READFIELD — It becomes a sports cliche, most often, because it’s true. And there’s no bigger truth in high school soccer than defense wins championships.

All you have to do is ask the Maranacook girls, who won the program’s first regional championship this week after conceding just one goal across three Class C South tournament wins. The Black Bears will try and continue that strong defensive effort when they meet Fort Kent for the Class C state championship Saturday morning at Hampden Academy.

“Ever since I’ve started coaching soccer, it’s about defense first,” Maranacook coach Travis Magnusson said Friday at Kents Hill School after the Black Bears wrapped up their final training session of the season. “We build it off our defense, and they’ve done a great job with it all year. They’ve continued it in these pressure situations (in the playoffs). Then you’ve got (junior goalkeeper Skyeler Webb) behind them, and that’s a huge help.”

Maranacook (12-2-3), the fourth seed out of the South, opened its tournament run with a 1-0 win over Hall-Dale before downing upset-minded Sacopee Valley 2-1 in the regional semifinals. A 0-0 draw against No. 2 Traip, which the Black Bears emerged from via a penalty kick shootout, has them playing for their first Gold Ball.

Sophomore center back Evelyn St. Germain has been a revelation in her move to the position prior to the start of the season. A former striker, St. Germain has been flanked by senior Alysia Cyr and freshman Grace Dwyer — one of two freshman starters for Maranacook — in the back line with senior stopper Kaylee Jones ahead of them.

“Last season Coach came up to me and actually asked for me to play in a couple of JV games in the sweeper position,” St. Germain said. “At first, I was like ‘Oh gosh,’ because I’ve never played defense before in my life. I played sweeper the whole summer. It was a really big transition for me, but it’s obviously worked out for us this season. I’m happy.”

St. Germain’s move to the back is part of a bigger philosophy, one which also saw Dwyer, primarily a midfielder in her young career, make a position switch.

“We started this in the summer, too, this mindset of what we were going to try,” Magnusson said. “I had a good idea coming into the season what we wanted to do. It’s just being coachable. When I look at them, it’s ‘What’s the best fit for this year’s team?’

“There’s so many times it’s happened. It’s a belief in each other and a belief in us as coaches that they have, that we’re going to find that spot that’s best for the whole group.”

The Black Bears’ ability to defend will be tested against Fort Kent (10-5-2), No. 3 in the North, which has similarly only allowed one goal this postseason. The Warriors have a pair of 1-0 wins and a 2-1 victory this postseason.

“We all know it’s going to be a defensive game,” Jones said. “We’ve seen some film. I think we’ll be pretty solid with knowing what they’ll be doing. It all comes down to the game and who shows up and who doesn’t.”

Cyr has been most often tasked with the responsibility of man-marking the opposition’s best attacking threat. She admits to battling nerves in the face of such a key position but also trusts those around her with whom she’s forged a tight bond.

“We’ve had good communication (in the back) and we know that we’re there to back each other up and win 50-50 balls,” Cyr said. “It’s what we’ve done all season. We’re ready.”

Six regular-season shutouts to go with two more in the playoffs — eight in 17 games — stand as testament to Maranacook’s defensive structure. So, too, does the fact they are 7-1-3 in 11 games decided by a goal or less this fall, including the postseason.

That type of effort has them on the cusp of making history for the program.

“We always go into the game thinking we’re the underdog so we’re not over-confident,” Cyr said. “But we know deep down that we’re ready. Even before the playoffs, we knew that we’d be in the playoffs. We wanted to keep going. I think we really knew all along we could be here.”

“We’re really young, and there were some nerves there (early in the tournament) because we’re so young,” Magnusson said. “Maybe we have over-achieved a little bit, but we want it all now. Like Kaylee says all the time, she wants the Gold Ball. We’re one game away from it now, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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