BANGOR, Maine — The seniors on the Bangor High School soccer team have not tasted defeat often.
But two of their seven losses came against two-time defending Class A state champion Camden Hills of Rockport in regional championship games.
After claiming the state title in 2015, the Rams lost 3-2 to the Windjammers in 2016 and dropped a 3-1 decision last season, which leaves the current seniors’ career record at 43-7-2.
The Windjammers are loaded with talent and the favorite to win a third straight regional title. And though the Rams will be without All-State midfielder Eliza Jansujwicz, who opted to play club soccer, their seven seniors aren’t conceding anything.
“We’re very quick and very deep this year,” said Bangor senior outside midfielder Sarah Hollis, who considers this the fastest team she has played on.
Senior striker Libby Spekhardt said the Rams will utilize their speed and tenacity to pressure the ball and create turnovers that will lead to scoring chances.
“We’re a little bit on the small side but we’re very smart and mentally tough. And we see the field real well,” senior center midfielder Bella Varisco said.
Bangor 11th-year head coach Joe Johnson said when it comes to speed and skill, this team is as good as any he has had.
“We have great senior leadership,” said Johnson, who has led Bangor teams to five regional championships and two state titles. “I expect to get a lot out of the seniors this year.”
He said Spekhardt, Varisco and Hollis have elevated their games to another level.
“We’ve played together since pre-K,” Spekhardt said. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and that will help us move forward.”
Hollis said Spekhardt and Varisco have done an incredible job leading the team.
“I love seeing their growth as teammates and friends,” Hollis said.
Spekhardt has been a prolific goal scorer throughout her career and will be “really hard to deal with” for opposing backs, according to Johnson.
Spekhardt will be joined up front by Riley Andrews and Spanish exchange student Celia de Diego, who are both sophomores.
Johnson said de Diego is highly skilled and will be a legitimate scoring threat.
“I think we’ll be able to score goals,” Johnson said.
Varisco and sophomore Sophia Mullins will play influential roles as center midfielders with Hollis and junior Madeline Ahola serving as the outside mids. Varisco and Mullins must help the Rams overcome the void left by Jansujwicz, who is playing for Seacoast United’s U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy Under-17 team.
A solid supporting cast on the outside includes juniors Brianna Adams and Meg Putnam and sophomore Alyssa Elliott. Johnson said the versatile Ahola can also play in the back or up front.
The Rams return senior goalie Alexis LeBreton, who is coming off a solid 2017 campaign as a first-year starter.
“My main concern is figuring out our back line,” Johnson said.
Junior Isabel Parkin is a tireless and reliable defender and sophomore Maggie Cowperthwaite earned playing time a year ago. Junior Rowan Andrews has been moved back to defense. Sophomore Emily LeClair and freshman Olivia Drake will get playing time in the back.
The Rams will receive a boost in a month when junior midfielder/back Mackenzie Lambert returns from a knee issue.
Attack-minded freshmen Julia Smallwood, Devon St. Louis and Rachel Mathieu have impressed and will see some duty.
“We’ve been really working on moving the ball [quickly] and maintaining possession,” Varisco said. “Our counter attack is going to be a big thing. We’re going to defend as a team and attack as a team. We’re going to work together as a unit. l think it’s going to be a good season. I’m excited.”
Bangor, 12-4-1 last season, opens the season Saturday at Lewiston and visits Rockport on Tuesday against Camden Hills.
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