WATERVILLE — Will Paradis remembers his freshman season at Temple Academy, even though he’d rather not.

“I think we won two games all season,” the Berean senior striker said. “This season has been a dream of mine. Three years ago, I never thought we’d reach a regonal final. It’s really special.”

On Wednesday, No. 3 Temple travels to top-seeded North Yarmouth Academy for the Class D South championship game. It’s the first time in Temple’s history that a team — in any sport — has reached a regional final. The Bereans have earned the right to be here, having won 15 straight games following a season-opening loss to Richmond, including a win over Greenville in the semifinals on Friday. Temple athletics joined the Maine Principals’ Association before the 2015-2016 season.

“It’s satisfying,” Temple senior midfielder Noah Shepherd said. “It’s what we’ve been building toward the last couple of years. Last year, I think it was within our reach but we let our guard down (in the the semifinals). We were just very determined to make sure we didn’t repeat last year’s mistake.”

Temple’s surge aligns with the addition of head coach Phil Hubbard, who last year guided the Bereans to their first MPA tournament appearance. Hubbard’s philosophy has taken hold at the tiny Waterville school, as have some key international students.

Senior striker Ilija Ivkovic, of Serbia, is among a group has elevated soccer at Temple.

“It’s a much better atmosphere and chemistry this year,” Ivkovic said. “That’s the most important thing, to have a good chemistry and atmosphere to play soccer.

“In Europe, the most important sport is soccer and it’s the most popular sport. The team here is better, though — in Europe, everything depends on one player mostly.”

Temple Academy soccer keeper Nathanial Wiles makes a save during practice Tuesday in Waterville. Staff photo by David Leaming

Paradis said welcoming international players into the mix has been seamless.

“One of the kids came in this year from Germany, where he’d played on a pretty good team,” said Paradis, whose 33 goals lead the team. “He’s looking at the way we play, and he’s giving us pointers. They really help us because they know how the game is supposed to be played.”

It will take the best effort to date from the Bereans to beat NYA, a team which has gone 14-2-0 and feasted on a Class C schedule featuring playoff teams such as Waynflete, Traip and Sacopee Valley.

While Temple has outscored the opposition by 100 goals this season (117-17), it will have to rely on organization over firepower Wednesday.

“One year of them knowing me and me knowing them, and learning the system, has made a huge difference,” Hubbard said. “We’re growing as a team and figuring each other out. It’s gone beyond just a ‘season.’ It’s developing to prepare from last year to this year, through the summer, to get a feel for what it feels like.

“They understand the system and play, and they understand their roles.”

Temple Academy head soccer coach Phil Hubbard gives instructions during practice Tuesday in Waterville. Staff photo by David Leaming

That, said Shepherd, is what separates this Temple team from the one he was on two years ago as a sophomore.

“It’s a difference in organization,” Shepherd said. “Two years ago, we had talent but we were the furthest thing from organized. This year, it’s not a question of skil. It’s a question of who is going to play better as a team. We have the skill there, it’s a question of who is going to bring it to the table on game day.”

Win, lose or penalty kick shootout in the regional final. the Bereans have already done something no other team at Temple has ever done. That doesn’t mean they’re done, however.

As Paradis said, “More gravy is never a bad thing.”

“After we won the last game, I said to myself, ‘I feel content,'” Shepherd said. “Obviously, I’m going to go out on that field and give everything I have left. But we’ve made history for our sports program, and I feel happy just knowing we’ve gotten this far.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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