The drive takes about four-and-a-half hours, but the gap between the soccer programs at Richmond High School and the University of Maine at Fort Kent is much more difficult to quantify.

Safe to say, though, the college game is more demanding.

“Preseason was 10 times harder,” freshman Sadie Gosse said. “It’s a lot more intense and a lot more physically demanding. It’s a lot more running.”

Gosse was an offensive catalyst for the past two Class D state championship soccer teams at Richmond — the Bobcats are riding a streak of three in a row — but she has assumed a different role with the Bengals, playing outside back.

“She’s got 10 players around her who are all pretty talented,” Fort Kent coach Lucas Levesque said. “We brought in 14 freshmen and eight of them had played center mid. We had to identify who could play out back.”

Gosse has started all but one game for the Bengals, who are one of the top teams in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA). They won national championships in 2010 and 2011 and last year were runners-up. Under Levesque, they’ve posted a record of 142-31-4 and so far this year Fort Kent is 10-1-0, losing only to USCAA Div. II power Damon College.

A chance to play for a top-notch soccer program was one of the reasons Gosse was attracted to a school at the northern tip of the state, as far removed from Richmond as southern Connecticut. Another was the school’s nursing program, in which she’s enrolled.

“Our nursing program is phenomenal,” Levesque said. “Kids stay. We’ve had very little turnover.”

Gosse played a little center back during her premier league career but never the outside. It’s been an adjustment and she’s has had to re-learn the game in some respects.

“It’s a lot more tactical,” Gosse said. “There’s a lot more information to absorb.”

Gosse said she’s been working on little things, like which way to properly turn her body when delivering a pass, and believes she’s making progress, albeit slowly. Levesque likes her aggressiveness and ability to see the field, but said that aggressiveness needs to fit the game plan, too.

“The big thing right now is to understand the tactical part of the game, a little more when to push up, when to stay home,” he said.

Levesque recruits throughout Maine and Canada, and sometimes beyond. His senior goalie, Kimika Forbes, is from Trinidad and Tobago and one of the best in the country, he said. He also assembled a competitive schedule that includes trips to upstate New York, Pittsburgh and Prince Edward Island, all by bus. The success of the program depends in large part on how well his players get along with one another.

“We’re a very close knit program,” he said. “We’re looking for a selfless kid. I know it sounds clich but we are a family and the kids love playing with each other.”

Gosse is part of that and appreciates the fact Levesque is flexible when it comes to study time and places as much emphasis on success in the classroom as he does with success on the field. It’s a small school where the students all know one another. “It’s a lot like Richmond,” Gosse said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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