It’s easy for a team that typically scores more goals in one half than its foes do all year to get complacent.

Thanks to the guidance of coach Ian Wilson, Waterville outscored complacency, too, and had a soccer season for the ages.

In his eighth season at the helm, Wilson led the Purple Panthers to a perfect 18-0 record. For guiding them to their first state title since 2008 and their first since moving from Class A to Class B in 2013, Wilson is the Morning Sentinel Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.

Last summer, Wilson stressed conditioning to his team, vowing that it would pay dividends down the road, and the players took their fitness seriously. But Wilson gives his self-motivated the players the credit for resolving to get better after losing last year’s state championship game to Cape Elizabeth on penalty kicks.

Wilson’s biggest task came during the regular season, when the Panthers made winning look easy.

“My job was to help keep focusing on what we can work at improving on,” Wilson said.

So the Panthers set goals, some of which they knew would be extremely difficult to meet, such as not allowing any shots on net in a game. But those goals allowed them to go over each performance with a fine-tooth comb, to find, analyze and correct breakdowns that might not be noticeable during the regular season but could come back to bite them in the playoffs.

Some athletes might chafe at such an exercise or consider it to be nitpicking. But this, Wilson said, was a unique group of girls with the maturity to see the big picture.

“We had a lot of kids provide tremendous leadership on our team,” Wilson said. “We had seven strong senior leaders. They were an absolute dream. They were upbeat and positive and ready to try to improve on some element of our game every single day.”

Waterville’s talent and possession game allowed it to dictate the flow of the game virtually any time the ball was put in play. Opponents sometimes didn’t just fail to get a shot on net, they rarely pushed the ball past midfield. The Purple Panthers didn’t allow a goal in 14 regular season games, while scoring 79 of their own.

Waterville won the KVAC title despite having their shutout streak snapped, then jumped on Caribou and Camden Hills, respectively, early in its Eastern B quarterfinal and semifinal victories.

The Purple Panthers survived an emotionally exhausting 1-0 win over Hermon in the Eastern Maine final to set up a rematch with Cape Elizabeth in the state championship. For the week leading up to that game, Wilson, mindful that no Eastern Maine team had won a Class B state title since Winslow in 2000, reminded his team that it was worthy of winning the Gold Ball.

“The hardest thing is getting that Eastern Maine team to believe that those Western Maine teams are beatable,” Wilson said. “I think it really helped that we were that close the year before.”

While confident, Waterville still needed overtime to overcome the resilient Capers on Lydia Roy’s goal. The difference, Wilson said, was conditioning. Just as he had promised.

The state championship was Wilson’s fifth in the 2014 calendar year. He had won two each with Waterville’s boys and girls indoor and outdoor track teams earlier.

But the 48-year-old Wilson had no idle time to savor that such a rare feat. He had already begun his first season as an assistant track and field coach at Colby College.

“I figure when I’m old and retired, I’ll probably think about it,” he said.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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