WATERVILLE — Every side has its engine room, the place in the formation that makes everything go. For the Waterville girls soccer team, that spot is in its two defensive midfield positions.

In juniors Lindsay Given and Jayda Murray, the Purple Panthers have the perfect combination of skill, grit and tactical awareness to control the midfield in both directions. While players like Paige St. Pierre and Sadie Garling fill the opposing nets with goals, and Jacie Richard and the fantastic back four in front of her keep clean sheets, it’s the play of Given and Murray in particular that has second-seeded Waterville in Wednesday’s Class B North final against unbeaten Hermon.

Yet all too often, it’s that work in the midfield that gets overlooked.

“I think we get our credit, though,” Murray said. “(Striker Paige St. Pierre), she talks a lot about how it’s a team thing. It’s clearing it from the defense, getting it through the midfield, and finally getting it into the offense and scoring.”

It is not an easy position to play. Holding midfielders are responsible for plenty more than simply mucking things up through the center of the park, slowing down opposing attacks before they ever organize themselves. Central defensive midfielders certainly do their fair share of defending, particularly from midfield back to the top of their own 18-yard box. Additionally, they are the layer behind the attacking midfielders, freeing them up to be creative and take risks. They are the outlets when their own backs are under pressure, the link between wing backs, outside halfbacks and the target players up top.

It’s a lot to process, and it’s even more ground to cover.

“You want those holding midfielders to be distributors as well, but that doesn’t always happen,” Waterville coach Mark Serdjenian said. “Often it goes to the attacking people (to do that). We want them to drop it back to one of those two, which we’ve been doing quite well lately, for them to either play a ball out (wide) or knock it forward.”

“It’s just being able to make the simple passes that mean the most,” Given said. “It was just about getting used to it and getting some confidence in it.”

For Given, it’s been a rapid learning curve. She didn’t start playing soccer until her eighth grade year.

“I think a lot of my friends have always played soccer, so that helped,” she said. “Just them being there helped a lot. Even when I messed up, they were there to say, ‘It’s fine. Just keep going.'”

For both Given and Murray, it’s their athleticism that make them ideal fits in the role for which Serdjenian has spent three years grooming them.

“They’ve grown into it the last couple of years. They’ve mastered the role,” Serdjenian said. ‘They’re both very coachable, they’ll do as instructed. It doesn’t come from one year of coaching. It’s what they’ve learned over the years, and they’ve both got good athletic IQ’s. They’re very receptive to all of that.”

Chemistry has not been a problem for the duo, and neither has communication — crucial intangibles to successful midfield play.

As key cogs on a Waterville basketball team which last winter completed an undefeated regular season and played in a regional championship game, they’ve grown accustomed to one another. So much so that they can finish one another’s thoughts and sentences.

In fact, they did just that following Monday’s training session at Colby College when asked about the bond they share.

“It helps with all three of us, Jayda, Avery (Wechsler) and myself…,” Given began.

Murray finished with “…that we have really good chemistry together.”

Given: “Eventually we all started to learn each other…”

Murray: “…and we started talking to each other in the midfield, making give-and-go passess, yelling to one another…”

Given: “…and that kind of stuff.”

Considering they’ve known each other for more than two-thirds of their lives to date, it’s not surprising they’d be so in sync.

“I’ve know Lindsay since we were in first grade,” Murray said. “We’ve played sports the whole time together. When you play sports with someone for that long, you trust them. When you make a mistake, you know the advice they’re giving you is good advice. They’re just doing it to make you a better player, to build each other up as teammates and players for the whole team’s (benefit).”

And that benefit, on the eve of the Class B North title game, is Waterville’s.

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