MONMOUTH — While most soccer players wondered this summer if they’d have a season this fall, Averie Silva wondered if she’d have a team.

The Winthrop girls soccer team had graduated eight seniors. Numbers were low. The outlook for 2020 was bleak.

“I was nervous going into the Winthrop season because we didn’t have a lot of players,” Silva said. “I didn’t know if Winthrop soccer was going to be a thing.”

Help came, in the form of a rival. Monmouth offered to take on the players on the Winthrop team, and as the season has neared its end, it’s become clear that the solution was the best thing for both programs. Now Winthrop/Monmouth, the co-op team has gone 6-1-1, getting contributions from both schools. In an 8-0 win over Lisbon on Wednesday, Monmouth players accounted for five goals, with Alicen Burnham netting three, while Winthrop, which got two goals from Lydia Rice and one from Elsa Goebel-Bain, chipped in three.

“When Monmouth had us come, I was of course a little nervous because we’ve been rivals,” said Silva, one of seven Winthrop players on the team along with Rice, Goebel-Bain, Kamryn Dube, Muriel Lattin, Caraline Squires and Lucy Vachon. “But after a week, we all kind of clicked, we got together, and now we’re all friends and it’s working really well.”

“I have had not any complaints or concerns or issues with both teams coming in,” coach Gary Trafton said. “There have been a lot of close relationships now with these girls. They’re hanging out with each other and everything’s been all positive. Not one bad thing. Everyone got along, they just wanted to come out and play soccer.”

But it was weird, at least at first. Winthrop and Monmouth are neighbors and Mountain Valley Conference rivals in everything they play. And after trying to beat each other over the years, they were going to play together.

“We all came in and were like ‘Oh, this might be awkward. They probably hate us because we’re rivals in literally every other sport,’ ” said Rice, a junior defender.

Lisbon keeper Sarah Moore, bottom, grabs the ball from underneath Monmouth/Winthrop’s Mya Sirois during a game Wednesday in Monmouth. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“They’re our biggest competitor,” Silva said. “And Audrey (Fletcher) and Aaliyah (WilsonFalcone), they were both really good players fighting for Player of the Year, so that was even more of a rivalry going on.”

It took a couple of practices for the new players to fit right in with the Monmouth scheme and team culture.

“I think going into it, none of us really knew how it was going to go,” said Burnham, a Monmouth player and the team’s senior captain at striker. “It took probably only one or two practices to adjust to everything. They worked really hard, and it was an easy adjustment for them.”

Even wearing Monmouth’s maroon was easy for Winthrop players who had spent their high school careers wearing Rambler green.

“I like it,” Silva said. “It was weird the first day, but I like it now.”

“Watching them walk down in a maroon uniform on the first day,” Burnham said, “it was a good feeling for me. They look good in maroon.”

They look good on the field as well. The Monmouth and Winthrop contingents get equal chances to shine, as was the case on Wednesday when Burnham opened the scoring by dribbling through the Lisbon defense and firing a shot past Greyhounds keeper Sarah Moore (17 saves) with 30:21 left in the first half, and Rice followed up with a goal off a Moore save with 26:52 left for a 2-0 lead.

Monmouth/Winthrop striker Alicen Burnham, left, gets her shot blocked by Lisbon defender Alexis Kaherl during a game Wednesday in Monmouth. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Mya Sirois made it 3-0 with 19:58 left in the half, and Burnham wove by defenders for another goal with 4:53 left. In the second half, goals by Rice, Goebel-Bain, Megan Ham and Burnham again rounded out the scoring.

Trafton said the inclusion of the Winthrop players has helped his team stay strong even after losing six starters, including a 100-goal scorer in Fletcher.

“You look out there, you won’t say ‘Is that a Winthrop girl? Is that a Monmouth girl? Nobody knows,’ ” said Trafton. “They play hard. They play just as hard as anybody else.”

Burnham said the players don’t think along those lines either.

“We don’t refer to them as Winthrop girls anymore,” Burnham said. “They’re part of the team. They’re not outsiders, and they’ve brought so much to our team this year.”

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