The Brewer boys soccer team has its share of losses this season.
But the Witches also have their share of wins. More wins, in fact, than the program has had in recent years.
If Brewer earns a victory its final regular-season game against Nokomis of Newport today, the Witches will finish with nine wins. It’s been at least 10 years since the program had that many victories.
Brewer went 5-8-1 last year, 4-9-1 in 2004, and 1-13 in 2003.
“We’ve been struggling for the last three years so it’s nice to finally start producing,” said senior striker Andrew Richardson, who has scored a team-high 12 goals this year and is one of three captains with Reid McLaughlin and Jimmy Nicknair.
Even a tie against the Warriors today would help the Witches equal their 2002 record of 8-4-2. Brewer beat Nokomis 5-1 in their first meeting last month.
Head coach Mark Savage, who is in his first season with the Witches, points to the team’s overall intelligence, both on the field and in the classroom, as one of the reasons Brewer has excelled.
“That might be the thing that sets them aside from any other team I’ve coached,” Savage said. “I think we had eight or nine kids with a 90 or better [grade-point] average, or right around there. … They’re athletically intelligent. You can have the skills, but you’ve got to make the right decisions.”
There’s also a new attitude.
“We’re more positive this year,” said Nicknair, a senior midfielder. “Everybody wants to be here and we all like each other.”
Brewer can also lean on its overall team speed, especially in the back and from strikers Marc Relford and Shun Sasaki, and junior fullback Prentiss Swett, who is as valuable for his throw-ins as he is for his defense.
Swett can heave a ball to at least the far post, which is about 35-40 yards from the sideline. That creates a lot of scoring opportunities when the Witches have out-of-bounds plays in their offensive end.
“We treat it like a corner kick,” Richardson said. “If we can get it out of bounds we know we have an opportunity in the front of the net or the middle of the field.”
Swett, Kyle Allcroft, Bryan Orcutt, Lucas Simmons, Chris Corey and goalie Chris Brady have been strong and speedy in back.
“If they get beat any single one of them can catch up and get the ball,” Nicknair said. “As midfielders, we can play more aggressive up front because we know if we get beat we have five strong guys back there.”
Among Brewer’s eight wins was a 4-2 victory over Hampden. It was the second year in a row the Witches have picked up at least one win over the powerhouse Broncos. Brewer also played two close games with rival Bangor.
“We know we can play with the Bangors, the Hampdens, the traditionally good teams,” senior midfielder McLaughlin said. “We can play with anybody.”
Although the three captains are excited to be part of Brewer’s most successful recent team, they’re focused on the postseason. The preliminary games are set for Wednesday, Oct. 28.
“We’re just trying to build up for the playoffs,” Nicknair said. “That’s all that matters.”
Stout defense helps Hampden
It wasn’t a win, but Hampden girls soccer coach Dewey Martin and the Broncos will take a 0-0 double-overtime tie against rival Bangor Saturday night at Hampden.
“This was a good result for us,” Martin said. “We’ll get more Heal points out of it than any team we’ve beaten.”
Bangor, which was 12-0 before the game, was ranked No. 2 in the most recent Eastern Maine Class A standings. Hampden, now 7-5-1, was 10th.
Playing in front of around 650 people – a much bigger crowd than Martin can remember for a game – the Bronco defense stood up against the Rams’ potent offense.
“They score a lot of goals, more than we do,” Martin said. “We allowed them two shots inside the 18 [yard line]. I think we had the better opportunities to score.”
Hampden’s key defensive players include Mikki Libbey, who marked Bangor standout center midfielder Erin MacDermott, sweeper Lauren Maltz, and fullbacks Tara Utecht, Abby Tarbell-Reynolds, Courtney Reeves and Rylee Rawcliffe and goalie Michelle Wells.
Libbey got experience marking tough players last year when she guarded former Lewiston star Laura Martel in a preseason game. Martel is now starting for the University of Maine women’s team.
“[Libbey] rose to the challenge,” Martin said. “I almost think she plays better when we put the pressure on her.”
Martin said all 22 Broncos played at least 10 percent of the game.
Bangor won the teams’ first matchup 1-0 on Sept. 12. The rivals could meet again in the playoffs if the final points work out.
That’s another reason Martin liked the tie.
“It says we can play with them,” he said. “If we see them again, we won’t be scared.”
Wisdom boys looking to future
The score was ugly, and the season hasn’t been much better.
But the boys on the Wisdom soccer team know there’s a reason they’re still playing despite fielding just eight players in a recent game against Van Buren.
The Crusaders beat the Pioneers 20-0 in last Thursday’s contest.
“It was hard, but you know, they have a great attitude about it,” said Wisdom athletic director Mim Gagnon, who is also the girls soccer coach. “They know they’re building for next year.”
Wisdom, which hasn’t won a game this season, is expecting at least four current eighth-graders to join the team, which will lose two seniors.
That’s why the Pioneers are still playing despite low numbers. The Maine Principals’ Association imposes a two-year ban from participation for a school that has a forfeit in even one game.
Gagnon said there are a number of reasons behind the low numbers, including a group of seniors who chose not to play this season, and the potato harvest break, during which many Aroostook County high schoolers work on farms or take other jobs in the community. The break ends this week for most schools.
Wisdom did play one game with 11 on the field and had a substitute in another. But most of the Pioneers’ games have been played with nine boys.
Gagnon said Wisdom and Van Buren played 8-on-11 in the first half and 8-on-9 in the second just to even things out a bit. But the Crusaders, were too much for the Pioneers.
The Wisdom girls team, meanwhile, is up in numbers. Gagnon has 15 on the squad, which is her biggest group in several years, and the middle school has a girls team for the first time in at least six years.
In other years the middle school girls and boys have played together on a co-ed team.
Jessica Bloch can be reached at 990-8193, 1-800-310-8600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.