St. Dominic Academy’s Avery Gravel kicks the ball past Rangeley’s Lily Shafer and Brooke Laliberti during a girls soccer game last month in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

For an entire season, the Rangeley girls soccer team has utilized 11 key players and two heroic eighth-graders off the bench to make this season a success.

Now the second-ranked Lakers (11-3) find themselves in a Class D South girls soccer final, in which they will face No. 1-seed North Yarmouth Academy (15-0-1) at 4 p.m. on Tuesday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland.

“It is really hard to describe this team,” Rangeley coach Jeff Hawksley said. “I would say a learning team. … We’ve pretty much progressed in terms of technical skill and tactical skill for the entire season, and we are still in that same development kind of pace. It gets better everyday, it seems like.”

Hawksley decided to coach the Lakers because, he said, he has know the this crew of athletes “forever.” The varsity coach retired and Hawksley jumped aboard to coach Rangeley.

“I just felt like, gee, (it was) a chance to get back with these girls, and so I got lucky and got the job,” he said. “I started with the majority of them when we had a little developmental soccer program at the fitness center in Rangeley when they were second- and third-graders. I haven’t coached them all the time, but I have known them for that amount of time. I coached them in middle school, also.”

Hawksley said it is impossible to point to a couple of individuals and added that the Lakers’ success was a result of a total team effort.

“Every kid has developed. Every kid has worked outside of their comfort zone, done as much or more than we’ve asked of them,” he said. “Every kid on this team — one time or another — has been exactly like that.”

The Lakers’ bench is sparse, as they have worked with 13 athletes who have all managed to remain healthy.

“We have 11 and our subs are eighth-graders,” he said. “They play quite a bit, but they are eighth-graders. We play basically 10 kids from the opening whistle to the end. So we basically have one fullback that we change players, but the rest of them all stay in their positions for the whole game.

“Probably the biggest miracle is we have been healthy. But when you play every minute of every game, you get fit. You get accustomed to some levels of pressure. So there is some benefits to having a very small team.”

Hawksley is not sure what the Lakers will be facing when they meet North Yarmouth on Tuesday.

“I follow the Heal point standings and I read one article just a few days ago that one of my parents sent to me,” Hawksley said, “but beyond seeing that they have been winning, no, I don’t know much about them.

“Soccer, at least in my mind, you can mark tight a single one or two players, but that’s typically not what we do. We just try to play our game and take everybody on … and hope that we are stronger and can be competitive. That’s really what I expect from our kids — to work hard and be competitive.”

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