READFIELD — Nearly a month into the soccer season, not everybody is still clinging to the “we’re just happy to play” mantra that served as conventional wisdom against the uncertainty any games would be played this fall.

When the Maranacook and Lisbon boys and girls teams squared off in a doubleheader Monday evening at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams, programs at opposite ends of the spectrum also had opposing views of what a season with no standings and no playoffs represents.

For the Maranacook girls, who got two goals each from Addie Watson and Kate Mohlar in an 8-1 win over Lisbon, there’s more bitter than sweet in the bittersweet balance of soccer in a pandemic.

“It’s felt somewhat normal, but we’re such a competitive team it’s been difficult not having Heal points and everything,” said Mohlar, who was a sophomore when the Black Bears lost to Fort Kent in the Class C state final in 2018. “It’s definitely weird not having playoffs at the end.”

Maranacook girls coach Travis Magnusson took it a step further, making no bones about the fact that it feels like a lost season — and a giant missed opportunity for a program seeking its first state championship.

“Everybody is saying ‘at least you’re playing,’ but we have had high goals here for a number of years,” said Magnusson, whose team is 4-0-0, with wins over Class A and Class C teams alike. “You’ll have tough losses like (the 2018 state final), and you don’t get over those years later. But this one you might never get over. You’ll always look back and say, ‘Was this the first team that was going to win the state championship?’”

Lisbon goalkeeper Sarah Moore, bottom right, stops the shot of Maranacook’s Addie Watson, top right, Monday in Readfield. Lisbon’s Mercedes Blanchette is pictured at the left. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“Last year losing in the regional final, this year we really wanted to take it all the way. It’s definitely been in our minds,” Mohlar said. “For us seniors, it’s been thinking about making our team better for the following years.”

Where the Black Bears represented one viewpoint, the Greyhounds had an entirely different feeling.

First-year coach Richard Card has a small squad, and a young one. There are just 15 players on the Lisbon roster, with only 12 suited up for the game against Maranacook. Seven of them are freshman.

Where Maranacook is thinking about what could have been in 2020, the Greyhounds are thinking about what could be in 2021.

“That’s what we’re focusing on,” Card said. “It helps to not have to worry about championships, playoffs, trophies. We can focus on things we need to build and grow — fundamentals and techniques, things we wouldn’t be focused on if we were worried about the prize at the end of the season.

“We’re worried about the prize at the end of next season.”

The proof was in the pudding on Monday. Freshman goalkeeper Sarah Moore made 45 saves for the 0-5-0 Greyhounds, including two stops on penalty kicks. In front of her Erika Hill was a backboard blocking so many shots she looked more like a National Hockey League defenseman in a playoff game than a high school center back.

But there is a balance to be struck, and Maranacook boys coach Don Beckwith might have done just that with a culture two decades in the making.

Lisbon’s Hunter Brissette, right, takes the ball past Marancook’s Trevor Rioux on Monday in Readfield. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Beckwith’s fiery coaching style has been as intense in preseason games against small schools as it has in Class B regional finals against southern powerhouse programs. He doesn’t need the carrot of a potential playoff clash in November to keep his kids motivated.

“I don’t know any other way to coach,” Beckwith said. “I won’t let that stuff creep in, anyway.”

Beckwith further said that he’s had as much fun coaching this year as he ever has — even after Maranacook lost nearly two full weeks due to a positive Covid-19 case in the school system earlier this month.

“My approach hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot different,” Beckwith said. “We’ve got to plan for next year, we’ve got to plan for every game. I think kids are a lot more grateful now than they’ve ever been since I’ve been here. It’s because of the pandemic. The kids appreciate every time I show up.”

Magnusson understands that side of things, but there’s still a sting he can’t soothe.

“I think we’ve done a good job with our underclassmen focusing on getting better for next year and the year after,” Magnusson said. “But my heart breaks for the seniors. They’ve been thinking about this team not only since their sophomore year, but since middle school for some of them.

“It’s been a tough thing for us.”


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