Emily Staples played just a few minutes at striker during her career at Gardiner Area High School and not much at all before that.

But that’s just where Staples is earning her minutes six games into her junior season with the University of Southern Maine women’s soccer team.

Staples, who played primarily as a defender last year, has two goals for the Huskies (3-3-0) this season.

“I like it,” she said. “It’s a different position for me. It’s been an adjustment but I’m working on it. I’m constantly watching the other strikers on our team, just to see where they are at.”

Coach Lisa Petruccelli said Staples played steady as a defender last season, so why the change?

“Last year, we had a need back there,” she said. “We knew she could play back. We had a lot of kids who could play striker. This year, we have a lot of defenders. Emily is a natural forward so we thought she could transition back. It helps her stay on the field.”

So far, so good for the 5-foot-5 Staples.

She scored her first goal of the season Sept. 6 in a 3-1 victory over host Thomas College. The following day, Staples converted a rebound for a goal in a 4-0 win over Maine Maritime Academy.

“It felt good,” Staples said. “I felt like I was finally contributing.”

Added Petruccelli: “She does a nice job for us. She’s not the fastest player out there but her ability to see the field serves her well. She’s consistent.”

Although Staples does not start for USM, she sees plenty of minutes each game. Petruccelli says there only a handful of entrenched starters on the team anyway.

“Playing striker helps her stay on the field,” Petruccelli said. “She’s very coachable and she’ll do anything we ask her to. She’s learning.”

Staples acknowledged she was a little nervous for the season opener Aug. 30 against Maritime College — a 3-0 victory — but has since settled into her role.

“I was going to do whatever it took to stay on the field,” she said. “I’m learning from the other players, just about where to be in certain situations. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a quicker pace from last year.”

The Huskies finished sixth in the Little East Conference last season, going 3-14-0 overall. They return 15 players from last year, including two seniors and nine juniors.

USM was picked to again finish sixth in the LEC by league coaches.

“We’re young but we have balance,” Petruccelli said. “I was surprised we were sixth. I thought we were going to go maybe fourth. We’ll see. It’s still a long season.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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