On the first day of practice, new coach JT Taylor made his soccer team run. He made them run hard.
It wasn’t just about conditioning during the preseason at that moment. It was about expectations. He wanted his veteran team to know that they needed to be ready for the season.
“We weren’t ready to go at 7 a.m.,” Taylor said. “I think that day forward, the guys realized I was serious about our potential.”
Soon thereafter, a handful of exchange students arrived. Taylor already had a veteran club looking to build on its confidence, the addition of some seasoned and skilled players from away only enhanced the Falcons’ potential.
“We had an experienced team, but we lacked confidence and trust,” Taylor said. “Too many times last season guys would try to do too much instead of making the pass. I think some guys thought they wouldn’t get the ball back or their touch would fail them. Rasmus (Soegaard) and Felix (Promm) came during the preseason, which doesn’t always happen, and immediately gelled.”
The end result proved to be one of the best seasons in Mountain Valley soccer history. The Falcons finished 13-0-1 and earned the second seed in Western C. They’ll play for the MVC championship Saturday, hosting Hall-Dale at 2 p.m. That game was rescheduled from Thursday.
With a wealth of seniors, led by Tucker Phelps, Tucker Rowland, Brad
Marshall and Chris Bourret, and some talented newcomers in Soegaard, Promm, Gustav Gavenas and Eduardo Esteban, the Falcons formed a deep and cohesive team. A potential treat in the MVC became one of the league’s top teams and a contender in Western C.
“Obviously, we have had a great season,” said Taylor, who lost Bourret to injury and had to revamp his defense. “When I got the job last spring I
felt we had a playoff team. We were returning all but three players from the
previous season and would have potentially 11 seniors. We had some maturing to do, and I had some candid conversations with some of the seniors and what I expected from them.”
The Falcons had some growing pains but the the team showed character and resilience after some setbacks. Mountain Valley settled for a tie with St. Dom’s after allowing the Saints to score the equalizer in the final seconds. After a 4-0-1 start, beating Hall-Dale 1-0 was a significant boost.
“We wanted that game more than any game in the past few seasons,” said Taylor, who lost Bourret to injury two games later. “We played disciplined and finished on a chance late in the game. From then on it was about staying focused since we played the meat of our schedule really early.”
The Falcons finished the season with 60 goals, while allowing just nine. Three of those goal allowed came in a 4-3 win over Monmouth in the season opener.
Mountain Valley’s last unbeaten regular season was in 1995 when the team went 10-0-2 and was the top seed in Western B. The Falcons lost to Marshwood in the regional final. The year before that, Mountain Valley finished 12-0 and was No. 1 but lost in the quarterfinals to Lincoln Academy.
“We haven’t hosted a playoff game in probably a decade either,” Taylor said. “At this point, our guys may be oblivious to how rare of an accomplishment going undefeated is. It’s an honor, but we are focused on winning that first playoff game.”
The Falcons will host the winner of Friday’s prelim between Mt. Abram and Carrabec. Mountain Valley beat the Roadrunners 10-0 early in the season and blanked Carrabec 2-0.
With the weather washing out Thursday’s game, Mountain Valley is pairing up the MVC championship soccer game Saturday with the football game, moved from Friday to the following night. It should create even more of a community following for the Falcons.
“It is exciting in the River Valley right now,” Taylor said. “I’ve got a lot
of messages from former players and people in the area saying they are
excited to cheer us on in the postseason. I’d like to think we will have
that 12th man that every team loves to have in their corner.”
Maranacook has the top seed in Western C at 14-0. Hall-Dale (13-1) is third.
St. Dom’s finished fifth at 10-2-2. The Saints are on a six-game winning streak but play a quarterfinal at Waynflete (11-1-2). The Flyers are a regular foe for the Saints at tourney time and have gone unbeaten (8-0-2) in its last 10 games this fall.
Monmouth (10-4) followed in sixth. The Mustangs won four of its last six games and host a quarterfinal Saturday at 10 a.m. Monmouth plays 11th-ranked Lisbon (7-6-1). Monmouth won the regular season meeting, 3-1. The Greyhounds lost four of its last five games.
The preliminary round gets underway Friday. Seventh-ranked Mt. Abram (10-4) hosts Carrabec (7-7) at 5 p.m. The Roadrunners split with the Cobras in a pair of late regular season games. Carrabec won the first match 1-0. Mt. Abram took the rematch 1-0.
