When University of Southern Maine soccer tri-captain Jonathan Varney wants to get his team to play aggressively, he draws on words of inspiration from a hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky.

“It’s like that famous quote, ‘You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,'” Varney said. “If you’re not taking shots, you’re not making shots.”

The University of Southern Maine Huskies are looking for Varney to take and make a lot of shots this year. Coach Mike Keller, who used Varney’s versatility to play him all over the pitch last season, is keeping the former Maranacook star at wing forward this year in hopes of bolstering his offense,

Varney has already proven he can have an impact when he does look for his shot. His first goal of the season (and second of his career) was the game-winner in the Huskies’ 1-0 overtime win over rival St. Joseph’s College last Wednesday.

“I think it was our first win in the last six meetings against St. Joe’s. It was a huge weight off of our shoulders, I think is the best way to describe it,” said Varney, who earned Little East Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors for his game-winner. “We were all just amped up, fired up and ready to go. We were ready to play our next game against Worcester State that night.”

The Huskies had to wait until Saturday to play Worcester State instead. But Varney thinks the win over their rivals carried over into USM’s 1-1 tie in that game.

“I don’t think we’ve ever played better,” he said. “We were relaxed. We were playing like we know we can play, playing like the good team we are and not playing frantic.”

Varney, a redshirt sophomore, is anything but frantic on the pitch. He didn’t play his freshman year so he could focus on his academics, majoring in sports management with a coaching minor. Last year he played in 16 games, drawing nine starts, and impressed Keller with his poise and leadership.

After adding some promising freshmen to his defense, Keller decided it was time to keep Varney involved in the offense on a more permanent basis.

“Our defense has improved, so that gave us an opportunity to move him forward. He’s really one of our hardest working players,” said Keller, a Mt. View High School and University of Maine at Farmington graduate with previous coaching stints at Cony High School and Thomas College.

“He’s good with the ball,” Keller added. “He’s very alert as to what’s around him. He makes other players around him better just by playing quickly.”

Accustomed to playing striker for Don Beckwith at Maranacook, Varney was happy to have a more stable role on the team, especially coming off of off-season toe surgery.

Playing multiple positions last year helped his all-around game and has made him a better captain because he can relate better to all of his teammates, he said. But being entrenched in one spot this season has made preparing for each match easier.

“I can focus on what my duty is and where I’m going to be on the field,” he said. “I knew going into the season (that) goal-scoring and scoring chances had to be a focus for us. I’ve been going over different aspects of playing the position and knowing where I have to be on the field when I do have the ball or when I don’t have the ball in order to create those chances.”

Varney knows he will have to create more chances for others and take more chances of his own for the Huskies, who are 1-5-1 on the young season, to have success.

“I’m really hoping to be an above-.500 team. I think we have a great chance at winning more games,” he said. “My goal is to win out, win our conference and go to the NCAA tournament. We have the skill, it’s just a matter of putting it together.”

And taking their shot.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33