After a run of three straight Class A North championship game appearances, the Bangor High School girls soccer team was eliminated in the semifinals last season by eventual three-time state champ Camden Hills of Rockport.
Bangor won the state title in 2015 and lost in the regional finals to Camden Hills in 2016 and 2017.
There will be a new look to the Rams this season as 48-year-old Andrew Varisco has taken over for Joe Johnson, who decided to step down after leading Bangor to five Class A North championships and its first two state titles in his 11 seasons.
Varisco makes his coaching debut at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Bangor High School field against Camden Hills. He brought a new philosophy to the table.
“So far, he has been an incredible coach,” senior striker Maddie Ahola said. “We’re a lot more technical than we had been in the past, which is good. It’s exciting. It’s a nice change.”
“He is a very hands-on coach who is not afraid to step up and kick the ball around with us,” senior back Mackenzie Lambert said.
Because of the style overhaul, Varisco is not going to rush things.
“It is a learning process. They are working hard to learn the style. It’s going to take a little time for them to get comfortable with it, to trust in each other and move to the right places,” he said.
His hope is that his team will improve steadily and be playing its best soccer come playoff time.
“It’s a new team with new players, and we’re still building chemistry,” Ahola said.
The Rams have been bolstered by the return of dynamic all-region and all-state midfielder Eliza Jansujwicz, who spent last season with the Seacoast United U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy Under-17 team.
“She helps us control the ball so much better,” said Lambert, who added that Jansujwicz has been a steadying influence.
The Rams, 10-5-1 last year, have experience at every position except in goal where freshmen Hannah Osmer and Emma McNeil are battling for the starting job.
“They’re very young, but they are working extremely hard. I like their attitudes and their compete level,” Varisco said.
Lambert said having a good goalie coach in Dave McMahon is a plus for the young ’keepers. Varisco said they have been willing to put in extra time with McMahon to speed up the learning process.
The speedy Lambert and tenacious senior Isabel Parkin will be the center backs and anchor an experienced back line. Juniors Maggie Cowperthwaite and Emily LeClair are the outside backs with senior Hannah Dunn, junior Alyssa Elliott and sophomore Hannah Sherwood also in the mix.
Senior Jansujwicz is joined in the midfield by her freshman sister, Sasha Jansujwicz, and senior Rowan Andrews. Sophomores Devon St. Louis and Rachel Mathieu also play in the midfield.
Ahola headlines the list of strikers with her speed and skill, and the Rams are looking for goals from the likes of St. Louis, freshman Emilyn Streams, sophomore Julia Smallwood and senior Meg Putnam.
Ahola could also see action in the back.
The Rams are without junior Riley Andrews, a veteran scoring presence who was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Senior Madison Rice and sophomore Olivia Drake are strikers, senior Mackenzie Harvey is a back and junior Hailey McMahon can play a number of positions.
“We have a lot of technical players and some pretty good speed up top,” Lambert said. “The team has been working well together. It’s going to be a fun season.”