OAKLAND — Chris Delgiudice decided that the best way to start building a new culture was, in part, to let his new team begin figuring things out for themselves.

“It came down to me coming in and the girls being willing to try something new,” Delgiudice said. “And they liked it from the start.”

In his first year as coach of the Messalonskee girls soccer team, Delgiudice led his team to a 15-game winning streak and an appearance in the Class A North regional final. For his efforts, Delgiudice has been named the Morning Sentinel Girls Soccer Coach of the Year. Temple Academy’s Phil Hubbard, who led the Bereans to a postseason berth in their first season, and Winslow’s Steve Bodge were also considered.

Delgiudice inherited a team which had made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons but failed to advance beyond the opening round each time. He felt it was important to establish a new culture immediately — one that most significantly turned all the talent the Eagles had on the field into more goals, more possession and, ultimately, more wins.

That began even before official preseason training in August. He started building the blocks for the team’s new look during the optional summer league.

“I knew I wanted to change the formation, so I made them play in my formation and didn’t give them a whole lot of instruction,” Delgiudice said. “I wanted to just let them play, let them see what they liked about it and didn’t like about it.

“Once we got into preseason, then I could better explain things … I think doing it that way allowed them to find the hole in the formation they didn’t like, and then I got the chance to fill in those holes with my philosophy.”

Messalonskee lost to eventual state champion Camden HIlls in its season opener before rolling off on the 15- game win streak. But it wasn’t as though Delgiudice felt the new look had taken hold immediately; in fact, it wasn’t until the regular-season finale (after the first 12 wins on the season) against Oxford Hills that the new coach saw what he had been looking for all along.

“That kind of really got it to sink in with our team about what we were going to be able to do this season,” Delgiudice said. “We would fight through games all season, even a few close games we managed to pull out, but that last game was one where we were really struggling to put the ball in the net all game. Something team before had struggled with.

“Mentally we made a point that we can and will put the ball in the net, we just have to be patient. That was a game where we just kept shooting, kept going, got those two late goals and pulled out that game. After, I got to look at them and say, ‘I’ve told you that this will work.'”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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