An early season loss and a humbling experience can be tough for a team to overcome, but the Mt. Abram boys soccer team shrugged off an early-season disappointment and have been producing success ever since.
The Roadrunners lost to unbeaten Mountain Valley 10-0 early in the year. It was a surprise result for a Mt. Abram team that was expecting to be competitive with everyone in the Mountain Valley Conference.
“We didn’t have practice on that Saturday and Sunday (in advance of a Monday match),” Mt. Abram coach Mark Lopez said. “We just played a little flat. We weren’t used to the skill their international players brought to the table. It was 3-0 at halftime. Then I just said, ‘Know what guys, let’s just have fun the rest of the game.’ I ended up playing a lot of players.”
The Roadrunners bounced back from that loss and won five straight games. Their winning streak ended with a 2-0 loss against St. Dom’s on Friday. The Roadrunners are currently 7-2 and ranked fifth in Western C.
“They’ve responded,” Lopez said. “I told the kids that it only counted as one game. No matter how bad you lose, it’s only one. So we knew there was a good chance we weren’t going to go perfect this year. So we got that bad game out of our system. We put that one behind us and concentrated on the next game.”
Lopez adjusted his lineup, moving players around. The Roadrunners haven’t had the same lineup for most of the games since, but it has been working. Mt. Abram continues to improve and learn what works.
“We’ve been getting better each day,” Lopez said. “We had some good matches early on and that gave us time to gel.”
The Roadrunners now have the chance to finish strong. Mt. Abram plays its final three games at home and the last road games is at Carrabec, a short ride for the Roadrunners.
“I’m getting tired of fast food and bus trips,” Lopez said. “It has felt like we’ve been on the bus an awful lot. It will be nice to be at home.”
The Roadrunners have winnable games down the stretch, including a key Heal-Point worthy game against Hall-Dale next week. With Maranacook and Mountain Valley likely to secure the top two spots, it could be a battle down the stretch with teams like Monmouth, Hall-Dale and St. Dom’s and Waynflete for one of the other home playoff spots.
“There’s only five teams in Western C that aren’t in the Mountain Valley Conference and (four) are in the top (nine),” Lopez said. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do. It’ll be whoever has the best run in the last third of the season.”
The unbeaten Lewiston Blue Devils may get their toughest challenges of the season this week. Lewiston plays at Mt. Ararat on Tuesday and hosts Bangor Friday. The Eagles (7-1-2) are seeded fourth in Eastern A and lost to the Blue Devils 4-1 earlier in the year. The unbeaten Rams (7-0-2) have been second for most of the season and defeated Edward Little 4-2.
Lewiston’s winning streak ended at Brunswick after the Blue Devils squandered a 2-0 lead at the half. It was a game that gave the Blue Devils (8-0-1) a test they haven’t seen so far this season. This week could be more of the same.
“These are the ones in which I’d like for us to set a benchmark,” Lewiston coach Mike McGraw said. “(Against Brunswick) the first half we did very well, but then we flattened out. We have to know that we have to play two full halves.”
Since beating Edward Little 2-1 last month, Lewiston had won four straight games by a combined margin of 24-3, with two shutouts. Those aren’t the kinds of games that get a team tuned for the playoffs.
“The previous three or four games, we had our way,” said McGraw, whose team has been to the regional final the past two years. “I knew they’d be fun to play, but they weren’t pushing us. Brunswick pushed us, and we want to make sure we learn how to push back.”
The season that the Edward Little girls’ are producing this fall is something the Red Eddies haven’t seen in some time. They’ve been unbeaten, ranked first in Eastern A and even beat Brunswick, a team they haven’t defeated much over the years. Though EL suffered its first loss of the season Saturday at Bangor, it’s been an exciting ride thus far for EL, which went 9-5 last year and lost in the Eastern A quarterfinals.
EL coach Craig Latuscha says team events off the field are making a difference. Whether it has been simply going to a Bates College game together, doing fun things or volunteering as a group, these Red Eddies have established a significant bond that translates to their play on the field.
“Winning always helps,” EL coach Craig Latuscha said. “It’s great when you win a lot of games, but I think it always starts off the field. We do a lot of things together as a team. This team is one big family. We always get along. Off the field, we have a very good time. On the field, we get along. I’ve been coaching for 13 years and to be honest, this is one of the closest teams I’ve had.”
Many of the soccer players compete together in other sports. So this group is familiar with each other and accustomed to working together. That shows as EL (8-1-1) plays a persistent game with balance and depth. They’re a team that is showing a great sum of their parts.
“Soccer may not be their best sport,” Latuscha said, “But they definitely work hard and they definitely aggressive.”