READFIELD — Travis Magnusson, a few weeks removed from a disappointing loss in the Class C state championship game and well into his next gig as a basketball coach, finally admitted something he hadn’t been able during Maranacook’s first run to a regional title in program history.

The Black Bears were ahead of schedule.

“Things kind of fell together this year,” Magnusson said. “I honestly think we played similarly to who we’d been in the past, but we finished better. We scored the ball well. I thought we were right there the last couple of years, too. But we won a couple of OT games and that got us to a chance to play for the Gold Ball.”

For his efforts in leading Maranacook to the state final, Magnusson has been selected as the Kennebec Journal Girls Soccer Coach of the Year. Hall-Dale’s Guy Cousins was also considered.

“We’ve got to keep getting better and building on this,” Magnusson said. “That’s the biggest thing in high school sports, in any program. They know that I love high school sports and that I believe it’s one of the most important things you can be a part of in your life. It comes down to who your leaders are. This team especially, they just bought into the culture and being positive and all those different things.

For them, it meant something to play for Maranacook girls soccer.”

Ironically, Magnusson, didn’t try to build the Black Bears to prominence through an overhaul of the team’s technical or tactical foundations. He didn’t try to become the smartest soccer guy in the room. He didn’t rely on a talent-laden roster from which to reap the benefits.

He built it on a very simple principle. He built it on team chemistry.

Magnusson credited his senior captains — Grace Despres and Kaylee Jones — and his assistant coaches, his wife Karen, Rob Mohlar and Shawn Harper.

“It starts with them caring about each other as a team, and they want to work hard,” Magnusson said. “And it matters to them. Winning is very important to them, and they were willing to pay the price to do that.”

But nearly winning a state championship, falling in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Fort Kent, was extremely difficult.

“That was probably the toughest loss I’ve had in my career in soccer or in basketball, as a player or a coach, and the reason it was so tough was because I loved this team so much,” Magnusson said. “They deserved to win it all. It didn’t turn out that way— but it wasn’t for lack of trying.”

Still, he made sure to take the time to enjoy the ride this fall.

He also made sure his team enjoyed it, too. When state championship Saturday rolled around, the Black Bears were one of just eight girls soccer teams in the state still playing.

“It’s easy to say at the start of the year your goal is to win a Gold Ball — and there’s a lot of motivation to get back to that game, for sure,” Magnusson said. “But with that being said, but if we fast-forwarded and said we want to go to the state championship next year, I think we miss the journey. We beat Sacopee in OT, Traip in PKs, we had all of those team get-togethers during the season. I don’t want to fast-forward. We want to go through all of that again, and we don’t want to miss it.

“In the end, that was one of best weeks of their lives.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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