Bucksport’s Allie Pickering battles for the ball during the first half of the Class C girls’ soccer championship game against Maranacook on Nov. 6 at Gehrig Johnson Athletic Complex in Presque Isle. Bucksport’s Gold Ball push came up short as Maranacook defeated the Golden Bucks 5-0 to win the state title. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Bucksport girls thwarted by Maranacook in Class C title game

PRESQUE ISLE — The 2021 season has been one in which the Bucksport girls’ soccer team has always seemed to have answers.

For most of the year, Bucksport was relatively unchallenged by its Class C North opponents. The team won via blowouts in the majority of its regular season and regional playoff contests, and on the rare occasions the Golden Bucks were challenged, the team still found ways to grind out tough victories.

“We’ve really battled this year,” Bucksport head coach Mike Garcelon said. “That’s been our spirit all year long. The girls have been able to overcome and make adjustments on the fly.”

Competing Saturday for a Gold Ball, Bucksport adapted and battled valiantly once again nearly 200 miles from home. This time, though, a proven opponent hungry for a state title of its own was simply too much for the Golden Bucks to handle.

Bucksport suffered a 5-0 loss to Maranacook in Saturday’s Class C championship game at Gehrig Johnson Athletic Complex in Presque Isle. The defeat was a tough end to a memorable season for the Golden Bucks, who entered the game undefeated after a dominant run through the Class C North field.

Class C South No. 3 seed Maranacook (16-1-1) had a golden chance just seven minutes into the game as senior Emily Harper cut inside and blasted a shot off the crossbar. The Black Bears then came close again with 25 minutes left in the opening half as Addie Watson turned and fired just wide of the net.

Seconds after Watson’s near-opener, though, Harper put Maranacook up 1-0 with a shot to the bottom-right corner. That would be the first of two first-half goals for the Black Bears, who would double their lead with 19:36 left in the opening frame as Grace Dwyer found the net on a free kick.

Members of the Bucksport girls’ soccer team show off their state runner-up plaque to their fans following the Class C championship game Nov. 6 at Gehrig Johnson Athletic Complex in Presque Isle. Bucksport, which was appearing in just its second state title game (2002), finished the 2021 season 17-1. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

“It looked like nerves probably got the best of us early on,” Garcelon said. “We weren’t ourselves in attacking; we were more defensive-minded today than we had been in a while. … When you play defense and defense and defense, eventually, that offense is going to get you.”

Bucksport (17-1), the top seed in Class C North, showed improvement in the second half with a few pushes into the final third. Yet the push for a goal opened things up for the Black Bears at the other end, and Maranacook capitalized with tallies from Watson (22:46 remaining), Harper (11:37 remaining) and Ella Schmidt (6:30 remaining) to round out the win.

“We said to the girls, ‘We could probably keep this a 2-0 game or maybe squeak out a goal and make it 2-1,’ but we didn’t want to do that,” Garcelon said. “We wanted to open things up because whether it’s 2-0 or 5-0 doesn’t make much of a difference. We wanted to play offense and make things happen.”

Maranacook entered the game with only two blemishes on the season, a 1-1 draw Sept. 28 against Erskine Academy and a 2-1 loss Oct. 5 against Medomak Valley. Those results were part of a campaign in which the Black Bears played all 14 regular season games against Class B opponents, and the battle-tested Readfield side was more than ready Saturday to clear one final hurdle.

“Bucksport is a very good team, and they did some great things today, but we played one of our best games of the year,” said Maranacook head coach Travis Magnusson, whose team won its first state title. “I think we’re one of the best teams in any class in the state, and we showed up today.”

Despite the loss, the 17-1 record and Class C title game appearance still matched the best season in program history for Bucksport. The state final berth was only the second for the Golden Bucks, who fell 2-1 to Falmouth in the 2002 Class B championship game.

Although there were tears among the Bucksport players following the loss, there were also smiles and cheers as the Golden Bucks showed off their state runners-up plaque to the loyal fans who had made the long trip north. With all but two players set to return next year, Garcelon’s team has plenty to celebrate following an incredible run.

“We played some unbelievable soccer this year, and the kids amazed me at what they picked up and how good they were game in and game out,” Garcelon said. “To be 17-0 going into this game is amazing, and it shows that we had a great run. It ended today, but we’ll be back next year, and we’ll fight through it again.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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