GRAY — This season, as usual, the Gray-New Gloucester girls’ soccer team will be facing some of the best offensive players in the state, according to head coach Kiaran McCormack.
Luckily for the Patriots, they have a proven veteran goalie standing between those players and the back of the net.
Yet it’s taken Chelsea Davis three, going on four, years to prove herself worthy of McCormack’s praise.
“If you had said to me when she came in as a freshman that she would be at the level she’s at, where she’s being looked at by some of the Division III schools in the state, I would have said ‘OK, she has to prove it,'” McCormack said. “And as a sophomore she came in and she worked her butt off all summer to make that position her own, and that work ethic has just carried forward every season, and she’s made strides every season.”
Davis entered her high school career behind senior Jennifer Sutherland on the goalkeeper depth chart. It was a one-year road block that helped pave the way for Davis’ progression.
“She was easy to communicate,” Davis said. “It was easy for her to just talk it out. And I learned a lot from her. Also a lot of techniques and stuff. She was easy to get on the ground, dive, and I’ve learned a lot from that. But over the years I’ve done Seacoast (United), and I’ve learned a lot from that, too.”
When Sutherland graduated the door was open for Davis to take over the No. 1 spot. She admitted it was a little intimidating being a sophomore goalie playing with seniors out in the field.
“As I eventually got going it got easier and I was able to communicate well. But the most struggle with probably being a sophomore then was the communication piece. It was just a big one,” Davis said. “I couldn’t communicate with the seniors. I wasn’t comfortable with them yet. But as (I’ve grown), it’s more of a habit now, so I’m easier with it.”
“She’s definitely grown into that, and even that is something that (assistant coach Michael Foley) works with them on, is the communication,” McCormack said. “Communication should be specific as well, with the specific information. It’s not just all the, ‘Well done, good job,’ communication we’re looking for, we’re looking for organization and certain phrases in certain situations that key our players into what we want. And that’s another part of how she has grown. She’s an outgoing person, and I think it comes easier to her.”
Davis wasn’t named a captain this season, but she knows as a senior and as a goalie that “it’s just kind of a given, you have to be a leader.”
With a handful of other seniors who have been playing varsity since their sophomore seasons as well, Davis said the Patriots have “a good leader group in general.”
She also said the class is “pretty connected,” and that should be the case on defense for the Patriots.
“The four starting defenders were either starters or contributed a lot last year. There’s two other seniors and two juniors, so they’ve been playing together now for a number of years,” McCormack said. “And they all understand what is being asked of them, and (Chelsea) sees the whole game in front of her, and so communicates really well with them and has a good chemistry, and they all have an understanding of what is wanted.”
“I love my defensive line,” Davis said. “They’re great. They get back fast enough. I don’t really have to worry about it.”
There will be a few times that an opponent will break through that line, but McCormack has faith in his last line of defense to get the job done.
“She’s going to be in games against the likes of Yarmouth, Cape (Elizabeth), Greely, York — the usual powerhouse teams — and … she’s going to be called upon, hopefully not too many times, but she’ll be called upon to make important saves, and I have full confidence in her that she’ll be able to do that,” McCormack said.
Goals will be scored on her, but Davis said she’s learned to move on from the balls that get past her.
“You just got to let it go and start over,” Davis said. “If it goes by, just forget about it, move on to the next save.”
When Davis does move on after this season, her sights are set on one of those in-state, Division III schools. She plays on attending University of Maine at Farmington, where she hopes to continue her career while majoring in special education.
Gray-New Gloucester goalie Chelsea Davis. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)