BUCKSPORT — From the moment the season-opening whistle sounded, the Bucksport girls’ soccer team has been given all it can handle.
A challenging 2019 slate has seen Bucksport play seven games against top Class C North teams and 11 against teams headed to the upcoming Northern Maine playoffs. The Golden Bucks have had to handle that difficult stretch with a group of underclassmen looking to make its mark after a four-win campaign a season ago.
Through all of it, though, Bucksport has found a way to improve with each passing game. Now, as the Golden Bucks head to the postseason for the ninth consecutive year, they’ll be doing so in peak form as winners of six consecutive games.
“We have a young team with a lot of underclassmen, but our girls are in a good place mentally at this point in the season,” Bucksport head coach Mike Garcelon said. “I think we’re really playing good soccer and communicating well as a team.”
Bucksport was faced with a daunting schedule to start the season with contests against Orono, Dexter and Central, three perennial Class C North challengers. After bookending a win over the Tigers with losses to the Red Riots and Devils, the Golden Bucks beat George Stevens Academy, Sumner and Mattanawcook Academy before losing rematches with Orono and Central to drop to 4-4.
Then, on Sept. 30, the Golden Bucks got one of their biggest wins to date when they registered a 3-1 victory over a Calais team that entered the game with a 7-1 record. That marked the start of a six-game span that saw the Golden Bucks outscore opponents by a combined margin of 27-10 to finish the regular season with a 10-4 record.
Arguably the biggest confidence-booster during that stretch, though, came in the Golden Bucks’ Oct. 4 contest against Washington Academy. That game saw the Golden Bucks fall behind by three goals in East Machias before storming back to earn a 5-4 win.
“When we were down 4-1, I told the girls, ‘Listen, we’re going to come back, and we’re going to win this thing 5-4,’” assistant coach Sarah Lanpher said. “With each goal, they started to believe a little bit more, and they pulled it out.”
Bucksport has gotten its goals from a variety of sources throughout the season. Between Addie Morrison’s three-goal game in Monday’s 3-1 win over Washington Academy in the regular season finale, Ella Hosford’s spree of multi-goal efforts and key tallies from Madison Frazier, Alyssa Maguire, Lanie Stubbs and a handful of others, the Golden Bucks have put opposing defenses on notice.
“I think that’s a big difference for us this year,” Garcelon said. “In past years, we might have some players who could score for us, but having so many this year has really helped us step up our offense.”
The Golden Bucks’ recent offensive breakthrough has been coupled with significant improvements in the defensive third. After conceding two or more goals six times in the first eight games, Bucksport has done so just once in the past six.
Both offensively and defensively, Bucksport owes much of its success to its strong rotations. The Golden Bucks have a number of players who can play anywhere on the pitch, adding versatility in the team’s back four, midfield and attack.
“We’ve really stressed being able to rotate well, especially on defense,” Lanpher said. “It’s important that you have players who can help your team in different ways, and I think we’ve seen a lot of that.”
The fifth-ranked Golden Bucks will look to avenge two of their four losses this season when they travel to face No. 4 Orono (8-3-3) in the regional quarterfinals. That game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29.
“We’re confident, but we’re also putting in a lot of hard work,” junior midfielder Alexis Wardwell said. “Hopefully, we can make it far.”
Eagles, Trojans, Mariners headed to playoffs
Bucksport won’t be the only Hancock County girls’ team headed to this year’s playoffs as Ellsworth, Mount Desert Island and Deer Isle-Stonington have also qualified for the postseason.
The local playoff slate is set to begin Friday, Oct. 25, with two games scheduled for 3 p.m. starts. No. 9 Ellsworth (5-8-1) plays on the road against eighth-ranked Foxcroft (5-8-1) in the Class B North preliminary round, and the No. 12 Deer Isle-Stonington girls (4-8-2) will take on No. 5 Southern Aroostook (9-5) in a Class D North prelim game in Dyer Brook.
MDI (12-2) earned a bye to the Class B North quarterfinals as the No. 3 seed in the region. The Trojans will host sixth-ranked Winslow (7-4-3) at 5 p.m. Tuesday.