HERMON — In soccer, restarts — such as corner kicks, throw-ins and free kicks — are great ways to set up scoring chances.
The Caribou girls are emphasizing that this fall, and as a result, the Vikings have scored a lot of goals in their first few games.
Two of the Vikes’ five first-half goals Monday afternoon were off restarts, and Meredith Sleeper led coach Todd Albert’s club with two goals as Caribou earned a 5-1 victory over Hermon in a Class B matchup at Pottle Field.
The Vikings (3-0-1) were a bit concerned about having some cobwebs after their three-hour ride from Aroostook County, but Ginger Kieffer scored 1:22 into the match to put those thoughts to bed.
“We were a little worried about getting bus legs, but we came out pretty hard and just tried to control the game more,” said Vikings senior Jenna Selander, one of seven Caribou seniors.
Kieffer’s shot deflected off the far post and into the net.
The skilled Vikings controlled play throughout the first half, and the young Hawks (0-1) had some trouble marking Caribou’s attackers.
“We’re young, the kids were scared to death, first varsity game, Class B, it’s tough,” said first-year Hermon coach Stori Shaw, who has four freshmen on her team.
The Vikings scored four goals in the final 14:30 of the first half, including an impressive tally by Selander.
Paige Small started the sequence with a perfect throw-in down the right flank to Jessica Zbylut, who crossed it back to Jaime Martin. She then laid a perfect pass across the penalty area to an unmarked Selander, who one-touched the ball home.
“We try to set up pretty strong because it sets the tone for the play,” Selander said.
The Sleeper cousins, Olivia and Meredith, combined to score the final three goals. Olivia scored on a breakaway with 13:52 left while Paige Small set up Meredith twice, once on a corner kick and the other on a cross.
Meredith Sleeper admitted her first goal was somewhat lucky. On Small’s corner kick, the ball deflected off a Hermon back and into the cage.
“I tried to win it out of the air, I was the first to it,” said Sleeper.
Even though the Hawks did a good job keeping the dynamic Selander marked tightly, the athletic Vikings used their depth to best advantage.
“We had our eye on her, she’s definitely a tremendous athlete,” said Shaw. “[She’s] a good player. We knew they were going to be tough.”
Shaw was happy with her team’s play in the second half. Kelsey Small scored Hermon’s goal with 33:40 left, with Kaitlin Saulter picking up the assist.
“I’m very, very proud. They didn’t quit, they did not give up at the end,” Shaw said. “They’re great kids, they have a lot of heart.”
The Hawks’ back line and midfielders did a better job after halftime of keeping pressure off goalkeeper Sara Bishop and clearing the ball back to the attackers after Caribou won more of the 50-50 balls and dictated play early on.
“Our midfield had really good opportunities because of open marks,” Sleeper said.
Jessica Swan came up with 10 saves on 13 shots for Caribou before giving way late in the game to Rilee Elliott, who didn’t face a shot.
Bishop had eight saves on 19 shots for Hermon.