Buckfield goalie Tyler Gammon makes a diving save during Thursday’s soccer practice at the school. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

BUCKFIELD — Losses have been scarce for the Buckfield boys soccer team the past few seasons, but thanks to one big playoff loss the Bucks might find themselves losing more this season.

And they’re OK with that.

Buckfield, a longtime member of the East-West Conference, will be an associate member of the Mountain Valley Conference this season and next, as part of a two-year trial for both the boys and girls programs.

“Honestly, it’s been in our heads for a little while, but we haven’t really had a reason to want to make the switch,” Buckfield boys coach Kyle Rines said. “The East-West has provided us with enough competition, and plus adding in some outside games with the WMC. I’d say the last three years we’ve had like Sacopee (Valley), and Traip, St. Dom’s, where they gave us opportunities to get some points against higher class teams to prepare us for the Greenvilles, the Richmonds, the Temple Academy last year. But I think what really made me personally tell Cortney Sirois, our AD, that I think we should make the switch was last year’s result in playoffs against NYA.

“I say this often, we competed or beat every team on our schedule. You know, Richmond, Temple Academy. … But then when we went to North Yarmouth Academy in the semifinal and they had a 7-0 game — two times, once in the regular season, and then 7-0 again in the postseason — it was kind of like, ‘Welp, I don’t see this changing any time soon.’ So the 14-game schedule that we had normally had with schools that would struggle to put teams together just doesn’t prepare us.”

Buckfield went 10-3-1 last year before a narrow quarterfinal win over rival Richmond and then the blowout loss to NYA. The Bucks likely won’t have that same regular-season success this season, but they hope to be better prepared for the difficult opponents they’ll face in the postseason.

“At first, I’ll be honest, (the move to the MVC) was a little scary, but now we’re looking at it as an opportunity. You know?” Bucks senior Dan Perry said. “Harder competition, more opportunities to improve. It really is nothing but positives. We’re really looking at it as nothing but positives. That’s the attitude we’re taking into the season. You know, this is a chance to improve come playoff time. We are pretty happy about it, I think. It is a challenge, but it’s a challenge that we’re embracing.”

The Bucks already have an idea of what they’re getting themselves into. They played new MVC foes Hall-Dale and Winthrop at a preseason play day, and they’ve faced other conference foes in this and previous summers and preseasons.

Buckfield boys soccer coach Kyle Rines goes over a drill with his team during Thursday’s practice. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I’ve been telling my team, like, ‘Hey, this is not going to be 7-0 us, it’s not going to be 4-1 us, it’s going to have to be 2-0, 1-0, draws.’ That being said, those top teams in the MVC are what’s going to make us sharper,” Rines said. “We’re going to be the underdogs. Every school, they’re not going to know what to expect out of us, just like we’re not going to know what to expect out of (other teams).”

The players aren’t scared of what’s to come.

“I think we’re definitely good enough, we just need to put together the work, and really mesh and find where we fit together so that we can make combinations that give us goals,” junior Rick Kraske said.

They also know that being competitive won’t always mean wins.

“I think we’re going to take what Coach is teaching us, and it is hard to have a losing record, but we’ll use that to motivate us and to work harder in practices,” Perry said. “And it’ll just make us better and stronger overall as a team, with how close we are, and that’ll just make us fight even harder and even more hungrier for wins.”

Rines said he doesn’t care how many wins his team gets, as long as they win enough to get into the Class D South playoffs. That will mean some combination of piling up wins against the MVC’s weaker teams and stealing a win or two against the more stout programs if they can.

Having less knowledge of the new competition than they do of their old EWC opponents will be an adjustment the program has to make, as will matching the style of soccer that many teams in the MVC play. But the shorter travel will be a welcome adjustment.

Buckfield goalie Brandon Donahue prepares to make a save during a drill at Thursday’s practice at the school. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I hope the relationship lasts. I hope that we are able to stay in for eight years, 10 years,” Rines said. “Travel-wise it helps us, money-wise, the competition, things like that.”

Kraske thinks the change might breathe new life into an already strong program.

“I think it’ll help us get momentum, seeing that we have new competition,” he said. “And younger guys are going to get hungry, that, ‘Hey, let’s really buckle down and improve so that we can be some of those people that are on that varsity team making an impact.’”

Perry said the competition could be a “springboard” for the program, whether that pays dividends this year or in the future, in terms of success in the playoffs.

Buckfield boys soccer coach Kyle Rines watches a drill during Thursday’s practice. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Buckfield goalie Tyler Gammon gets ready to defend a shot by a teammate during Thursday’s practice. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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