MONMOUTH — Sure, the league is new. So are many of the players. But the winning? For the Maranacook girls soccer team, that never changes.

Sophomore Phoebe Bell scored twice as the Black Bears came from behind to defeat Monmouth/Winthrop 3-1 in a Mountain Valley Conference game Tuesday at Monmouth Memorial School.

Maranacook (4-0), which was gone 48-4-4 since 2019, lost five seniors from the team that reached the Class C state final in 2022 (and won it all in ’21). Twenty-two of the approximately 30 players on the Black Bears’ roster are freshmen or sophomores. But so far, the youngsters have played like seasoned veterans. Celia Bergdahl, also a sophomore, scored Maranacook’s other goal.

“We were a little worried (before the season), because we didn’t know what was going to happen, but we have a lot of younger players stepping up and I think they’re doing a great job,” said Bell, who is one half of a formidable forward duo with Natalie Mohlar; both surpassed the 20-goal mark last season.

Maranacook coach Travis Magnusson, who shuttled players in and out of Tuesday’s game with the deftness of an air traffic controller, noted as many as nine freshmen or sophomores were on the field at the same time.

“We’re learning, and we’re getting better and better,” said Magnusson, who also cited seniors Mohlar and Mia Chicoine with providing steady veteran leadership.


Even the goalkeeping situation has changed without Maranacook missing a beat. With starter Devyn Eliasen injured, freshman Stella Stewart — normally a forward — and junior Molly Woodford — usually a defender — stepped in for one half apiece, each sharing the same No. 66 jersey. Stewart made five saves, Woodford two.

Maranacook denied Monmouth/Winthrop coach Gary Trafton in his bid for 300 career victories; he remains stuck at 299. The Mustangs also are a young team, with 16 freshmen or sophomores out of 27 players, and Trafton is excited about his team’s potential despite the loss Tuesday.

Maranacook’s Phoebe Bell and Natalie Mohlar hug after Bell scored to put the Black Bears up 2-1 against Monmouth/Winthrop during a girls soccer game Tuesday in Monmouth. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“The girls played extremely hard; I’m proud of the girls,” said Trafton, who Mustangs fell to 2-2. “They didn’t give up. We had opportunities down here, but we didn’t have as many as we did in the first half, however.

“This Monmouth/Winthrop team is a very good team, they’ve got to understand that. … They’re going to get better as the games go along.”

While Maranacook controlled possession in the first few minutes, Monmouth/Winthrop struck first when Tarynn Keleher recovered the ball from a goalmouth scramble following an Abby St. Clair corner and booted the ball past Stewart with 4:20 into the first half.

Foyt, who had a busy afternoon, finished with 16 saves, eight in each half.


Maraancook secured the equalizer 4:22 into the second half on a goal similar to Monmouth/Winthrop’s. Mohlar’s free kick resulted in a goalmouth scramble, and Bergdahl fired the ball past a diving Foyt.

Bell took advantage of a defensive miscue to give the Black Bears the lead 8:29 into the half. A miscommunication between two Mustang defenders on a free kick near the goal resulted in the ball skidding a few yards instead of booming toward midfield. With Mohlar applying pressure nearby, Bell took the loose ball and slammed it home.

Bell added an insurance with 8.1 seconds left. Bell evaded a Monmouth/Winthrop defender on the right side of the field, charged at the loose ball and shot it into the left side of the net.

Maranacook has quickly become comfortable to its new home in the MVC after a long stay in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. The Black Bears are 3-0 against MVC foes and its lone non-conference game so far was a 1-0 win over Traip Academy, which upset No. 1 Hall-Dale in the first round of last year’s Class C South playoffs. Hall-Dale and Mt. Abram are Maranacook’s other MVC victims.

“In the first two weeks we’ve had three tough, competitive games, and it’s good for us,” Magnusson said.

Maranacook had seven corners to Monmouth/Winthrop’s four.

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