By this point in the season, teams have put in the arduous physical work to get to the regional soccer championships. As Richmond girls coach Troy Kendrick sees it, the greatest obstacles remaining are mental.

“It’s up here,” Kendrick said while pointing to his head. “It’s about being hungry and keeping the prize in mind.”

The prize is now within reach for seven local teams who will be playing for regional titles on Wednesday. For Richmond and Monmouth, both the boys and girls teams are in the hunt for hardware. Maranacook’s boys are looking for their third consecutive state championship game appearance, but their first in Class B. The Rangeley girls are looking for their first regional crown. And the Erskine boys are looking to continue the biggest Cinderella story in the state.

The winners move on to the state finals, which will be held Saturday in Portland and Presque Isle.

• • •

Rangeley coach Chip Smith has no concerns about his team’s hunger heading into the Class D South final (2 p.m., Richmond High School).

“The girls always get up for them,” he said. “They’re big rivals in all three sports (soccer, basketball and softball).”

“We’ve got a history and they always play us tough,” Kendrick said. “They always give us a competitive game.”

That history includes a 5-0 Richmond win in the season-opener at Richmond, then a 2-0 Bobcats victory on Sep. 29.

The teams also met in last year’s regional semifinal, a nail-biter that Richmond won, 1-0.

“We’ve got to bring that same intensity down there with us (Wednesday),” he said. “The key is to make sure we’re communicating. We can’t have any breakdowns or a lack of communication. And we can’t afford to get pinned in. We can’t afford to let them dominate half of the field.”

Kendrick said the top-seeded Bobcats (14-1-0) aren’t taking what would be their sixth consecutive regional crown for granted.

“We’ve got some good captains. We’ve got a bunch of seniors, so they do a pretty good job of keeping the blinders on the kids,” Kendrick said.

Those seniors include strikers Autumn Acord and Kelsea Anair, who has scored 102 career goals, two away from tying the school record. Rangeley was one of the few teams to shut Anair out this season, holding her scoreless in the second game.

“We’ll throw the same game plan at her somewhat at Richmond just because she is such a dominant force on that team,” Smith said.

The second-seeded Lakers (10-3-0) have a prolific scorer of their own in senior forward Michaela Shorey, who had four goals in their 6-0 quarterfinal win over Pine Tree Academy, and one of Class D’s top defenders in senior Blayke Morin.

• • •

As the 10th seed, Erskine (13-4-0) believes all of the pressure will be on No. 1 Ellsworth (13-2-1) when the two battle for the Class B North crown (4 p.m., Ellsworth High School).

“We definitely are the underdog,” Erskine coach Phil Hubbard said, “and we have nothing to lose. But our kids believe they can win. Some underdogs don’t believe they can win, but we do.”

A big part of the Eagles’ confidence is their ability to keep other teams off the scoreboard. Save for a brief second-half lapse in a 3-2 semifinal win (on penalty kicks) over Winslow in the semifinals, they haven’t given up a goal in the playoffs, upsetting No. 7 Mt. Desert Island, 3-0, in the preliminary round and beating No. 3 Presque Isle, 1-0, on penalty kicks in the semifinals.

“We’re playing some pretty good defensive ball right now,” Hubbard said.

Led by goalie Denver Cullivan, midfielder Trevor Hubbard and forward Luke Peabody, the Eagles are playing with the confidence and poise of a team with a dozen seniors.

“These guys have been together a long time,” Phil Hubbard said.

“We’ve been focusing on three things — discipline, hard work and heart,” he added.

Senior goalkeeper Bruce St. Peter and senior midfielder Lukas Firestone are the keys for Ellsworth, which won last year’s regional final over Oceanside.

• • •

The last time Maranacook lost a soccer game was in the Class B regional semifinals in 2012. The Black Bears moved to Class C for two years and never lost a game en route to back-to-back state titles.

Back in Class B, the Black Bears have been on a mission and still have not lost a game, going 50-0-2 since that last setback. Yet coach Don Beckwith said his top-seeded team considers itself the underdog in its matchup up (5:30 p.m., Maranacook Community High School) with second-seeded Yarmouth, the defending state champions.

“They’re loaded,” he said. “They’re really good. They’re very well coached and they’ve got a lot of guys who have put a lot of time in.”

