Mt. Blue’s Abbey Goodspeed watches her shot sail wide during a game against Oxford Hills at the Gouin Complex in Paris on Oct. 18. Brewster Burns photo

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

There’s been a major development in Maine high school soccer with the addition of the eight-player format beginning with the new season. Between the short-sided game’s arrival and the changes that come with every reclassification cycle, the 2023 season begins with many girls soccer teams in new surroundings.

“Things have really been shaken up a bit, haven’t they?” said Richmond head coach Troy Kendrick. “It’s very fluid. With them adding eight-man, they had to reconfigure the numbers on some of the other classes to even things out, so there’s a lot of movement. It’s different, definitely.”

Even amidst the changes, though, there’s some continuity. The teams that have been some of the strongest in central Maine are set to be so again, setting the stage for a 2023 season that’s full of intrigue as the old and the new mesh.

In Maine’s largest class, no team was better locally last season than Mt. Blue. Led by Emma Dunn and Husson-bound K.K. Daggett (school-record 25 goals) at forward and the strong play of Meren Zeliger in the midfield, the Cougars contended in Class A North as they finished 12-3-1.

Those three won’t be returning for Mt. Blue, which will look to a new nucleus of players. Abbey Goodspeed (center back) and Alissa Butterfield (right back) return to anchor the back four, Gracie Ross moves from left back to midfield, and Natalie Orr is impressing in her transition from left back to striker.


“Natalie has been a starting-level player for us ever since she was a freshman,” said Mt. Blue head coach Griffin Conlogue. “She’s the type of kid who can play anywhere and play 80 minutes of every game. She’s learning a position, but she’s just so skilled and is already making a big impact there for us.”

Messalonskee will be in the playoff picture again with Emma Parsons returning to lead the midfield, and Skowhegan will surely improve on its 2-11-1 mark a year ago with a consistent scorer back in Annabelle Morris. Region-wide, the usual trio of Brunswick, Camden Hills and Bangor should rule the roost again.

“I would hope we would be in that playoff picture, maybe in the back half as we’re such a young team, but it’s really open for everyone this year,” Conlogue said. “There’s no nights off. Last year, even the teams like Edward Little and Lewiston at the bottom of the standings gave you a tough game every time.”

Gardiner’s Taylor Takatsu blocks a shot by Maranacook’s Tilden Tinkham during a girls soccer game Sept. 29 in Gardiner. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Class B North will also be gaining two new central Maine teams this year in Gardiner and Erskine Academy. The Tigers and Eagles have moved from B South to give the North a good balance of local Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference teams along with Waterville, Cony, Lawrence, Nokomis and Winslow.

After an upset loss to Gray-New Gloucester in the B South preliminary round last year, Gardiner will be looking for a better end result this season. The Tigers, who return all-KVAC goalkeeper Taylor Takatsu and Maya Shaw in the midfield, impressed last Thursday as they topped Waterville 4-0 in a preseason matchup.

“I think we have a fun balance of key returners and exciting new players stepping into roles that were left open,” Gardiner coach Jessica Prince said. “I’m excited (to be in Class B North). In the South, it was a really big gap between those top teams and the rest, and I think that gap has narrowed. I’m excited to see the competition and new teams we haven’t seen before.”


As for Waterville, the Purple Panthers are always a solid team in B North, and 2023 should be no different. First-year head coach Cody Veilleux’s team loses just four seniors from a unit that went 10-4-1 a year ago and brings back its two all-KVAC selections, forward Mara Von Oesen and midfielder Sadie Williams.

Elsewhere in B North, Nokomis (8-7-1 last year) and Winslow (6-8-1) return key players in Kiersten Condon and all-KVAC selection Kyri Meak, respectively. They, along with Gardiner and Waterville, will be challenged by the likes of Ellsworth, Old Town and three-time defending regional champ Hermon.

No girls soccer team in central Maine has been as consistent over the past few years as Maranacook. The Black Bears have won the past three C South championships, including their first-ever state championship two years ago. They are 44-4-4 over that span and have outscored foes 175-14 over the past two years.

Maranacook loses all-KVAC first-teamers Lily Caban, Sophia Tweedie and Addie Watson, the latter of whom was KVAC Class B South Player of the Year (the conference does not have a Class C category). The Black Bears do return a pair of 20-goal scorers in Phoebe Bell and Natalie Mohlar as well as defender Gracie Farrell.

“We’re really young, and we’ve got a lot of new players, but I think we expect to be good again and compete right there in the end,” said Maranacook head coach Travis Magnusson. “We’re a premier team in the area and the state, and we don’t expect to be any different.”

Maranacook’s Gracie Farrell (3) chases the ball as Bucksport’s Rylee Coombs (12) pursues in the first half in the Class C girls soccer state championship Nov. 5 at Hampden Academy. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Maranacook has made the switch from the KVAC to the Mountain Valley Conference. That puts the Black Bears in a conference with Hall-Dale (14-1-0), Mt. Abram (10-4-1) and Monmouth/Winthrop (11-4-0), all teams Magnusson expects to contend in C South.


“Hall-Dale has had some good regular seasons in the past, and this is the most veteran team they’ve had,” Magnusson said. “Monmouth is always fairly strong, and we play them and Hall-Dale twice. … You’ve also got (North Yarmouth Academy); they’ve won four states in D, and now we’ve got them in C.”

Maine Central Institute has also been a top program over the past two years, going 15-1-0 twice in C North. The Huskies will be one of the best teams in Class C again with the return of Olivia Varney, whose whopping 51 goals last year set a program record.

D South will have a new champion this year with NYA making the jump to Class C. That’s left the door open for Richmond, which returns standouts Eden Balduf, Breonna Dufresne, Izzy Stewart and Lila Viselli from a team that went 12-5-0 and was Southern Maine runner-up a year ago.

There’s a bit of a numbers crunch at Richmond, which has 14 players (including eighth-graders) on this year’s roster. The Bobcats briefly considered a move to eight-player before electing to remain in Class D, and although they’re now on the tough end of the numbers game, Kendrick’s kids can always be counted on to compete.

Richmond’s Lila Viselli, left, walks with teammate Breonna Dufresne after the Bobcats 2-1 victory against Buckfield in a Class D South semifinal girls soccer game Oct. 28 in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I really like the club I’ve got,” Kendrick said. “I’m understaffed, there’s no doubt, but the group I’m bringing in is a talented, hard-working group that’s really savvy. This is my 35th season, and this is the most excited I’ve been for a season in a while. It’s really just a nice group of kids.”

Richmond is now the lone remaining central Maine girls team in Class D with many other small-school programs in the area making the move to eight-player. Rangeley and Valley, formerly of D, and Carrabec and Madison, formerly of C, are all competing in the new format as part of the 12-team South region.

In a format that lumps together teams from different areas and conferences, it’s tough to pinpoint the top contenders. Madison, which went 7-8-0 in Class C last year despite playing shorthanded, showed by bagging goal after goal in an Aug. 19 play day with Carrabec, Lisbon and Piscataquis that it could be among them.

“Madison is a good team; we know that for sure after playing them,” said Carrabec’s Riley Crocker. “I heard Southern Aroostook (in the North) is really good, too. … It’s all about the new experience this year. Getting introduced to new teams is really nice.”

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