Maranacook senior striker Emily Harper tries to get around Bucksport defender Alyx Frazell during the Class C state title game Nov. 6 at Presque Isle Middle School. Mike Mandell/Mount Desert Islander

READFIELD — After winning the program’s first state championship last fall, how does the Maranacook girls soccer team reboot for the 2022 campaign?

By taking previously established role players and turning them into productive members of the Starting XI.

“Even if you bring everybody back, it’s a new season with new challenges,” said Maranacook coach Travis Magnusson, who graduated six senior starters from last season’s Class C title team. “We don’t want to compare this team to last year all season long. We have to move forward and be the best version of ourselves.”

Girls soccer at Maranacook spent many years in the shadows of a boys program that entered each season with state title aspirations, whether they were competing in Class B or Class C. Now, though, the Black Bears have turned themselves into arguably central Maine’s most consistent girls soccer program.

Maranacook won its second regional title in four years last October. Since 2018, the Black Bears have never been eliminated earlier than the regional final in a typically deep Class C South field.

In 2020, no state tournaments were held, and it could have been argued that Maranacook had the best squad it’s ever had that year.


Hall-Dale, Maranacook, Old Orchard, Traip Academy and Waynflete are all expected to be vying for the regional crown once again.

To get back there, the Black Bears might be a different version of themselves. Emily Harper, the 2020 Class C Player of the Year, and her 35 goals a year ago are gone.

“We’ve got to be gritty and out-tough teams,” Magnusson said. “We’re not going to beat teams 5-0, 6-0 like last year. If we’re mentally tough, we can win close games and get through those situations.”

Maranacook was so gifted offensively and so dangerous in attack a year ago, the Black Bears had an 11-0 lead at halftime of their regional quarterfinal a year ago. Not only did Harper and Anna Erb score goals at a tremendous clip, but the team was dangerous from nearly every position on the field.

To wit: It was defensive midfielder Ella Schmidt who scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Traip in the Class C South final.

Senior Addie Watson has been a multi-year starter for Maranacook, and now — instead of hiding in the shadow cast by Harper — she’ll be one of the current Bears thrust into the unfamiliar role of being a focal point of the opposition’s defensive game plans.


“We talk a lot about what a great feeling last year was, but we’re more focused on every single game and practice trying to get better,” said Magnusson, noting there is added emphasis on growth during the regular season. “Everybody’s going to come at us a little bit different now.

“Even if you don’t have the talent — which I still think this team does — we’ve got to figure out what gives us the best chance to win that final game. We’ll piece it together day by day. The hope is that we have a good regular season and build from that.”

Because Maranacook has been down this road before, even if there were different faces in different roles, Magnusson believes the experience of having enjoyed appearances in both regional and state finals will pay dividends for the current crop of Black Bears.

Even if players like Watson and Caban weren’t required to carry Maranacook to hardware in the past, they played big parts in helping those that did — whether it was Harper, Erb or any of the other four starters no longer wearing black and gold previously.

“We’ve still got some players who were huge parts of regional finals and state championship teams that are back,” said Magnusson, who has 16 freshmen among the 30 players on the team this fall. “The question is, ‘Can they go from being great players to being great players and leaders, too?’ That’s really the key for us.”

In Class B, there are many question marks. Waterville has a new coach with Mark Serdjenian’s retirement, and Winslow is now entering a third-year under former Serdjenian assistant Lacey Smith.

Class A also welcomes a new coach at Messalonskee, with Kirk Soule — who spent two seasons as an assistant coach on the boys side — now taking over the helm from Chris Delguidice.

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