Both teams are very balanced and blessed with excellent speed. The Clippers (14-1-1) feature senior forward Jon Groothoff and the midfield trio of senior Patrick Grant, junior Henry Coolidge and sophomore Luke Groothoff. The Black Bears (16-0-0) are strong from back to front, with Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B Player of the Year Chris Beckwith and fellow senior Jason Brooks anchoring the defense, senior Kent Mohlar and junior Hayden Elwell in the midfield and senior Paul Martha and junior Sam Wilkinson at striker.

Don Beckwith touts Yarmouth as “probably the third best team in the state behind (Class A powers) Scarborough and Lewiston. They don’t have a weak spot on the field and when they put guys in (as substitutes), they don’t fall off.”

“But you’ve got to beat the best to be the best,” he added. “We’ll rise to the occasion.”

• • •

The last regional final for the Monmouth boys and girls also came in the same year — 2000 — when the Mustangs were in Class D. They also pulled off the same feat in 1999. On Tuesday night, both teams attended a sendoff spaghetti dinner on the eve of their respective Class C South championships.

“We’ve got 150 people here. The community support has been tremendous,” Monmouth boys coach Joe Fletcher said.

The community will have to divide itself up to continue that support on Wednesday as both teams take on Waynflete of Portland, but at different sites.

On the girls side, the fourth-seeded Mustangs (12-2-2) team will host the sixth-seeded Flyers (13-4-0) (1:30 p.m., Monmouth Academy).

Monmouth coach Gary Trafton cautioned not to let the seedings fool you.

“They’re a legit team. They’re certainly not the underdog. We’re the underdog,” he said.

Trafton pointed out the Flyers play several Class B schools in the Western Maine Conference, and those schools fared better in the playoffs than the Class B representatives from Monmouth’s Mountain Valley Conference.

Led by senior forward Arianna Giguere, Waynflete plays the game at a pace the Mustangs aren’t used to seeing.

“Their very aggressive, very quick and they’re very skilled,” he said. “They go to the ball hard.”

Trafton has been pleased with his team’s aggressiveness of late, too.

“We’ve played well the last few games,” he said. “Lately the kids have been taking advantage of the opportunities we’ve been getting.”

“We’ve got to limit Waynflete’s opportunities and cash in on our own,” he added.

The Mustangs will be counting on junior Haley Fletcher, sophomore Emily Grandahl and seniors Sammy Grandahl, Maddie Bumann and Sidney Wilson to generate those opportunities.

Joe Fletcher said his fourth-seeded Mustangs’ (13-3-0) greatest asset is their tenacity. That could be a big factor against the second-seeded Flyers (13-2-1) (1:30 p.m., Waynflete School).

The Flyers have built an impressive resume in 2015 that includes victories over South B finalist Yarmouth and semifinalist Gray-New Gloucester and a 1-0 loss to South A semifinalist Falmouth.

“They’re very good. We definitely have our work cut out for us,” Fletcher said. “But we can play with them. I think we match up with them fairly well in terms of speed and size.”

Monmouth features the speedy, physical duo of senior forward Gage Cote and junior midfielder Hunter Richardson. Led by senior goaltender Milo Belleau and senior back Willy Burdick, Waynflete allowed six goals all year. But it’s the Flyers’ ability to create defensive confusion that has Fletcher wary.

“They have a lot of movement off the ball, so we have to be able to communicate and make sure everyone is accounted for,” he said.

• • •

Defending Class D boys state champion and No. 2 seed Richmond (11-4-0) hopes to punch a ticket to its third consecutive state game by going on the road (2 p.m., Buckfield High School) to upset a top-seeded Buckfield (15-1-0) team looking to avenge a 1-0 loss in last year’s regional final.

The Bucks, led by senior forward Jon Randolph and senior midfielder Hunter Wiley, already gained some measure of revenge by handing the Bobcats two low-scoring losses this season, 2-1 and 1-0.

“They play really good defense,” Gardner said. “I think we dominated the (1-0) game and they just had eight or nine guys back.”

That game was played on Richmond’s home field. Buckfield’s home field is smaller, akin to the Richmond girls field the Bobcats were forced to play Searsport on in last Friday’s semifinal due to wet conditions. The Bobcats will need to find the passing and shooting lanes as soon as they open up.

“Their field is smaller than this one,” Gardner said after his team beat Searsport, 4-1. “They’re going to be a tough side.”

Perhaps the big-game experience of seniors Curtis Anderson, Tyler Soucy and Nate Vintinner can help the Bobcats turn

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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