Chris Cifelli knows that to sell successfully, you need good product.

After one of the best soccer seasons in Leavitt girls’ soccer history, Cifelli may have his Hornets sold on just how good they can be this fall.

“I’ve always enjoyed coaching these girls because even when we were struggling, they were always buying what I was selling,” said the Leavitt coach. “Now, it’s an easier sales pitch.”

Two years ago, Leavitt won just a single game in Class A. With much of that team back and a drop to Class B competition, it proved to be a great fit for Leavitt last fall. The Hornets went 8-3-3 and earned the fourth seed in Western B. They lost a heart breaker to Yarmouth, 1-0, in the quarterfinals.

“I think it motivated us,” senior midfielder Bri Hammond said. “It showed us we could play with the coastal teams. I think sometimes they think that, ‘It’s just Leavitt.’ We definitely gave people a run for their money. It’s such a motivation for us, and we want to get by that first round.”

A year ago, the Hornets were hoping to have a good season and produce a winning record and earn a playoff berth. After last year’s experience, Leavitt fully knows it is capable of that.

“It’s the same as last year,” Tori Zupancic, an all-state junior forward, said. “We’re going to try our hardest and work as a team and take advantage of practice. We feel like we’re just going to try our hardest and do the best we can. We work great as a team, and we’re going to just keep it up.”

Moving to a KVAC B schedule put Leavitt on the field with schools more its size. That evened the playing field a bit and as the Hornets’ confidence grew, Leavitt was able to do something no other girls’ squad at the school had done – secure a playoff berth in a year without an open tournament.

“Since when I was a freshman, we‘ve always been a building program,”  Hammond said. “As we worked our way up, we’ve definitely improved. Just being the first team in Leavitt girls’ soccer history to make the playoffs is such a drive for us.”

In addition to Hammond in the midfield, senior Abbey Randall, junior Danielle DuBois and sophomore Sydney Nadeau are also back. The defense is stacked with seniors Shannon Clarke, Kayla Richardson, Theresa Raymond, Ashley Dionne as well as junior Sarah Frost and sophomore Alex Hudner.

Joining Zupancic up front are sophomores Mariah Treadwell, Jenna Cote and Desiree Tweedie.

With the team’s depth increasing in size and talent, there’s already a good buzz brewing around the team, and the girls want to keep that going.

“It’s such a community thing, too,” Hammond, an all-conference pick, said. “We want to bring us all together and our school together too.”

Leavitt only graduated four seniors from last year, but still have some challenges ahead. The Hornets face a stiff KVAC schedule, and opponents will be better prepared for Leavitt this time around.

“This year, we’re not going to sneak up on anybody,” Cifelli said. “As much as confidence was being built last year, there was also the part of us being an unknown and a wild card. We’re not going to be a wild card this year. A lot of teams are going to come and be ready every time.”

After a breakout season, it can be easy for complacency to set in. Cifelli always stressed that the team need to work hard just to compete with the A schools. Now with the drop to B, he says the team must maintain that work ethic and always try to improve.

“Every game is a motivation and every loss just makes us want to work harder to beat them the next time or keep on trying our hardest,” Zupancic said.

The Hornets participated in a tournament at Cape Elizabeth and got a good look at some of the top teams in Southern Maine. Leavitt handled itself well and was able to gauge just how far they have to go.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that these girls want to be here and will work for each other and have each other’s backs,” Hammond said. “There’s no way we’re going to let each other down.”

Cifelli stressed, though, that it takes one step at a time and each step can make a difference when the playoffs come around. A better seeding might allow Leavitt to avoid a tough WMC team in the first round for a more favorable matchup.

“The thing we want to do is to be playing our best soccer in October,” Cifelli said. “That’s what we set for our goal. We want to get ourselves in position wherever we can and be playing the best that we can.”

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