SOUTH CHINA — The weather certainly turned cold this week across central Maine, and nobody’s felt the sting more sharply than they have on the Erskine Academy campus.

The Eagles hosted Gardiner for a scoreless Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference boys soccer draw Tuesday afternoon, Erskine’s second straight such result. The Eagles have now gone more than 180 minutes — dating back to a 5-2 win at Leavitt on Sept. 29 — without so much as rolling a single ball across the goal line.

The word “frustration” might not even begin to describe the squad’s mindset.

“I feel like we’ve just gotten into a bit of an unlucky spell, to be honest,” said Erskine junior striker Holden McKenney. “It’s starting to get to a lot of the guys, especially these last two games with ties that feel like losses. We’ve just got to find the motivation again, find the light at the end of the tunnel and keep going forward.”

McKenney, Cooper Grondin, Landon Lefebvre and Jaxson Roderick all represent lethal attacking options for Erskine (4-3-3), but for whatever reason none of them are finding the net consistently — or, frankly, at all — of late.

If there’s a positive, it’s that the Eagles have conceded only three goals in total over their past six outings as part of the team’s current 3-0-3 unbeaten run.


“That’s the only positive,” Erskine head coach Carrie Larrabee said of the draw with Gardiner, which came just four days after an identical scoreline at Cony. “We got outplayed, we got outshot, and the only positive thing is that we didn’t give up a goal.”

For Gardiner (7-2-1), Tuesday’s tie served also as a victory, albeit one of the moral variety.

The Tigers were without two starters heading into the day following a red card bonanza at Maranacook last week. They lost two more during the course of play to injury Tuesday, including goalkeeper Connor Fairservice to a nasty collision at the top of the 18 yard box in the 43rd minute.

Gardiner’s Patrick Mansir (10) and Erskine’s Cooper Grondin go after a ball during a boys soccer match Tuesday in South China. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Gardiner skipper Nick Wallace called upon center back Patrick Mansir to replace Fairservice between the sticks, and only a few minutes later right back Josh Jacobson was also felled by injury.

Midfielder Alex Taylor was enlisted into center back duty, and Grayson Allumbaugh was summoned from the injury list himself to replace Jacobson.

Allumbaugh was thrust into the spotlight with the task of keeping McKenney corralled, and Mansir — donning the gloves for the first time in two years — tipped a ticketed McKenney bid over the crossbar in the 63rd minute to keep the Eagles from breaking through.


“With the personnel we had, we had to play a little bit of a different style than we like to,” Wallace said. “I loved the fight the guys had today. Obviously, you want to win, but when you think about it we’re down six starters (with a jumbled lineup) — I hate to say it, but I think we rallied around Connor getting hurt.”

The injury had the opposite effect on Erskine, which needed more than 2o minutes to finally test Mansir’s handiwork in net.

“I think they’re always looking for the perfect shot,” Larrabee said of her team’s goal-scoring drought. “In practice we talk about, ‘Hey, it’s not going to be perfect. We’ve got to get in there and be scrappy.’

“Holden’s a good example. He’s really good and he’ll take a shot, and everybody just watches instead of crashing the net. We’re just not creating opportunities.”

After more than three hours of play without putting a goal away in the current famine to befell Erskine, there’s still belief that this is a small blip on the radar.

Is a six- or seven-goal outburst on the horizon, or even possible, for the Eagles?

“Oh, it’s coming,” McKenney said with a grin.

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