BANGOR, Maine — The undefeated Bangor High School boys soccer team is gaining respect beyond the lofty status accorded the Rams in the Heal Point standings.
The defending Class A state champions, 8-0 and top seeded in Class A North this fall, are ranked fourth in the USA Today/United Soccer Coaches Region 1 (New England) poll released this week.
Coach Garth Berenyi’s club, winner of its last 23 countable games, trailed only No. 1 Manchester (New Hampshire) Central High School, No. 2 E.O. Smith High School of Storrs, Connecticut, and No. 3 Nauset Regional High School of Eastham, Massachusetts, in the regional poll.
Bangor, which also received votes but was unranked in the USA Today/United Soccer Coaches national Super 25, is the only Maine team in the Region 1 top 10. And that ranking does not include the Rams’ last two matches, Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over previously unbeaten Edward Little of Auburn and a 3-0 win against Messalonskee of Oakland last Friday.
Defense has been one key to the team’s success so far this year, as Bangor has allowed only five goals in eight matches — two on penalty kicks — while amassing five victories by shutout.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. While sophomore goalie Austin Conway is new to the lineup, the defensive unit protecting him — senior Henry Nagle and juniors Jack Bourassa, Josh Sherwood and Conor O’Brien — is intact from a year ago.
“Our back line plays really well,” said Bangor senior striker and leading scorer Garth Berenyi, son of the Rams’ head coach. “Last year I don’t think there was a game that our starting back line gave up more than one goal, and we have the exact same line back so we knew we were going to be solid there.
“Teams struggled to score on us last year and now the kids back there are even better.”
Bourassa agrees that the combination of familiarity, experience and skill level has helped Bangor’s defense thrive.
“We all know each other really well from playing together last year so the chemistry is there,” he said. “Also we all play outside of Bangor’s season and that helps, too. We just trust each other and know what each other’s going to do. That’s big for us.”
The victory over Edward Little, which defeated Bangor early in the 2016 regular season as well as in last year’s KVAC championship match, was fueled by two goals in the first five minutes of play and protected by continued offensive pressure and the sturdy defense as the Rams passed a midterm exam of sorts.
“We now know there’s no one we’re afraid of,” said Berenyi. “In past years there’s been teams where we had to play the best we could and kind of hope for something else because we didn’t have the team, but this year we know we have the team to get back to the states.”
Newcomers add to ‘B’ depth
The confluence of reclassification has created a logjam atop the Class B North standings.
Mount View of Thorndike (8-1) and defending regional champion Winslow (6-2) are ranked 1-2 in the Heal Points entering Wednesday’s play but were followed closely by two newcomers to the division.
Brewer, a longtime presence in Class A soccer, moved by enrollment to Class B this year and is ranked third at 6-1. The Witches posted six straight victories to open the season before they suffered a 5-2 loss to Mount View last week.
Not far behind Brewer is the two-time defending Class C state champion Washington Academy of East Machias.
Coach Chris Gardner’s club, also reclassified to Class B this year, has made a smooth transition to its upgraded schedule. The Raiders were 7-0 entering a match at Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor on Wednesday to extend its winning streak to 43 matches.
Fourth-ranked WA, which has outscored its opposition 37-3, may face its toughest tests to date next week with a home date Monday against No. 5 Presque Isle (5-1-1) followed by a road trip Thursday to face No. 3 Brewer.