Caitlyn Kendrick of Richmond High School is the Kennebec Journal Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

RICHMOND — Caitlyn Kendrick was at her best when she decided to stop being something she wasn’t.

Playing on a team that was defending yet another Class D state championship, Kendrick tried herself to replace the goal-scoring that had been lost to graduation over a two-year stretch that saw the Bobcats morph from a veritable juggernaut into an offensively challenged side. The central midfielder tried to push the pace at times, tried to take shots she wasn’t always in love with, and tried to become more of a scorer than a field general.

“At the beginning of the year, I felt I wasn’t finding my rhythm. I was expecting so much of myself,” Kendrick said. “If I’d go a couple of games and not score or not finish, I’d get down on myself about it. But at some point, it clicked for me. It just happened, and I found my offensive rhythm.”

She did that by returning to the player she had always been in her career — a commanding presence in the middle of the park which thwarted opposing attacks and started the Richmond counter-attacks from deeper up the pitch. For her efforts, Kendrick has been selected as the Kennebec Journal Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

Monmouth junior Audrey Fletcher and Maranacook freshman Emily Harper were also considered.

The senior Kendrick may come from a Class D program, but there’s nothing small about her soccer efforts. A year-round player with premier programs in Maine during her career, she brought a pedigree to the Bobcats that helped them win two state titles and three regional championships while reaching the Class D South final in all four years of her career.

She did it all while playing for her father, Troy Kendrick, who has coached the Richmond team for three decades now.

“It ended up being a wonderful experience,” Troy Kendrick said, despite his early worries about outside perceptions. “Her and I got to spend a lot of time together, on the field and at practices, on bus rides. I’m probably a little prejudiced, but she’s a pretty good kid.

“We won a couple state championships. Those are pretty wonderful experiences to be able to get to the summit, if you want to put it that way, with your daughter playing a central role even as a freshman and sophomore.”

Caitlyn said that having her father as the head coach only made the transition from middle school to varsity soccer easier.

“I think it made me a better player,” she said. “It was also nice to kind of have a familiar face when I got to the high school team.”

She also believes her time on the field training with other elite, premier-level players for both the Central Maine United and Dutch Soccer Academy programs during the school’s offseason helped her in her role for the Bobcats.

It was important for her to be more than simply a good soccer player or a good athlete, understanding that the stiffest tests Richmond faced each season often didn’t come until the team faced the rare Class C team during the regular season or advanced deep into the Class D playoffs.

“Everyone gets better as the years go on and you get older and play more, but tactically and technically I got a lot better than some of the others around me,” Kendrick said. “Having the ball at my feet, being able to protect it, understanding different parts of the game — those were all big things. For me, it became about ‘straight ball, diagonal run’ — it’s sort of basic stuff, but I’m focusing on it rather than just kicking a ball and hoping it goes somewhere.”

As proud as her father was about her on-the-ball abilities, he though Caitlyn’s understanding of the big picture was most important to Richmond’s 12-4-1 record.

“She developed, she worked at her game,” Troy Kendrick said. “She’s obviously a very skillful player with a high soccer IQ, but with her leadership and her understanding for teammates, I thought that’s where she kind of took it to the next level this year.

“Look, she’s a very competitive player. She plays hard and is ultra-competitive, but she never lost her cool. She matured at being a good teammate and a good captain. She had an understanding of the things we could and could not do.”

And, she understood what she herself could and could not do, which is why she stopped trying to force herself to become a target player even as the new-look Bobcats found themselves in desperate need of goals at times.

“I tried to be a finisher, but …,” Kendrick trailed off. “At some point, I stopped worrying about that. That’s when it clicked for me, that I still played the same position I always had and I needed to just keep doing those same things.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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