WATERVILLE — Just about nine minutes into Friday afternoon’s game, Paige St. Pierre lined up a free kick for the Waterville Senior High School girls soccer team. She faced no wall of Messalonskee defenders. Under rule modifications due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that’s a no-no. On the sidelines, Waterville head coach Mark Serdjenian and assistant coach Ed Worcester studied the field.

“Upper right,” Serdjenian said, just before St. Pierre made her kick.

“That’s where she’s going,” Worcester said, as St. Pierre’s shot arced toward the net.

St. Pierre’s shot found the upper right corner of the net, giving the Purple Panthers the lead in a 3-1 victory. Now that teams across the area have played a few games, the 2020 rule modifications are just the rules, and the Waterville girls soccer team barely gives them a second thought.

“It’s not too bad. It’s all right. We’re just grateful we can play, I think,” Emme Ayers, a senior defender at Waterville, said.

There are numerous tweaks to the rules of soccer this season, made to limit the time players spend in close contact on the field. The biggest changes are in the set plays, things like corner kicks. Just five defenders and five offensive players are allowed in the box at the time of the corner kick.

“We just know that’s how it is. We just set up for it,” Ayers said.

Serdjenian, a longtime college soccer coach at Colby College now in his fifth season coaching the Waterville girls, said the rule changes haven’t made him adjust his coaching style at all.

“I don’t know what the kids would say, but I don’t really feel that they’ve had a huge impact on things and the game. Basically, the common sense aspect has come down to corner kicks and free kicks. I actually think the girls, in every game we’ve played, have adjusted pretty well,” Serdjenian said. “The girls have taken a great attitude into the season and people are still playing hard. I don’t see any difference in the passion for the game. It’s great.”

The game has become a safe haven from the stress of the day, Ayers said.

“Once you’re out there, you get sucked into the game. You forget. In real life, you don’t go that close to people, but when I’m on the field I completely forget about it,” Ayers said.

Just over six minutes after St. Pierre’s goal gave Waterville a 1-0 lead, Danica Serdjenian scored to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead. Messalonskee’s Lily Wilkie scored when her high shot went off the hands of Waterville keeper Jacie Richard with 12:22 left in the first half. Mara VonOesen’s goal with 11:15 to play pushed Waterville’s lead back to two goals, 3-1, and was the final.

Despite being just miles apart, Waterville and Messalonskee have not played each other often since Waterville moved from Class A to Class B. With schools scheduling regionally this fall, it made sense for the teams to play each other.

“It’s nice to get a sense of what else is in our area. They’re so close and we never play them, and they’re good competition. It’s good for us to play some new teams,” Ayers said.

Added Coach Serdjenian: “I think it’s refreshing. You talk about regional, we’ve been able to play at least three of our (opponents) within three miles. So six game, really, three opponents.”

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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