Staff Writer

When Maranacook boys soccer coach Don Beckwith prepares for the season, that includes the postseason, too.

His Black Bears have been at or near the top of the Class B division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference in each of the nine years he’s coached. But breaking through to the Western Maine championship is another matter.

Beckwith’s teams have knocked off Falmouth, Yarmouth and Gray-New Gloucester in the past, but taking out two of the Western Maine Conference powers in the same tournament has eluded the Black Bears so far.

“They play a boatload more soccer,” Beckwith said. “They have kids who are seniors who have played five or 600 games. And they play better competition consistently.”

Beckwith has done a lot to rectify any drawbacks his team faces. He’s taken youth travel teams around the state in the offseason and found top competition for his varsity team during the summer and preseason. So far this preseason, the Black Bears, who open the regular season Wednesday against Morse, have faced Lewiston, Cape Elizabeth, Gorham, St. Dom’s, Portland, Oxford Hills, Waterville and Waynflete, winning or tying each opponent but Gorham which beat them 2-1.

“I think it helps us play a little more physical, a little faster,” Beckwith said. “They play faster because they have more skills. You can’t take a play off. That’s really the way I want to play.”

The Black Bears should contend in the conference again this season and perhaps further.

“I think we’re pretty good right now,” Beckwith said. “I can go 18 deep.”

• • •

Three transfer students, one in particular, will have a major influence on the Richmond boys soccer team’s season. Coach Joe Scribellito is especially excited about Eddie Stewart, a senior transfer from Wiscasset.

“I’ve been around Class D soccer for a long time,” Scribellito said. ” He’s got the strength and speed to be a dominant player. You don’t find kids with the drive and motivation he has.”

Stewart will play midfield and at times striker. In an exhibition game Saturday he played all 80 minutes and showed no signs of tiring.

“I’ve never seen him get slower or weaker at any position I put him in,” Scribellito said.

Stewart’s presence in the lineup has allowed Scribellito to move some players around. Nate Tribbett has moved to the front line from midfield while Randy Moody, who was injured much of last season, has dropped back to play defensive midfield.

“He gives us a big leg from the back,” Scribellito said of Moody. “We missed it all last year.”

Stewart’s younger brother Mike, a freshman, will also start, while Trevor Korineck, a transfer from Chop Point, will also see a lot of playing time once he recovers from a preseason injury.

The Bobcats open their season Friday at home against Valley.

• • •

There are three new boys coaches this year in the area. Dave Valle takes over at Winthrop, Nick Wallace at Gardiner and Pete Letourneau at Oak Hill.

Valle actually began late last season after former coach Greg Ruby was let go. He has a background that includes playing at Roger Williams College and later on a Dutch-American team. He plans on employing a 4-3-3 alignment designed to shore up his defense.

“We’re playing more of a European style soccer,” he said. “I coach like I play, which is very simple. I don’t try to call out special plays.”

The Ramblers open their season at St. Dominic, one of the favorites in the Mountain Valley Conference this season.

“We used to go into St. Dom’s scared,” Valle said. “We’re not scared any more.”

Wallace takes over for K.C. Johnson, who resigned after 13 years at Gardiner. Also the junior varsity boys basketball coach, Wallace coached the JV soccer team the past two season. He has a playing background that includes stints as a goalie at St. Joseph’s College and Husson University.

“I think we’ll be a stronger defensive team” he said. “I’m a defensive-minded coach.”

The Tigers open Friday night at Lincoln Academy.

Letourneau took over as head coach just before preseason when Chris Albert had to resign because of a job commitment. He coached the junior varsity at Oak Hill the past two seasons. A move to the predominantly Class C Mountain Valley Conference should help the Class B Raiders.

“I think we’ll be competitive,” Letourneau said.

• • •

The Cony girls saw a significant jump in participation as 54 students showed up in preseason.

“I think a good part of it was due to the success we had,” Cony coach Jeff Hersey said, who’s team went 8-6 last fall and reached the Eastern A playoffs. “Plus the middle school turnout. I think there’s a little more interest at the youth level.”

Preseason conditioning whittled the numbers to 41, a good thing since Hersey didn’t think playing time would be available for 54 players. The Rams, who open Friday at Mt. Blue, are keeping 18 players on the varsity and 22 on the junior varsity.

“I like to think we’re playing a fun style of soccer that attracts kids,” Hersey said. “We don’t just go into a defensive shell.”

• • •

After losing a couple of players to ACL injuries last season, the Monmouth girls paid special attention to preventing such knee injuries.

“A lot of girls went through training this year to help prevent that,” Monmouth coach Gary Trafton said. “And the athletic trainer set up a program two weeks before preseason started.”

It may have helped but the Mustangs lost another player when sophomore Jamie Givens tore her ACL in practice.

“All she did was cut to change direction and it gave out,” Trafton said. “There was no contact at all.”

With just a couple of substitutes the Mustangs, who open the season Friday at Mountain Valley, can’t afford any more injuries.

“The skill level is a lot better than I’ve had in the past.” Trafton said. “We just have to stay away from injuries.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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