STRONG — Sage Pound was more interested in catching up on sleep than she was in celebrating a championship Saturday afternoon.

The Mount View sophomore-to-be played a key role in her Mustangs winning the Championship Division championship at Mt. Abram High School. But after a night spent crammed in a tent with several of her teammates — some of whom, apparently, are night owls — a comfortable spot and some shuteye was more important than picking out the right pass or defending the midfield.

“No, not really, we definitely didn’t get much sleep,” Pound said. “We got a lot of time to bond, though — especially when it rained.”

Now in its 10th season, the Western Mountain 7v7 Soccer Classic is as big as its ever been, featuring 47 teams converging in the mountains. More than 400 high school soccer players, both boys and girls, are featured over three days of nearly non-stop play on four small-sided fields.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans Mt. Blue goalie Ace Provencher makes a save against Freeport in a shoot-out at the Western Mountain 7×7 Soccer Classic on Saturday in Strong.

When the games are done, there are pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners, live bands each night and, of course, camping all over the Mt. Abram campus.

At the end of the summer soccer season, it’s one final push into the high school preseason that is now just a few weeks away.

“It’s 100 percent about team building and touches. That’s all we wanted when we came in here,” said Mount View coach Dave Page, who has been coming to the tournament since it began. “We didn’t have any expectations. We just came in here to play, and it’s a great way to end the summer. The girls really love coming here. As long as they love coming here, I will.”

“We lost eight seniors last year, so we’re making up for it and making our own team,” said Mount View junior Taylor Hodgdon, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the championship game against host Mt. Abram.

The 7v7 Soccer Classic was the brainchild of former Mt. Abram girls coach Marc Keller, who is now an administrator at Spruce Mountain. Keller’s tournament was a girls tournament for many years before it expanded to boys three years ago.

Current Mt. Abram boys soccer coach Darren Allen and his wife, Angel, now handle the bulk of the tournament’s organization, which includes getting teams, scheduling across four divisions, organizing food and drinks, having event T-shirts and maintaining a tournament-specific website with results and field locations.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans Freeport goalie Carly Intraversato gives up a goal in a shoot-out with Mt. Blue at the Western Mountain 7×7 Soccer Classic on Saturday in Strong.

There are 24 boys teams and 23 girls teams in the 7v7 Soccer Classic this year, up from 18 boys squads and 20 girls teams in 2017.

“It’s a little bit by design and a little bit just that it turned out that way,” Darren Allen said of the field’s growth. “The girls side of the tournament has always been more established, so we’ve tried to grow the boys.”

There has been a heavy local presence this weekend with teams from Mt. Abram, Mt. Blue, Mount View, Gardiner, Nokomis, Erskine, Maranacook and Hall-Dale all participating, with some schools fielding more than one team.

Teams also come from much further away, with boys teams from both Caribou and George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill represented.

“We came across this tournament somehow three years ago, and its our third year coming back,” said George Stevens boys coach Mark Ensworth, whose team made a two and a half-hour trip straight across the state. “For all of our summer program, this is the highlight for the kids. It gives them a carrot to play towards. They do an awesome job with organizing this.”

While some schools play in summer leagues, others — like Mount View — schedule games independently against other schools. For George Stevens, the summer schedule consists of games twice a week against a local summer camp of out-of-state attendees.

“They’re right next door to us, so it works out great and gives us some competition,” said Ensworth, who has two teams entered in the tournament. “The thing that makes this different from other tournaments is that everybody camps out. It’s a real bonding thing, which is nice.”

From a soccer standpoint, the 7v7 format encourages a quicker pace of play in more compact areas, leading to more touches and more opportunities with the ball. And while that is important heading into the fall, nobody really seemed all that concerned with the soccer side of things, at least not from a technical perspective.

“It’s team-building and it’s fun. That’s it,” Allen said. “It’s a chance to showcase our school. We’re in a beautiful spot here, and it’s easy for our kids to take that for granted.”

Mount View and Freeport (in the Premier Division) won the girls championships Saturday. The two boys divisions will decide those titles on Sunday.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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