There are several new faces taking over high school soccer programs in central Maine, none more interesting than Lacey Smith.

Smith made a move across the river to assume the reigns of defending Class B North regional finalist Winslow. After spending a year as an assistant coach for the Waterville girls last fall, Smith went straight over to the rival Black Raiders — landing her first head coaching position with a Winslow girls team boasting a track record of success.

“The group was very welcoming of fresh ideas and they’re very flexible,” said Smith, who has college coaching experience at Colby and Thomas More, an NAIA school in Kentucky. “They’re really just willing to try the things that I’m presenting that I’m looking to implement into our strategic plan.”

While Smith is a new face on the girls side, three new boys coaches dot the landscape.

James Gay inherited the Cony boys post when longtime coach Jon Millett moved into the school’s athletic director’s position this summer. Jesse Rowe is the new Hall-Dale boys coach after a year there as an assistant to Andy Haskell, and Jeremy Von Oesen takes over at Mount View to lead a boys team that is looking to take regular-season success to postseason play.

No coach will be busier than Von Oesen, who is also the head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams at Unity College.

“(Former coach Dale Hustus) did a good job of keeping them hungry all the time,” Von Oesen said. “I’m just trying to add a lot of touch drills and bring an added element to their game. Maybe there was a little bit of complacency before, but this group is working hard to get better every day.

“I’m excited to see how it shapes up. I’m already looking at other teams and doing my scouting that way.”

Gay is a science teacher at Cony High School, having moved back to New England prior to the 2018-19 school year following a 20-year involvement in high school and club soccer in Texas.

While Gay spent the bulk of the preseason learning a bit more about his roster, it’s not a totally unknown group for him. He was Millett’s assistant coach last season.

His goals for the Rams, who missed the Class A North playoffs last season, are modest.

“We want to play with integrity,” said Gay, who views coaching as an extension of teaching in the classroom.

While Gay will try and turn Cony into a contender in a top-heavy Class A North region, Rowe has a different task ahead of him.

Hall-Dale was beaten on penalties by perennial power Maranacook in the Class C South semifinals last fall. After graduating a number of key performers from that group — particularly on the attacking side and through the midfield — Rowe has kept expectations high.

“Some of the growing pains we’re going through (in the preseason) are good things,” said Rowe, who captained a Mountain Valley Conference title-winning Hall-Dale team in 1999. “There’s stuff that we’re continually working on and changing. If we’re happy with what we’re doing on Day 1, there’s going to be some blows we’re taking.

“You hope that there’s a step forward along the way.”

Rowe’s senior season came in the 20th year of Hall-Dale boys soccer. This is the 40th year of the Bulldogs’ program, a number not lost on the new coach. More than anything, Rowe is simply happy to be home at the school he graduated from and where he now teaches health and physical education.

“It’s a very interesting transition from junior varsity to varsity coach, but it’s the only school I ever wanted to coach at,” Rowe said.

Whether one has prior experience with a program they’re taking over or not, each of the area’s new coaches are trying to impart some of their own philosophies.

For Smith, that means turning Winslow from a straight-ahead type of team into one that reacts differently to different situations.

“Being a disciplined, strong defensive team is a big priority,” Smith said. “On the other side of the spectrum, it’s about outworking the opponent. In the attack, being dynamic and players working well together to move the ball. My style is definitely possession-based, but also reading what the other team is giving us. It’s about being able to adjust and adapt to the other styles that they present us.”

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