Leavitt Area High School’s Leah Maheux is the Sun Journal’s 2020 All-Region Girls Soccer Player of the Year. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Editor’s note: The coronavirus pandemic made the 2020 fall sports season different than any before it. Some teams didn’t play. Those who did, played shorter schedules, and some only a handful of games or less. There were still standout players, though. And while there might not have been enough games to compile the typical All-Region teams, the Sun Journal still wants to recognize some of the standouts by selecting players of the year for the sports that had seasons.

Like most seniors, Leah Maheux wanted to make her final high school season memorable.

She did her part in the offseason, working on fitness, strength and skills so that her senior year could be her best.

Turned out it was.

The Leavitt striker scored a career-high 19 goals and added six assists, and did so in only 10 games during the season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. That helped lead the Hornets to an 8-2 record and a team total of 39 goals.

Leavitt coach Chris Cifelli said Maheux “made our team go,” and her performance for the Hornets makes her the 2020 Sun Journal All-Region Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

“Ever since the end of last season, I wanted to be even better my senior year,” Maheux said. “All I could think about was the upcoming season, my last year. I had to make the most of it. Never in a million years I would’ve thought it would’ve been like this, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Part of the offseason process was Maheux and the team welcoming back Cifelli as head coach after a two-year hiatus. She said she prayed he would return, so the seniors could “finish the way we started.” When Cifelli did come back, Maheux was relieved because she knew the program was in good hands.

“He has taught me so much the two years I was a part of his team,” Maheux said. “I am so thankful he took this opportunity and helped me reach and exceed my goals for my last season. He by far made it the most memorable year of my career.”

Leah Maheux set a new Leavitt Area High School record with 19 goals this fall. Dustin Williamson photo

Cifelli was equally excited for the opportunity to coach Maheux again.

“On numerous occasions this fall, I would simply marvel at the level Leah was playing at. I realized how fortunate I was to be able to be on the sideline to be a part of this season,” he said. “Getting to be a part of Leah’s last run here at Leavitt made me a better coach, but the soccer fan in me really enjoyed getting to see her play.”

Cifelli said so much of Maheux’s game has grown since her freshman season, when she scored 11 goals and notched five assists. She has learned how to both physically and mentally combat opponents’ focus on her, as well as help get her teammates in a position to take advantage of the extra attention Maheux commanded.

“On the field, she was such a calming presence and was obviously a weapon, as she not only could score but she could score in bunches,” Cifelli said. “Leah’s leadership perhaps grew even more than her game over her four years. At practice, no one worked harder than Leah.”

Maheux and the rest of the Hornets took practice up a notch after their season-opening loss to Lewiston.

“The first practice after our tough loss, we knew we needed to step up. We showed up to practice every day ready to get after it and get prepared for our next game,” Maheux said.

What followed was a 5-0 win over Gardiner, and a 7-1 victory against Poland in which Maheux scored five goals.

“After the first goal I knew I was on fire,” Maheux said. “I just wanted the ball and to win so badly. My teammates were finding me so well this game and gave me so many breakaways. Our spirits were so high this game, everyone played awesome.”

That was only one of many memorable Maheux moments in the fall of 2020.

“Leah’s five-goal game against Poland was an astonishing feat, but in terms of the dramatic, her goal in our home game against St. Dom’s with 6:31 left made a lot of memories,” Cifelli said. “Leah was able to one-time Ali Noniewicz’s cross as we escaped with a hard-earned victory.”

Maheux’s 19 goals are a single-season school record. She finishes her high school career with 48 goals and 28 assists.

“I am so proud of our team and what we did to finish the year strong. I am also really proud of myself for working hard and never giving up on my goal (to break the school scoring record),” Maheux said. “Soccer has changed my life, and these last four years have made me this person I have become today. I knew I wanted something and I got the job done.”

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