The Bucksport girls soccer team celebrates during its Class C state championship game against Maranacook at Hampden Academy on Nov. 5, 2022. Credit: Kim Higgins / BDN

The Bucksport High School girls soccer team has been one of the state’s best programs the past two years.

Bucksport went 27-0 during the regular season and 8-1 in the playoffs during those two seasons, with the only loss being to Maranacook of Readfield 5-0 in the state Class C championship game in 2021.

The Bucks avenged that loss last fall, topping Maranacook 2-1 to win their first ever state title.

Bucksport has lost six starters off that team, including All-Class C North Regional midfielders Ella Hosford and Allie Pickering.

Hosford scored a team-high 33 goals last fall and concluded her exceptional career with 119 goals, tying her with former Lee Academy standout Deidra Ham for 10th on the state’s all-time schoolgirl scoring list. She set a single season record with 61 in 2021.

Pickering scored 17 goals last fall.

Despite the graduation losses, the Bucks will have a legitimate shot to defend their state championship this fall thanks to the return of five quality starters, a host of experienced players ready to assume more prominent roles and some gifted newcomers.

“We lost a lot of talent but we still have a lot of talent and we’ve added some,” said senior defensive midfielder Sammy Cyr, who is considered by ninth-year head coach Mike Garcelon to be as “good an athlete as I’ve ever coached.”

The Bucks outscored their regular season opponents 129-3 last season, so Garcelon was able to provide considerable playing time to a lot of his non-starters. That will bode well for this season as some will move into starting roles and others will be valuable assets off the bench.

Garcelon has transformed a mediocre program into a powerhouse after Bucksport had just three winning seasons in the previous 12 leading up to a 10-4 campaign in 2019. The Bucks didn’t have a chance to win a state title in 2020 because it was the COVID-19 year and there weren’t playoffs.

They went undefeated against teams in their local area that year.

Junior Jetta Shook from Penobscot returns in goal and has been a very important part of the Bucks’ success. She made four saves in the state title game and was like a second sweeper with her aggressiveness as she constantly cleared balls out of danger before they evolved into scoring chances.

“She is as good a goalie as I’ve ever had,” said Garcelon, who has been involved in coaching for 32 years. “She does everything well. She is a great athlete, a student of the game and a fierce competitor.”

“We all have so much confidence in Jetta,” added Cyr.

Senior Nettie Fox was the starting sweeper a year ago and has been moved up to stopper. Ashley Cyr, a senior and Sammy’s cousin, will be the left back and junior Laycee Tweedie will be the right back.

Sophomore Madison Rose will be the new sweeper.

“Madison has blazing speed,” said Garcelon.

Sammy Cyr was the stopper a year ago and will be joined in the midfield by highly skilled sophomore Addison Goss, senior Natasha Monreal and junior Ruby Pereira.

“Addison has great footwork and a cannon for a shot,” Garcelon said.

Monreal scored 20 goals last fall, including one in the state game.

Senior Lily Chiavelli is coming off a 24-goal campaign and she will be joined up front by sophomore Haley Rose, Madison’s twin sister. 

Garcelon called Natasha “explosive” and said Chiavelli is “really a force.”

Opponents will be hard-pressed to keep up with the fleet-footed and extremely athletic Golden Bucks.

The Rose sisters finished in the top seven in the state Class C outdoor track meet’s 100 and 200 meter dashes and ran legs for the triumphant 4×100 and 4×400 relays. Monreal ran a leg for the 4×100 team and Goss ran one for the 4×400 team.

Goss was fifth in the 100 meter hurdles and Monreal was second in the long jump, third in the triple jump and fifth in the high jump. 

Several other soccer players also competed in track for the Bucks, who finished third in the state C meet. 

The list of talented players coming off the bench includes Abby Wilson, Layken Varnum, Chloe Bratcher, Aviah Tweedie and Alivia Shute. Aviah is Laycee’s cousin.

Garcelon subjected his players to challenging and valuable tests during the summer and preseason with games against Class B North contenders Ellsworth and Old Town.

Sammy Cyr said those games were important because the Bucks dominated their regular season opponents last fall and this gave them a taste of “real good competition” like the teams they face as they get deeper into the playoffs.

“They play at a faster pace at that level and it’s more physical,” Garcelon said. “They showed us our weaknesses and what we need to improve on.”

Garcelon, who is assisted by Billy Eberhardt, Sarah Lanpher, Miles Bischer and Jack Gordon, said his team knows it has a target on its back and teams aren’t going to just roll over against his Golden Bucks.

“We’re ready for the challenge,” Sammy Cyr said. “We’re confident. We know what we can accomplish. I would love to make it two state championships in a row my senior year.”

Bucksport opens the season when it hosts Foxcroft Academy from Dover-Foxcroft on Saturday at 3 p.m.