Sarah Bragg and Emily Gilmore have compiled impressive resumes at Bangor High School as three-sport athletes, but one thing had been missing: a state championship.
Entering this season, Bragg had been a part of teams that had played in five Eastern Maine Class A championship games and two state games. Gilmore transferred to Bangor as a sophomore and played in four regional title games and one state championship matchup.
Bragg and Gilmore have certainly endured their share of frustrations.
Lawrence and Messalonskee captured state titles.
“To be a senior and to come out on top is awesome,” said Bragg.
“It’s pretty crazy. We’ve had a lot of chances [to win state championships], we have come so close,” said Gilmore. “It’s hard to pull it off. It’s nice to win one before we leave. ”
Even though the Rams team graduated 25-goal scorer Mary Butler and 24-goal producer Ali Boulier, Bragg said, “This was the first year I felt we had a really good chance at going all the way. A lot of people didn’t think we would go very far, but the young girls all stepped up and coach [Joe Johnson] got all he could out of us. We started clicking even in preseason, and we knew we were going to get better from there.”
Several seniors with previous experience playing in state and regional championship games were beneficial, she added.
“We really wanted to win this one,” said Bragg, who is a guard in basketball and third baseman in softball.
The team chemistry also was vital. The seniors have played together since they were young.
“We’re very close. We’re best friends, and that really helped,” said Bragg.
Johnson said the senior leadership was “awesome,” and they made all the newcomers feel welcome.
“The freshmen fit in really well,” said Gilmore, who is a guard in basketball and center fielder in baseball.
Johnson thought it would be difficult to replace Boulier and Butler, “but we did it with a lot of people.”
Eight players scored at least three goals, and six had at least one goal in their four playoff wins.
Freshman striker Libby Spekhardt, Bragg and junior midfielder Katie Butler led a balanced attack with 16, 11 and eight goals, respectively; senior striker Erynne Sauda had six, and junior midfielders Grace Morris and Megan Conner had five each. Fleet-footed sophomore Luci Clein (three goals) created problems for opposing backs.
Gilmore said Spekhardt’s impressive preseason gave her confidence that goal-scoring wouldn’t be an issue.
Spekhardt’s had a team-high three playoff goals. The Rams received two apiece from Butler and Morris. Conner and speedy sophomore Maddi Cormier also scored.
Cormier finished with a team-high 14 assists to go with four goals.
And Gilmore was superb, making a bunch of game-changing saves while allowing just two goals and posting three shutouts in the postseason. She wound up with 13 shutouts overall and made 120 saves including 12 against Gorham.
“Emily would have been the most valuable player of the state game,” said Johnson.
“Our defense was strong. Maeve [Harrigan] controlled everything back there, and they cut the angles off for me,” said Gilmore.
Freshman Bella Varisco, junior Kira Yardley and sophomores Maddie Symonds and Lauren Young joined Harrigan in the reliable and resourceful back line.
The Rams had a very deep team, and Johnson played a lot of players, which will bode well for the future.