Ceceila Dietrich of Oxford Hills scores on a penalty kick during Tuesday’s game against Leavitt.
PARIS — Oxford Hills’ victory over Leavitt on Tuesday was just one win on the schedule. Yet it was an important win for the Vikings because it wasn’t their first win and it won’t be their only win.
Those were the kind of seasons the Oxford Hills girls’ soccer team had the past two years, going 1-11-2 in 2015 and 1-13 in 2016.
So what’s been the difference this year?
“I think if you were to ask my team they would all say that they’re playing together, that there’s unity on the team and that they’re playing together,” fifth-year Vikings coach Chad Truman said. “And I’d have to say that’s the biggest reason.”
“These age groups together, we get along more, I guess,” senior captain Cetta Stewart said. “We’ve played in the past, so it kind of helps. And since we’ve had freshmen come up, we just welcomed them right in. And it’s just easier to communicate and stay together.”
There’s been no magical secret to the Vikings’ 4-2 start, nor is it a surprise to anyone in the program.
“We underachieved last year. We had the talent last year, but we just underachieved,” Truman said. “And so we knew we had the opportunity this year to be much better.”
Oxford Hills’ first win this season came much sooner than last year, a 4-0 victory over Mt. Blue in the Vikings’ home opener and second game on the schedule. The lone win of 2016 didn’t come until more than halfway through the season.
The conquering of the Cougars was an eye-opener for these Vikings, according to Truman.
“Beating them 4-0 was huge. Last year I felt like maybe we outplayed them, but they got the goal and we didn’t, on two occasions,” Truman said. “So this year to go out and kind of dominate, score four goals on them, not give up any, that was huge.”
Scoring goals hasn’t been much of a problem. After going the first four games without finding the back of the net last year, the Vikings have yet to be shut out so far through six games this season. A 7-1 loss to Messalonskee has been the only game where the Vikings haven’t struck at least twice.
Many of the Vikings’ 20 goals have come from sophomores Cece Dietrich and Julia Colby. And while Truman called them “fantastic” players, he also emphasized that the offense around them has held up their end as well. Junior Gillian Grover has multiple goals, and senior captain Caroline Burns also has multiple points. Freshman Cassidy Dumont has been a “presence” in the midfield, according to Truman.
Whether the Vikings can keep up their scoring pace (3.33 goals/game) remains to be seen, with some of the season’s toughest games still ahead.
“It really depends who we’re playing. We played some teams that we really had to fight against — Messalonskee being one of them,” Truman said. “So it really depends who you’re playing. I wish I could say we could do that every game.”
The Vikings at least have the belief that they can win games. Stewart said she hopes that the winning becomes contagious.
“I call it momentum,” Truman said. “We were never able to build any momentum last year, even though we played some fantastic games. We weren’t finishing. This year, you get a couple wins under your belt, the team starts believing and then they have momentum, and that can carry you through a lot.”
That positive attitude will be needed as the season wears on, with games against Mt. Ararat and undefeated Brunswick next on the schedule. Rematches with Leavitt, Mt. Blue, Edward Little (a 2-0 winner over Oxford Hills) and Messalonskee also await.
Truman said everybody pulling in the same direction will be key. That direction, according to Stewart, is improvement.
“I hope to be better than we are right now,” Stewart said. “We’re good right now, but I want to be even better. There’s things to work on, there’s always things to work on. And communicate and talk about what that is as a team.”
The first six games have already shown improvement from last year for the Vikings. They’re starting to be the team that Truman always thought they could be.
“When we pass and possess, we’re a good soccer team, and we can compete with just about anybody,” Truman said. “So if we stick with that we’ll be OK.”
But is that good enough to knock on the door of the playoff contenders?
“If we work hard enough, yeah,” Stewart said.
Oxford Hills goalie Jillian Douglass is congratulated by her teammates Cassidy Dumont and Cetta Stewart following the Vikings’ 6-3 win over Leavitt on Tuesday.