In Eastern A, Lewiston claimed the top seed with a 13-0-1 record. It’s the first unbeaten regular season for the Blue Devils since going 13-0-1 in 1981. The first time Lewiston went unbeaten was the first year of the program going 11-0 in 1974.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Lewiston coach Mike McGraw, about his first unbeaten campaign as the head coach of the Blue Devils. “That’s a great regular-season record. The only thing left is that we know that we play at home.”
Lewiston has reached the regional final the last three seasons and lost. With home field advantage and a strong finish to the regular season, the Blue Devils hope produce a memorable playoff run.
“We just need to stay mentally focused and keep practicing hard,” junior midfielder Gage Cote said.
Lewiston finished the regular campaign with a rugged schedule. They played five of the top seven teams in Eastern A and went 4-0-1, outscoring opponents 19-5 in its last six games. Those games featured some tough battles. Brunswick rallied from a 2-0 to tie Lewiston. EL was the first team to score on the Blue Devils and took a 1-0 lead late into the game before Lewiston won 3-1. A late goal produced the narrow 2-1 win over Mt. Ararat (8-4-2).
“That’s the best way to get ready for the playoffs,” said McGraw, whose team was one of the program’s most prolific ever, outscoring foes 54-12 this season. “We had to know how we stood.”
Lewiston was supposed to play Brunswick on Thursday in the KVAC championship game, but it was cancelled and will not be rescheduled.
Brunswick (10-2-2) landed the second seed followed by Hampden (11-3) and Bangor (9-2-3), which was unbeaten for much of the year before losing two of its last four games (to Lewiston and Hampden).
In the quarterfinals Tuesday, Lewiston will host the winner of Saturday’s preliminary game between Mt. Blue (5-8-1) and Oxford Hills (5-9). The Cougars host that game at 2 p.m. Mt. Blue is coming off a pair of close 1-0 losses to Bangor and Brunswick late in the season and beat the Vikings 1-0 and 3-1 earlier in the year. Oxford Hills won its last two regular season games to earn the playoff spot.
Edward Little (8-5-1) finished sixth overall and will play a quarterfinal at Hampden Tuesday. EL lost to the Broncos 3-1 in the regular season.
“We haven’t beaten any of the teams above us, but I’m looking at it in a positive manner,” EL coach Matt Andreasen said. “Hopefully, it’s coming. The fact that we haven’t won one of those games, it tells me we haven’t peaked yet. Hopefully, our best soccer is still ahead of us.”
In Western B, Gray-New Gloucester earned the fourth seed at 7-5-2. The Patriots will host Lincoln (7-4-3) in a quarterfinal game. The Patriots won five of its last eight games to earn one of the higher spots.
Traditional powers like Yarmouth (10-2-2), Greely (9-3-2) and Cape Elizabeth (8-4-2) took the top seeds, respectively.
Leavitt’s hopes of hosting a playoff berth fell short when the Hornets finished ninth overall at 7-7. The Hornets, with 11 seniors, still have the chance of earning their first playoff win since 2007 and setting a new mark for wins in a season. The seven wins this fall tied the previous high. Leavitt plays a prelim at Fryeburg (5-6-3).
Poland earned the final tourney spot in the field. The Knights finished 10th at 4-9-1 and play at Wells (6-6-2). The Knights beat the Warriors earlier in the season 2-0.
In Western D, Richmond (14-0) finished unbeaten and earned the top seed. Buckfield (11-3) landed second. The Bucks had won seven straight before losing to the Bobcats 2-1 to end the regular season. Both losses to Richmond were by 2-1 scores. Buckfield will host seventh-ranked Islesboro (5-6-1) in the quarterfinals.
Conference championship soccer games in both the Mountain Valley Conference and Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference were washed out Thursday.
The unbeaten and top-seeded Lewiston boys’ soccer team (13-0-1) was supposed to play Brunswick (10-2-2) for the KVAC crown while the second-seeded Edward Little girls’ (10-1-3) were scheduled to play top-ranked Bangor (12-0-2). Both games were cancelled and will not be rescheduled.
The MVC games featuring the Monmouth girls’ and Mountain Valley boys have been rescheduled. Instead of playing at Thomas College as originally scheduled, the games will take place at the higher seeds.
The second-ranked Monmouth girls’ (12-1-1) will play at top-ranked Madison (12-1-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday while the second-ranked Mountain Valley boys’ (13-0-1) will host third-seeded Hall-Dale (13-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday.