rotate in the three spots in the four-back alignment.

“We’ve really worked on communicating,” Whitley said.

The midfield has been bolstered by the addition of transfer Sydney Stone from Ohio. She will be an attacking midfielder.

“She’s a great player,” said Messer, who was the National Federation of State High School Associations National Coach of the Year for girls soccer in 2019.

Freshman Britta Denny or sophomore Emilia Johnson will occupy the other spot in the three-midfielder alignment alongside Powers and Stone.

But whoever isn’t playing in the midfield will be moved up to the three-player front line to join Tassoni and sophomore Brenna Mackey.

Mackey scored three goals in the two exhibition games and Powers had a pair while playing in one of the two games.

Freshmen Leah Snyder and Lea Zwecker will also see playing time.

Snyder, according to Messer, is a valuable utility player who can play multiple positions. She is predominantly a midfielder; Zwecker is a forward.

Messer, Powers, Whitley and Tassoni have confidence in their freshman goalkeeper and feel her athleticism and height will serve her well in her new position.

“We have to keep people out of our [penalty area] and work really hard on the defensive side of the ball,” said Messer, a Washburn native in her 26th year coaching the Windjammers.

With no season last fall, Messer devised a schedule of intrasquad games involving varsity and junior varsity players being mixed together on teams.

They played 8 vs. 8 games as well as the normal 11 vs. 11 after having a couple of practices, and held a COVID Cup championship game.

Powers, Whitley and Tassoni admitted that they feel more pressure this season as they try to extend the unbeaten streak and win a fifth straight state title.

“We have a target on our backs,” Whtley said.

“We all have bigger roles now so there is a little more pressure,” Powers said.

They are ready for the challenge.