READFIELD — When the boys soccer team at your school has won three of the last five state championships and has been a regular participant in the regional semifinals for a decade, it’s easy to feel a bit overlooked.

For many, many seasons the term ‘soccer program’ at Maranacook referred only to the boys’ juggernaut squad. The Black Bear girls are happy to report that’s no longer the case.

“It’s definitely a change,” Maranacook senior back Alysia Cyr said. “It’s nice. Now that we’re both winning, it’s like we have a great soccer ‘program’ at Maranacook — and it’s not just the boys.”

To wit: It took 12 games this season before somebody was finally able to defeat the Maranacook girls, and the Black Bears head into the Class C South regional tournament this week with a 9-2-3 record and the No. 4 spot in the seedings. All of that, despite playing a schedule exclusively comprised of Class A and Class B teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

“In my first two years here, we had really, really good years to build off to get us to this here,” third-year Maranacook coach Travis Magnusson said. “Both years we finished above .500 and got in the playoffs, so in our eyes we’ve always been in that mix as a contender. … Maybe in the school’s eyes we’re more there this year, but in our eyes we’ve always felt like we’ve been right there.”

It’s not just on the Maranacook campus that people have taken notice. On more than one occasion this season, opposing KVAC coaches noted how difficult it had become to play against Maranacook.

Longtime Black Bears boys coach Don Beckwith pours countless hours into making every member of his roster — freshmen through seniors, varsity players or not — feel like part of the family. The Black Bear girls have ripped a page straight from that playbook.

To a person, every member of the Maranacook girls team feels like it’s the single biggest factor in the team’s success.

“When I was a freshman, our team wasn’t really close at all,” midfielder Grace Despres said. “I never talked to the seniors. This year, as a senior, I talk to everyone. I think we’re more of a family than we were in years past.

“I think we have more girls who are serious about soccer, but I also feel like we’re starting to see results because of our chemistry and how we’ve been as a program the last couple of years.”

“I think the biggest compliment to give our team is our bench is incredible during the games,” Magnusson said. “We’re the most engaged bench in the league, and I think that’s hands-down. I think that’s a big part of our success that has made us different from other teams that we play. Maybe that’s where it comes from, maybe that’s why we play so hard. It goes back to the players, because they’re so close knit and they’re invested.”

It’s important to consider the depth the Black Bears have through all four classes. Emily Harper is a freshman striker who has brought an element of electricity to the Maranacook attack, sophomore Evelyn St. Germain converted seamlessly into a center back to pair with classmate and center midfielder Kate Mohlar in the middle of the park, and junior Skyeler Webb emerged as an all-conference caliber goalkeeper.

Nearly a third of the Maranacook roster plays soccer year-round, with the bulk of that number coming from the freshman and sophomore classes.

“We’ve had a lot of good people help to build these classes with multiple good feeders,” Magnusson said. “Anna Drillen’s dad was the middle school coach a couple of years ago. Rob Mohlar and Shawn Harper, who coach with me now, they did the middle school last year and they do travel. This group of parents we have has done a lot to build that up, and we’re getting that benefit.”

Which seems to be paying off. Instead of facing Hall-Dale in a preliminary round game for the right to be thrown to the top seed — as the two teams did last fall — Maranacook hosts the No. 5 Bulldogs Wednesday in the regional quarterfinals. Unlike last year, the Black Bears have designs on being more than just a participant in the postseason.

“With our season, it’s hard to be satisfied with just a playoff game,” midfielder Kaylee Jones said.” I think we all want to go as far as the Gold Ball.

“We want the Gold Ball.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter; @TBarrettGWC

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