OAKLAND — No matter how many tactical adjustments opponents might make to try and contain McKenna Brodeur, there’s something they simply cannot account for.

The Messalonskee senior striker still plays soccer with the same youthful exuberance she did when she was just a toddler.

“I just go out there and play,” said Brodeur, whose Eagles open the season Saturday afternoon at Hampden Academy, while most boys and girls teams in the region open their schedules Friday afternoon. “I’ve been playing since I was 4, and it’s really no different for me now.”

Brodeur scored 15 goals last year, and she enters the season with 45 career goals. Anything she adds to that total also adds to the school’s all-time goal-scoring record.

Her game has had to evolve over the past couple of seasons, growing from a little-known sophomore with scoring touch into one of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s premier strikers last season. Brodeur has learned to deal with defenders focused on slowing her in the attacking third of the pitch.

But with talented underclassmen debuting in the Messalonskee lineup this weekend, Brodeur’s job could become a bit easier this season.

“We have so many more threats now, so they can’t just mark me,” Brodeur said. “We have freshmen and sophomores and they’re going to score. (Defenders) will have to pay more attention to them so that will give me more space. I noticed that happening in preseason. Now they have to mark everybody else, too.”

“She can hold defenders off and turn to goal. She only needs one or two yards to get a shot off,” Messalonskee coach Penny Stansfield added. “Playing against her, if the defenders don’t pay attention to her for just a second, they’re going to get punished. She’s definitely a different player from her freshman year.”

Brodeur has exhibited an ability to perform in the clutch. Last season, she twiced scored in the final minute of games to lift Messalonskee to victories — scoring with 47 seconds remaining against Mt. Ararat and scoring with just 10 seconds on the clock to lift the Eagles over Mt. Blue and its KVAC A Player of the Year, striker Eryn Doiron.

“She’s a true target player, because of her size and her touch,” Stansfield said of Brodeur. “Can she turn and score goals? Of course she can. But she can also be a target to anyone on the field. Her second touch, she’s going to lay off quality balls. She’s not going to stay in one position. She likes to move laterally and get crosses in, as well. Every year she’s added something to her arsenal.”

Brodeur’s goal this season is simple: Win.

After opening on the road at Hampden, Messalonskee hosts Edward Little and travels to Brunswick next week. The fourth game of the season is the one that Brodeur is already looking forward to.

“We just have to get past Camden,” Brodeur said of last season’s unbeaten Windjammers. “I want to get past the first round of the playoffs first. Let’s just get past there, and then we’ll see.”

Stansfield knows these first few games of the season are important for a Messalonskee squad eager to include itself in the KVAC A championship conversation. And as a catalyst for the attack, Brodeur shoulders a sizable load in her senior season.

“She’s unique. She’s physically a great athlete, No. 1, but she absolutely loves this sport,” Stansfield said. “She absolutely 100 percent loves the game, and she plays that way. To have a player like that who encompasses spirit, heart, pride, it’s awesome.”

And there’s no tactic opponents can draw up to try and contain that competitive drive.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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