Youngsters, take notice: The best way to develop your game involves pick-up games in the family kitchen.

Monmouth Academy senior Haley Fletcher, who scored 23 goals this season for the Mustangs, said that one of her favorite parts of growing up in a soccer-crazed household are the soccer games in the kitchen.

“We’re always playing soccer, working on skills and parts of the game in the summer,” Fletcher said. “And in the winter, we’d play little pickup games in the kitchen.”

Fletcher set a new career record with 83 goals for the Mustangs, and her excellent senior season helped earn her Kennebec Journal Girls Soccer Player of the Year honors. Richmond’s Meranda Martin was also considered.

One of Fletcher’s greatest improvements this season was one casual observers might not even have noticed. Instead of playing at the ferocious, straight-ahead pace she’d become known for, Fletcher began picking her moments and focusing more on distributing the ball to teammates around her.

Monmouth head coach Gary Trafton had a heart-to-heart conversation with Fletcher before the start of the season this summer, the kind of conversation you don’t always expect to have with a player who is just a handful of goals away from the school record.

“I told her that she needed to step up and score goals when it really mattered, and that’s what she did,” said Trafton, who watched how teams altered their game plans following a monstrous 30-goal sophomore season from Fletcher. “She scored a lot of goals (as an underclassman), but she didn’t always come up as big in the big games because teams were marking her. I was really pleased with what she did this year.”

“Every game, I went out and just tried to play better than I did the game before,” Fletcher said. “This year was my favorite year. (My junior) year was a lot of fun, too, but this year our team really clicked. On and off the field, it was a lot of fun. Right from our first game — that was a really good game. I remember in the summer, it was a little shaky and I was thinking we might not be as good as we’d been in the past.”

Ironically, that first game of the season — a 3-2win over Madison in which Fletcher scored twice — was one of Fletcher’s most significant performances of the entire year.

In the second half of that contest, Fletcher made sure to leave her mark on the pitch. She had the winning goal and assisted on the first goal of the half.

“That was first time I ever beat Madison in my career,” Fletcher said. “I think that was my favorite game of the season. We all came out really strong, and I knew to get where we needed that I would have to play my best. My adrenaline was really high.”

It was also the kind of day Trafton knew Fletcher had in her.

“She was much more of a team person this year,” Trafton said. “She knew that everything didn’t have to be on her. Haley tried to do a lot on her own in the past, and people started marking her.

“She was not selfish this year at all. She knew her role was to help dish the ball to open teammates, and to score goals, too. She really evolved.”

That’s not entirely surprising, considering her family’s involvement in the sport. And all those games in the kitchen.

“My dad is a soccer coach, and we all grew up playing soccer together in the backyard,” said Fletcher, whose father, Joe, is the boys coach at Monmouth. “We pick teams, and we play hard against each other. My older brother always went really hard against us, and I think that made us better.”

Fletcher has not yet decided where she will go to school next fall, though she does want to go into the nursing field.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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