The Camden Hills High School girls soccer team will have a target on its back again this year as it guns for a fourth consecutive Class A state championship.
The Windjammers may have just five starters back off last year’s 18-0 team that beat Scarborough 1-0 in the state title back, but those five starters are game-changers, and there are plenty of talented reserves who are ready to step into starting roles.
Meredith Messer’s Windjammers, who are 67-2-2 over the past four seasons, had their first official practice Monday morning along with many other fall sports teams across the state.
”I am very impressed with their mentality and work ethic,” said Messer, who is beginning her 24th season guiding the Windjammers. “We’re going to take things game by game.”
The pressure of being a defending champion doesn’t faze Messer or her team.
“We bring out the best in other teams, and that’s a good thing. We have Bangor as our first game of the season. What a great way to start,” said Messer, whose team travels to Bangor for a 6 p.m. game Sept. 5.
The Rams won the state title in 2015 before Camden Hills went on its three-year run.
The Windjammers ousted the Rams in the semifinals 2-0 last year then edged Messalonskee of Oakland 4-3 in the regional championship game before nipping Scarborough in the state title game.
With players up front such as two-time All-American and Class A Player of the Year Kristina Kelly, who had 39 goals and 10 assists last season — and has amassed 110 & 39 in her career — and Ella Pierce, goal scoring should not be an issue for the Windjammers.
Pierce scored in all four Windjammer playoff games including the game-winner vs. Scarborough.
Messer has to replace three starting backs in Eve Gutheinz, Grace Blackwell and Sarah Spizzuoco, and goalie Isabelle Lang, but she is confident they will be solid in the defensive third.
Junior goalkeeper Alex Southworth earned valuable minutes splitting time with Lang during the regular season before Lang took over in the playoffs.
“Alex is 5-foot-9, 5-10, and very athletic. She has been training really hard,” Messer said.
The one returning starter in the back is sophomore Tessa Whitley, but senior Emi Wood and junior Carolina Contento saw significant playing time and are ready for starting roles.
All-America midfielder Kassie Krul and 30-goal scorer Eliza Roy, a striker, will be difficult to replace but holding midfielder Kaylyn Krul, Kassie’s sister, is expected to get more involved in the attack and junior Anya Babb-Bott returns as a starter in the midfield.
Kaylyn Krul is a four-year starter, although she began her career as a center back.
Sophomore Ella Powers saw plenty of duty in the midfield as a freshman and will be the other midfield starter. Kelly also could see some time in the midfield.
Two other players who are expected to be quality contributors Lexi Heidorn, a junior striker who missed last season due to a concussion, and versatile sophomore Alexandra Tassoni.
Messer said she expects Bangor and Messalonskee to be two of their primary challengers in Class A North.
The other girls soccer state championship winners were Cape Elizabeth, a 2-1 victor over two-time regional champ Presque Isle in the B final; Fort Kent, which beat Maranacook of Readfield 1-0 in the C game; and North Yarmouth Academy, 4-1 winner over Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, in Class D.