The Waterville boys soccer team failed to make the Eastern A playoffs last season and have since worked hard to turn the program around. As a result, the Panthers are in the thick of the playoff race.

“I think we have put in a lot of work since last season,” Waterville coach Kerry Serdjenian said. “Our confidence and believing in ourselves has grown over the season. It has been a very positive experience.”

The Purple Panthers opened the season with a 5-0 win over Brewer a a 2-2 tie with Bangor, then started to play defensive soccer instead of continue to race forward looking to score. Waterville was questioning its ability to score after a loss to Lawrence and ties at Messalonskee and Erskine.

“We were playing so defensively,” Serdjenian said. “Now we’ve started counter attacking and playing in transition.”

Forward Tommy Samson and midfielder Danilo Guthro have played key roles in Waterville’s resurgence this season. Guthro has shown a tenacity that at times is unmatched, while Samson follows suit up front.

“Tommy and Danilo have matured as players in the middle,” Serdjenian said. “They have been strong and contribute a great deal to what we do.”

Over the next two weeks Waterville will find out just how far they have come this season. The No. 6 ranked Purple Panthers have five games remaining, two against teams ahead of them in the standings (Lawrence and Hampden) and one against the team directly behind them (Bangor). Scoring goals in those games will be crucial for Waterville in its bid to host a first-round playoff game.

“Our real goal is to be the best we can be when the playoffs start,” Serdjenian said. “The last five games will be a good measuring stick for us.”

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The Carrabec/Madison boys soccer team sits just one spot out of the tournament field in Western Class B. The Cobras started 0-4, but are 3-2-1 in their last six games. With the exception of a 7-0 loss to St. Dominic, the No. 1 ranked team in Western C, the Cobras have played strong defense.

“We’ve tightened up our defense,” Carrabec/Madison coach PJ Vicneire said. “Defense will be the key for us. I told the boys it can get you in or out of the tournament.”

Carrabec/Madison is young. The Cobras have played four freshmen for large parts of games. Goalie Trent Richardson, a freshman, has been excellent, with sweeper Troy Dunphy and sophomore Colby Fortin have given the Cobras a lift in the middle.

Senior Will Crawford has added a little scoring punch since being moved from defense to forward.

“We had a little talk after our first four games,” Vicneire said. “We have good young players who are getting better and we have a bunch of kids that have their sights set on making the playoffs this season.”

* * *

Florida State is the No. 1 ranked soccer team in Soccer America Women’s Top 25 poll released at the beginning of each week. The Seminoles are 11-0-0 this season and are coached by former University of Maine at Farmington and Mt. Abram High School assistant coach Mark Krikorian.

* * *

After a 1-3 start the Madison girls soccer team is back in the hunt for a playoff spot in Western C. The Bulldogs entered the week battling Sacopee Valley and Carrabec for the final two berths in the tournament.

“It’s a good thing that we are getting back to the .500 mark,” Madison coach Mike Herrick said. “We are playing hard and having better success. If we keep doing that we’re going to be tough in the playoffs.”

A 1-0 loss to Wiscasset and a 3-2 overtime loss to Oak Hill have are examples of what has hindered the Bulldogs at times this season. In those games, Madison outshot its opponent, but lost in the closing moments.

“Those two games were big,” Herrick said. “But they showed us what we need to do on the field and in practice and since then we have been playing better.”

The Bulldogs biggest test is on Monday, when they face rival Carrabec in North Anson. That game could determine which of the two teams makes the playoffs.

“The girls always get up for that game,” Herrick said. “Carrabec has talent so we have to continue to work and play hard. Our recent effort has been more consistent and we need to continue that.”

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