Monmouth’s Libby Clement, left, and Oak Hill’s Gabbie Chessie vye for a 50/50 ball during a game in Monmouth in September. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal File Photo)

WALES — Replacing 10 seniors isn’t usually a good recipe for success, yet for the second season in a row the Oak Hill girls’ soccer team won double-digit games, qualified for the Mountain Valley Conference championship game and earned the No. 2 seed in the Class B South playoffs.

There are many new names on the Raiders’ roster, but the performance on the field stayed the same. It’s a surprise even to third-year varsity coach Jeremy Young.

“All three years have been surprising, this one more surprising,” Young said.

The Raiders took the slightest of steps back, in a way, from last year’s program-best 13-1 regular-season record to a 12-2 mark this year. But Oak Hill did one better than last year by beating rival Monmouth in the exhibition MVC championship.

It was a regular-season win at Monmouth in the second game of the year that got the team believing.

“I don’t think a lot of the freshmen really understood like what Monmouth means to us, like, all the upperclassmen and stuff. So going into it, it was really nervous, but I don’t think they were nervous. So I think that really helped because they were like, it’s just another game,” senior captain Abriana Deslauriers said. “So it was just a game, so we weren’t really nervous or anything.”

Getting 11 new freshmen incorporated into a team with a void left behind by 10 seniors proved to be easy. The leadership of the four seniors — Deslauriers, Sadie Waterman, Jade Sturtevant and Eliza Whisenant — along with veteran junior Julia Noel helped that process.

“Even though they’re a lot younger and smaller they’re just as fast, just as skilled, they just needed to get brought up to pace a little bit, and I think that happened really, really fast, especially with summer ball,” Waterman said. “So they just jumped right into all the positions flawlessly, and we didn’t really notice any difference.”

“They’ve earned it. It hasn’t been by luck,” Young said.

Three of those freshmen are starters, and in important positions according to Young. Paige Gonya is the starting goalie, replacing longtime senior Anna Dodge admirably. Emily Dillman has added a scoring threat at forward, and Elise Worth has been “a rock” on defense, Young said.

“We also have two other kids who have had a lot of varsity minutes in Lexie Finn and Gabbie Chessie. Others have also certainly played as well,” Young added. “But it’s been a really cool process to see them come in and step up and fill those roles and not have a let-down, because I think in many ways we could have had many excuses.”

There were losses, first to Mt. Abram in the game immediately after the Monmouth win (“we just had a really bad game. Like we did not work together at all that game,” Deslauriers said.), and the following week at Spruce Mountain to conclude three games in three days.

Deslauriers said the Mt. Abram game didn’t tear the team apart, and in fact showed them that they could rebound from a setback.

There haven’t been any since the Spruce Mountain game midway through the season. Not even overtime and penalty kicks in a rematch with Monmouth in the MVC title game could stop the Raiders’ run.

But the next test will be the biggest. Nothing the Raiders have done so far can truly prepare them for a quarterfinal against Greely, out of the Western Maine Conference.

“It’s scary, but not really though,” Deslauriers said. “Like we just have to play our game, and I think we’ll be fine.”

The Raiders were in the same position last year, but got shut out by lower-seeded Cape Elizabeth (another WMC opponent, and this year’s No. 1 seed) at home in their playoff opener.

“You can never count a team out,” Waterman said. “I mean, even though we were higher in the standings we didn’t know what to expect, and you always have to be ready and no matter who’s in the game you have to trust your team.”

Playing “their” game isn’t just a cliche from the players, but a sentiment also shared by Young.

“You know, if we start to get out of our style of play, that’s tough for us. We have a particular style, particular philosophy. We’ve been lucky enough that in all of our games we’ve been able to play this year we’ve largely been able to stick to it. So if we can do what we do, and play how we play, and be us, we have a chance,” Young said. “But certainly we’re looking at seeing some teams that are a strength that we haven’t seen much this year.”

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Oak Hill’s Julia Noel, left muscles in on Monmouth’s Alexis Trott during a game in Monmouth in September. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal File Photo)

Oak Hill’s Sadie Waterman, left, and Monmouth’s Abbie Crawford battle for a head ball during a game in Monmouth in September. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal File Photo)


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