RICHMOND — The season is only half over, and already Meranda Martin is having a career year.

Martin scored three goals in a win over Rangeley on Tuesday afternoon, giving the senior 21 goals for the season as the Richmond girls soccer team improved to 8-0-0. Averaging better than 2.5 goals per game, Martin is a big reason the Bobcats are atop the Class D South standings and one of only two Class D teams in the state without a loss or a tie on their record.

Martin admits that even she has been surprised by the start to the season.

“I am, actually,” Martin said after the Rangeley game. “We lost a few starters from last year and we had a lot of incoming freshmen and we needed to fill some big roles in the starting spots. We weren’t really sure if the incoming middle schoolers were going to know what it was like to play varsity soccer in high school.”

It was a fair concern for Martin and Richmond head coach Troy Kendrick to have. The Bobcats won the Class D state championship last year, and the squad struggled during summer league soccer games.

But Martin, according to Kendrick, has been a big reason for the team being able to utilize less experienced players and still have the same level of success they’ve come to expect.

“Besides being a talented athlete and having a bulldog mentality on the field, she’s very positive and a great role model for the younger kids,” Kendrick said of Martin, who along with Kamryn Hurley, Cassidy Harriman and Emily Carver has formed a reliable group of senior captains for Richmond. “They’ve done a great job of setting the tone this year. It’s a good chemistry, good atmosphere. It’s very enjoyable for me to coach them.”

With the graduation of Kelsey Anair and Autumn Acord last season, new senior leadership had to be augmented by on-field production. Martin has more than just filled that role.

A three-year starter previously in the central midfield, Martin this year made the move to striker, where she’s getting most of her minutes this season. It’s taken some getting used to, she said, but Kendrick’s trust has allowed Martin the freedom to create space and opportunities for herself.

“I love to score. I love to be finishing off all the crosses,” said Martin, who has been as efficient finishing goals with her head as she has with her feet. “Over the previous years, we always had Kelsey (Anair) up front. I liked to feed her and see her succeed, but now it’s kind of like I’m the Kelsey on the team.”

Kendrick said it wasn’t easy to move Martin out of the midfield, but there is a benefit to it beyond the goal-scoring acumen.

“She gets more touches that way and could put her stamp on the game more at center mid,” Kendrick said. “She’s a great defender, she’s tireless. She gets back and helps on defense, helps us in transition, and she’s a very unselfish passer.

“I really liked here there, but by moving her up, she and (Caitlin Kendrick) can sort of spell each other. I can play (Martin) up front to rest her a little more, if you will.”

“One thing I like about being a striker is having more control over getting leads and scoring,” Martin said. “It really opens up my mind and gives me chances to do whatever I want to do. (Kendrick) is always telling me to go as far forward or as far back as I want. He has trust in me that I know what I’m doing.”

Richmond has had its share of success over the years, and there has been a long list of quality players to wear the Bobcat kit. But Martin, Kendrick said, is as good as any player to come through the program before her.

“She’s near the top of the list, I would say,” Kendrick said. “Obviously, she’s well-skilled, can finish, has a good right foot, a good left foot and can finish balls with her head. But it’s her tenacity that I really like — she’s scrappy as all get out. She just doesn’t give up. If there’s a ball to be won, she’s there.”

Martin’s 21 goals already represent the high-water mark for a season in her career. The challenge remains staying sharp when playing less talented teams — Richmond has won five of its eight games by seven goals or more — while keeping an eye on a much bigger prize than regular season wins in the East/West Conference.

“In the beginning of the season, Mr. Kendrick would bring up (Class D North leader) Ashland a little bit, but now in the season he’s talking about them more and always preaching to us that we have a lot of potential,” Martin said. “We’ve grown as a team.”

Martin has an eye on a meeting with Class C Sacopee Valley on Oct. 6, a true litmus test for any aspirations of a repeat as Class D state champs.

“That’s going to be our big test,” said Martin, noting that no regular season meeting can match the intensity or nerves of a state title game. “It’s really going to be another eye-opener for the underclassmen.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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