WATERVILLE — Before the Covid-19 pandemic made the 2020 season one for building and team growth for every high school soccer team in the state, Messalonskee High School boys soccer coach Tom Sheridan knew this would be a season in which his young team would gain experience for the future.

“We graduated a pretty good senior class last year. The sophomores and juniors that had a lot of experience coming in to this year, but they’re all in different roles this year. We have outside backs now who were outside mids last year,” Sheridan said.

Tuesday afternoon’s 6-4 win over Waterville at Webber Field showed the Eagles have made improvements, and still have room for much more.

The Eagles returned just three starters that advanced to the Class A North semifinals last season, Sheridan said: senior goalie Andrew Mayo, senior back Gabe Katz, and junior back Justin Sardano.

“It’s definitely a learning year. We’re trying to do all we can with how young we are, and build up from there,” sophomore striker Alden Doran said.

Doran scored a pair of goals in Tuesday’s win over Waterville. The first came with 11:11 left in the first half, a shot from the right to the left goalpost that gave Messalonskee a 4-1 lead. The second came early in the second half, 17 seconds after the Purple Panthers scored to cut Messalonskee’s lead to two.

Waterville goalie Aiden Tavares gives up a goal in the first half to Messalonskee on Tuesday at Webber Field in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“We’re definitely getting more comfortable around the ball. Our crossing is definitely becoming a lot more efficient,” Doran said.

Freshman Luke Parks is playing the tough position of center back for the Eagles.

“Gabe has really been helping me, and all the other guys, and Rhys (Bridges, a junior back). They’ve been helping me get used to it, the game speed,” Parks said.

Improvement seen now is an extension of improvement that began in the offseason, Sheridan said.

“During the non-traditional time, we had conditioning, and they worked hard in that time. We had pretty good buy-in. Probably two-thirds of our team were doing it every day,” Sheridan said. “We had a really long pre-season. We did Phase 1, 2, 3 and 4. When we got to the start of preseason, we were ready to go.”

The Eagles have not and will not play their traditional Class A North rivals this season. Everyone is playing opponents closer to home, and that means games against Class B competition like Waterville. That doesn’t mean Messalonskee’s newcomers have not been tested.

“We’re playing against Winslow, who’s a pretty good squad. We played against Maranacook, who’s pretty good too. It’s been a good year for us as far as working on some new things and throw in some new shapes and get ready for next year, too,” Sheridan said. “We know we need to get stronger and more size. We’re not the biggest team. Waterville’s definitely got size on us today, and the footing didn’t help either.”

Messalonskee’s Colby Corson right, battles for the ball with Waterville’s Matt Anish on Tuesday at Webber Field in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

While Tuesday’s game showcased the improvement Messalonskee has made, particularly at the offensive end, it showed the Eagles are young and prone to mistakes of inexperience, too. Messalonskee held a two-goal lead late, before Waterville’s Chase Daigle scored a pair of goals about a minute and a half apart to cut the score to the final 6-4 margin. It was similar to the last time Messalonskee and Waterville played, when the Eagles saw a three-goal lead cut to one in the second half, Sheridan said.

“Waterville, they’ve got some kids that can finish up there. They might not be real deep, but they definitely have some kids,” Sheridan said. “Knowing how to win and how to control things, they’re getting there. I’m looking to good things coming for these guys.”

Winning now is nice, Sheridan said, but the bigger goal is gaining the experience to make a deep playoff run next season, when hopefully there’s a playoffs to make a run in.

“I think we’ve got some pretty good talent out there across the field, young talent, too. We should hopefully be back in Class A playoffs again next year and doing some good things,” Sheridan said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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