It was hard to blame the Erskine Academy girls soccer team for a letdown on Saturday against Winslow. The Eagles, who boast an otherwise unblemished record, learned that junior midfielder Kaylee Porter would be out for the season.

Porter, an all-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference selection in Class B a year ago, has a bruised liver and is out for three to six months. It was a loss that stung Erskine (5-1-1), one still felt in an emotional win Tuesday night over Maranacook on the road.

“It hurt us,” Erskine coach Ryan Nored said. “We’ve had some history with (key) players getting injured, and I know the girls kind of had the feeling of, ‘Is this happening again?'”

It’s believed the injury occurred when Porter was involved in a nasty collision with the goalkeeper in a game at Spruce Mountain on Sept. 13. A couple of knocks later, and Porter was feeling the effects, according to Nored.

Junior Kayla Hubbard, who scored the go-ahead goal against Maranacook, said it took Erskine some time to adjust to Porter being out.

“We really miss her,” Hubbard said. “We really wanted to win this game (against Maranacook) for her.”

• • •

More and more these days, the Maranacook boys are seeing something rare in high school soccer: A five-man back line from opponents.

In back-to-back games against Leavitt and Erskine, both shutout wins for the Black Bears (5-0-1), the Hornets and Eagles each employed five backs and four midfielders for most of the matches to try and inhibit Maranacook’s attack.

“Offensively, we’ve got to do some better things,” Maranacook head coach Don Beckwith said. “We’ve seen it quite a bit lately, and I expect others to do it. It’s just going to give us more time on the ball, which will be cool.”

Senior Sam Wilkinson was recently moved from the striker position to the outside midfield to try and find him more space from which to operate.

“Recently, a lot of teams have been packing it in in the back,” Wilkinson said. “We just have to kind of change up how we go at things, but the game plan still stays pretty much the same.”

“We’ve got to get the ball outside and away from the middle,” Beckwith said. “That’s every team’s weakness. Every team has less guys outside, so outside’s the deal. That’s one of the reasons I moved Sammy to the outside half, to be able to do that.”

• • •

Since a season-opening loss to Monmouth, the Madison girls have been rolling through the Mountain Valley Conference.

The Bulldogs have won six straight to improve to 6-1-0 and currently sit second in the Class C South standings. And while Madison has rolled up 34 goals this season, led by Madeline Wood’s 13 goals and six assists, the Bulldog defense has been at the heart of the surge.

Madison has allowed only one goal since the 3-2 loss to Monmouth. The key, said co-head coach Mike Walsh, has been getting the backs to focus on strong-side defending while the team’s outside midfielders and forwards have been asked to fill in on the weak side against counter attacks.

“It’s taken a little while for everyone to really come into it,” Walsh said. “I think they felt vulnerable if they didn’t cover the whole field, but getting them to tighten up has been the biggest thing.”

Certainly, the team has had time to get a better grasp on defending as its possession game has really dominated games.

With Wood and Ashley Emery controlling the midfield ahead of defensive midfielder Whitney Bess, it’s allowed striker Jillian Holden time and space.

Holden has eight goals this season.

“The girls share the ball really well, and there’s not a lot of talk about who is scoring the goals or getting the assists,” Walsh said. “We’re really emphasizing ball movement throughout the whole field.”

• • •

The Hall-Dale boys haven’t missed a beat, despite losing 14 players from last season’s team that went all the way to the Class C South regional semifinals.

The Bulldogs have won three straight matches, and five of their last six overall, to improve to 5-1-1 on the season and assume the top spot in the current Heal point standings.

Freshman Josh Nadeau has six goals on a team that head coach Andy Haskell says has been filled with pleasant surprises.

“I knew our team would be better in October than it would be in August,” Haskell said. “We’ve kind of played a little more direct offensively. Before, we were more of a buildup team, because we knew we had a group that had played together. Our speed of play is much better now. Physically, when you have freshmen and sophomores, you’re at a bit of a disadvantage. But these guys are good. They can play, and it’s showing.”

Junior Beaux Vachon has helped anchor the Bulldog back line, and Ashtyn Abbott’s minutes as a defensive midfielder have been significant ones. Hall-Dale has allowed just one goal in total during its current win streak and only six all season.

Following games against Lisbon and Dirigo over the next week, the Bulldogs have an Oct. 4 date circled on their calendar. That date brings a trip to Monmouth, the team that beat them in the C South semifinals last season.

Monmouth is currently unbeaten at 6-0-0 this season and ranked second in Class C South behind Hall-Dale.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC