Paige Gonya dives at a shot in practice on Tuesday at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. Adam Robinson/Sun Journal

After six consecutive wins without allowing a goal, Oak Hill girls soccer coach Jeremy Young bought doughnuts for the team. 

After the Raiders beat Monmouth and Hall-Dale with back-to-back shutouts, he bought more. And when they finished off a 12-0 regular season with senior goalkeeper Paige Gonya and the defense allowing zero goals, Young once again celebrated their accomplishment with doughnuts.

“If we do something good, he’s like, ‘Guys, I got doughnuts,’” Oak Hill senior defender Lexie Finn said Tuesday. “Today he got us doughnuts. I am hoping that if we pull out a win Wednesday, then Thursday we get doughnuts.”

The Raiders finally allowed a goal in a 2-0 loss to Hall-Dale in the Mountain Valley Conference championship game Wednesday.

Around the sixth win is when Oak Hill started to realize that this year’s squad might be able to do something extraordinary. 

“Our first five or six games we were playing like we normally did, and we said, ‘Cool, we have six shutouts,’” Gonya said. “But once we played Monmouth and got another shutout, then that is when we knew we might be able to finish the season with 12 shutouts. We were like, ‘We’ve had six or seven shutouts, why not finish the season?’”

SKETCHY START

Oak Hill won its first six games by a combined score of 46-0. The offense was scoring goals, but the defense was a surprise to some of the players. That’s because prior to the kickoff of the season, Finn wasn’t sure who would be joining her on the backline. 

Mt. Abram’s Jaidyn Stuart, right, kicks the ball to keep it in bounds as Oak Hill’s Madison Drew keeps the pressure on during a game at Oak Hill High School earlier this month. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“I was nervous this year because I was the only defender (at the start of the year),” Finn said. “But then we pulled two people back and then we got a freshman, and it’s very helpful. We overlap, we recover and we get it out. It’s been helpful for us.”

Finn is joined in the middle of the defense by senior Madison Drew, who in the previous three seasons played in the midfield, and they are flanked on the outside by sophomore Aubrey McElhaney and freshman Carlee Austin.

“I was definitely nervous because we were trying to put the starting lineup together because we didn’t have defenders,” Gonya said. “We knew the offense wasn’t a problem, we knew (who) our center defenders were going to be but the outside was open, but they’ve stepped in and are doing great.”

Drew was pulled from the midfield, but said she played defense when she was younger, and said she has the same aggressiveness on the defensive line as in the midfield.

BREAKTHROUGH WINS

On Oct. 8, Oak Hill defeated Monmouth 2-0. Striker Gabby Chessie scored two goals and Gonya made seven saves, and the team started to look at itself differently. 

“I think it really hit us after Monmouth,” Drew said. “Monmouth has always been our biggest competitor, even when my sister, who is four years older than me, was in school. The first time Monmouth had lost to us was when my sister was in school and that was a huge deal. So now that new girls have cycled through and we beat them, it was like, ‘Oh,’ but to beat them 2-0 was huge. Then we said, ‘Wow, we haven’t let up a single goal this year.’ Then, after Hall-Dale, we were even more like, ‘OK, seriously, no one let anything in.’”

Three days after the win over the Mustangs, Chessie scored the lone goal and Gonya stopped six more shots in Oak Hill’s 1-0 win over Hall-Dale.

The team’s confidence sky-rocketed.

“I bought them doughnuts at six wins and then again after we beat Monmouth and Hall-Dale for eight,” Young said. “It’s been a pretty remarkable ride to be a part of.”

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Gonya, who has been voted to be a team captain every year since she was a sophomore, is the last line of defense for the Raiders.

“Every year she has improved her technical ability and has improved her leadership role,” Young said of Gonya. “She leads from the back and helps direct as a member of the defense, not just as a ‘keeper away from it. It’s defense with her, not and.”

Paige Gonya looks at a shot that goes over the net at practice on Tuesday at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. Adam Robinson/Sun Journal

Gonya sometimes leaves her spot in the net and goes out into the field, either as a striker or outside-midfielder, and scores. Young thinks Gonya may have scored more goals in her career than she has allowed — which says a lot about her versatility away from the goal and even more her performance in the goal.

“I know you’re not supposed to rely solely on a goalie, but the few times a ball has gotten by us, Paige has stopped them all,” Drew said. “She is a literal wall. She is amazing. I have never felt so honored to work with such an amazing goalie. I can’t imagine our soccer team without her. It makes me feel more confident going up (the field) and if we do make mistakes it definitely is less nerve-wracking.

“She sees the field, she communicates and she has been captain three years in a row. That’s because she sits here and directs all of us, even the top, and having her is like having a voice in your head that never goes away.”

Young said that the defenders also have been a boon to Gonya.

“They’ve done a wonderful job to basically make her life a little easier,” Young said. “She’s definitely had some saves that you wouldn’t expect anyone to get to but she’s reduced the shots she’s seen.”

Paige Gonya waits for a shot on goal at practice Tuesday at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. Adam Robinson/Sun Journal

Drew, Finn and Gonya all cited the communication between one another as the biggest reason the team hasn’t allowed a goal this season. 

“I am sweeper so if Maddie makes a mistake I’ll cover for her, or if I make a mistake she will come and recover me,” Finn said. “We communicate really well. If one on the outside makes a mistake, we cover it. We are really good at communicating.”

“We all just work so well together,” Drew added. “I think communication is the most important. Carlee is usually behind me and she will always yell at me if I need to move. If Lexie goes up, I rotate in; if I am out, someone else fills in. We all communicate and rotate well.”

Gonya also applauds the defenders’ communication in front of her. She said the Raiders have had only a short time together, but that the players’ personal connection separates this team from previous seasons.

“I feel like a lot of other teams have negativity if something happens, but this team if we have something happen, we have negativity for a split second but then can correct ourselves, and we are just able to use each other so well,” Gonya said. “We have only known each other for a couple months, but we work well together.”


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