When Bangor girls soccer coach Larry Smith first proposed that the Rams play a new defensive formation, some of the Rams weren’t too thrilled with the idea of changing from a diamond to a flat back four defensive scheme.
“We were not [fans] at first. The diamond is just so much easier,” junior Chelsea Quaglia said. “Last year we had [sweeper] Kelly White and we knew if anything got by the other three defenders, she would be there. When you’re playing flat, there is no one deep to recover.”
It didn’t take the Rams long to adjust to the new system. They’ve allowed just four goals this season en route to a 13-0-1 record, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference title, and the No. 1 seed for the Eastern Maine Class A playoffs.
Bangor, the defending regional champ, will face No. 8 Mt. Blue of Farmington as quarterfinals get under way today at 3:30 p.m. at the high school field.
The Rams played the Cougars on Oct. 2. No surprise in the outcome – a 1-0 shutout.
Bangor’s defenders were used to a diamond-shaped defense with a midfielder-defender or stopper up front, two wing defenders and a back defender, or sweeper. In the flat back set, the four defenders are essentially parallel to the endline.
The Rams have taken the flat back and made it their own. The defensive group, which is made up of starters senior Kristin Eremita, junior Rachel Roberts, Quaglia and senior Hanna Claeson as well as seniors Caroline Mroz and Jen Rowe, who usually get a lot of playing time off the bench, is known to advance deep into the midfield.
The confidence the Rams have in each other makes that possible, especially because pressuring in the midfield can make defenses vulnerable to fast break-ins and through-balls.
“If they get by us, which hopefully they don’t, Kristen and Rachel are really good at dropping and switching to cover,” Quaglia said.
Roberts has tweaked her role over the course of the season, often playing defensive midfielder role in front of sweeper Eremita. Quaglia is the right fullback and Claeson is on the left.
“Usually Rachel steps up to go after the ball and I’ll drop back,” said Eremita.
The group also gets help from wing midfielders like Jenny Lucy, Catherine LeClair, Casey Hartley, Caitlin Smith, and occasionally Rowe, who will step back if needed.
“It looks like we’re doing all the work but they’re the ones who track back,” Roberts said. “They save us all the time.”
The Rams say they’ve continued to communicate well, which is important for the flat back. That’s an area in which first-year varsity goalie Tawyna Godinez has made huge strides.
“She was just as new to the situation as we were so she wouldn’t really tell us where to be,” Quaglia said. “As a goalie that’s what you have to do. And she’s gotten so much better at that now.”
And they’ve heard other teams communicating – about them.
“Every game I’ll hear them say, ‘Don’t let them pass it back to the defense, they do this every time,'” Claeson said. “It’s something they can’t defend against.”
Standouts deal with knee injuries
Three of the top soccer players in Eastern Maine are dealing with knee injuries, unfortunately right as the playoffs begin.
Ellsworth boys midfielder Chris Leighton could miss at least the first round of the playoffs. Bangor girls forward Amy Hackett hopes a lot of recent rest will have her ready for the postseason. George Stevens of Blue Hill girls goalie Kayla Eaton is wearing a brace on her left leg, but it hasn’t kept her off her game.
Leighton had a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam on his right knee last week, hours before starting in a Senior Night game against rival Mount Desert Island last week. But he came out of the contest within minutes of the opening whistle.
He originally injured it during a game against Caribou.
“I practiced a little and it seemed fine, and I warmed up before the game,” he said. “[The doctors] think it’s probably a torn meniscus and if not, it’s probably just a lot of swelling. The swelling would cause my knee to pop out of my joint.”
Leighton said he’s hoping to be back if the Eastern Maine Class B No. 3 Eagles (12-1-1) make it to the semifinals.
“It’s a big loss,” Eagles coach Brian Higgins said. “I don’t expect to see him until at least the playoffs. We’re hopeful for the playoffs.”
Bangor forward Hackett missed the last three regular-season games, sitting out against Mt. Blue of Farmington, Hampden and Old Town. The EM Class A No. 1 Rams (13-0-1) went 2-0-1 with her on the bench. She did play in a postseason scrimmage against Class B Winslow and the noncountable KVAC championship game.
“I didn’t want to come into playoffs not having played in a couple of weeks,” she said.
Hackett’s injury occurred one day in tryouts when she locked her left knee as she was falling, and it started to swell. Hackett played through the season without much trouble but in a game against Nokomis of Newport she took a ball to her knee and it started to swell again.
“It was really sore, more along the outside than it had been before,” she said. “[A doctor] thought I might have torn my lateral meniscus, but it was just a bursa sac. There’s just a bunch of fluid in my knee. It’s fine.”
For Eaton, neither her injury nor the brace seem to have affected her mobility for the EM Class C No. 3 Eagles (9-3-2). She had a stellar effort in a 2-0 loss to Ellsworth last week.
Coach Steve Bemiss said the injury has happened over time. Eaton missed three regular-season games just to rest her injury, which is as of yet undiagnosed. She will likely see a doctor next week, Bemiss added.
“It’s a concern, but she didn’t play like she has a knee injury,” he said after the Ellsworth game. “When Kayla’s on her game we’re at our best.”