Saint Dominic Academy senior soccer player Mack Pelletier, background, does scissor kicks with teammates during Thursday’s practice on the school’s field in Auburn.

Saint Dominic Academy senior soccer player Mack Pelletier, background, does scissor kicks with teammates during Thursday’s practice on the school’s field in Auburn.

AUBURN — In the span of a year, the St. Dominic Academy boys’ soccer team left the Valley, only to find itself at the bottom of a valley.

The trek to get out from the bottom and back up to the top has begun, however.

For as long as Marty Bressler had been a part of the St. Dom’s program (going on 15 years now), the Saints were always a playoff contender. Then a move from the Mountain Valley Conference to the Western Maine Conference coincided with the Saints going 1-13 and missing the postseason in 2016.

“St. Dom’s went on an incredible run for 20-plus years and it was awesome,” Bressler, entering his eighth season as the Saints’ head coach, said. “I was a part of 14 of those, fortunately, and it’s come to an end. Every team has their cycles and this is ours.”

This wasn’t a sudden fall from grace, according to Bressler, but rather an eventual slide that took longer than expected to happen.

“Honestly I saw it in 2012,” Bressler said. “That was the apex of that group, and you started seeing it a little bit. The 2013 and 2014 teams did a tremendous job. They overachieved in my estimation.

“We saw it coming, and the kids knew last year that we could 0-14 or we could be 7-7 and they had a great attitude. I would say of last year’s group, they didn’t look like a 1-13 team and we certainly didn’t act like it.”

For some teams — many even — a one-win season can be a forgettable one, and arduous one.

Not for St. Dom’s.

“Last year, I know we didn’t make playoffs and our record was 1-13, but it was my funnest sports season of my life,” senior captain Mack Pelletier said. “The kids were awesome, (Coach Bressler) is awesome. It was just a fun year. Even though our record didn’t show how well we played, I thought we played really well and we were in every game.”

Pelletier is the lone senior starter on this year’s squad, and Bressler is calling him “the patriarch” of the program. He, along with senior reserves Hunter Emery, Josh Fortin and Matt Curtis, will be spending their final high school soccer season helping to start a rebuilding process for the Saints.

“I just want to have fun and make it fun for the underclassmen,” Pelletier said. “I just want to leave behind some good memories for them, and leave behind my legacy and have it continue for them.”

Pelletier said he thinks this is year two of the rebuild, but it might just be the second year of starting back at square one.

“This group is going to experience some growing pains again, and I think that it’ll be good for them,” Bressler said. “I think humility and hard work and attention to detail in training, I think they’re going to learn that and continue to get better.”

Freshmen saw plenty of playing time for the Saints last year, and now that core is sophomores. They are the future — well, at least the start of it.

“The seniors I played with my freshman year, I can see a lot of the freshmen and sophomores that look like the seniors I played with my freshman year,” Pelletier said. “So I think they’re going to develop even more.”

Just like Pelletier is tasked with being a role model for this year’s team, the underclassmen will soon be the leaders of what Bressler hopes is a strong-again program.

Giving strength to the program is a newly created feeder system, with teams in grades 1-6.

“We haven’t had a feeder program, and a lot of the really successful programs do,” Bressler said, mentioning Hall-Dale and Monmouth Academy. “I think as far as the St. Dom’s community, if we can find a way to really help with financials, we’re going to be one of those really strong, small programs for a long time.”

For this year, the Saints are still trying to find their footing in a WMC that is ripe with established soccer programs. Bressler said the conference switch was a shock to all the players.

“I think some of the kids got into the rut of ‘we’ve always been good. Even though we haven’t had as much skill, we’ll just make the playoffs.’ And it doesn’t work that way,” Bressler said. “They had to go through that to really understand ‘okay look, we’re not going to just show up and win seven to 10 games every year.’ We wouldn’t have won 10 in the MVC. We might have gone 7-7. We might have just squeaked in, maybe a ninth or 10th seed. So I think that kind of perspective has really shaped them for this year. They’re humble, they’re hungry and they’re hard-working.”

Bressler is making no promises about starting a new streak of making the playoffs this year. He’s not worried about the record, only how his team fares against the best competition on the schedule.

“(Playoffs) would be nice. It’s icing on top of the cake,” Pelletier said. “I want a .500 year out of this team. I think we can do it. I think we can hang around in every single game, and win some as well.”

[email protected]

.gooslide {position: relative; padding-bottom: 59.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; }
.gooslide iframe {position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100% !important; height: 100% !important; }

Saint Dominic Academy senior soccer player Mack Pelletier, left, battles with a teammate for the ball during Thursday’s practice on the school’s field in Auburn.

Saint Dominic Academy senior soccer player Mack Pelletier, left, battles with a teammate for the ball during Thursday’s practice on the school’s field in Auburn.

Comments are not available on this story.