ELLSWORTH — With the regular season just days away, the Ellsworth girls’ soccer team is ready to make a statement.
There’s a prevailing sense of confidence among this year’s group of Ellsworth players, who are busy preparing for another year in a strong Class B North field. After finishing in the top half of the standings a season ago, the Eagles are determined to stay there.
“We all are really confident that we’re going to make it to the playoffs,” sophomore Addi Laslie said. “I don’t mean to brag, but I think we can be a good team.”
Three years of incremental improvements have given Ellsworth no reason to believe otherwise. The Eagles have gone largely unchanged from the team that played in the regional playoffs last season, and that taste of postseason action has them itching to make it back in 2019.
Ellsworth’s 10th-place finish last year clinched the program’s first regional playoff appearance in five years. The Eagles won their final three regular season games to get there before a prelim loss to Mount View saw the team finish the year 7-8.
Those seven victories marked a four-win improvement over the Eagles’ 2017 campaign, which itself was a step forward from the team’s winless 2016 season. Last year’s success came via a relatively young roster that included eight sophomores and three freshmen.
A year later, those sophomore players are juniors and set to be even bigger contributors. Among Ellsworth’s top junior players are Sierra Andrews, who led the team in scoring with 10 goals last season, Kayla Duhaime, Hannah Richardson and Sara Shea.
“We’re a junior-strong team,” Ellsworth head coach Katye Lacasse said. “Those players came in two years ago and have been a big part of us continuing to get better. That jump from sophomore year to junior year is going to help them even more.”
Laslie, Ellsworth’s No. 2 scorer last year with nine goals on the season, is back to lead Ellsworth in attack. There’s also Laslie’s club teammate, Paige Sawyer, whose presence Lacasse said will significantly strengthen the Eagles’ starting 11.
Sawyer was set to be a major contributor for Ellsworth last year but instead missed the entire 2018 season with an ACL tear. Yet after recovering from the injury to compete in cheerleading and outdoor track in the winter and spring seasons, respectively, the sophomore is set to go for the Eagles this year.
“I’ve been back for a while now, and I’m getting right back into it,” Sawyer said. “There were some skills I had to pick back up, but I’m ready now and excited to be back on the field again.”
Ellsworth will have to find a solution at the goalkeeper position as the team’s 2018 starter, Kylie Robidoux, suffered a stress fracture in her left shin. The Eagles have turned to junior Autumn Paul and senior Marissa Havey to replace Robidoux for the time being and are also training a few other players Lacasse feels could help at the position.
“We have a few different options that we’ve been trying out,” Lacasse said. “We know [Kylie] is going to be out for a solid month, and it’s all about trying to find the right fit.”
Ellsworth’s first game will be at home against Caribou at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. The Eagles also have a road game against George Stevens Academy at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, and a home game against Hermon at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Good results in those contests could give Ellsworth an early boost in the Class B North playoff race. They would also be signs of the program taking another step forward, something Lacasse thinks her team is ready to accomplish.
“I think we can do it,” Lacasse said. “These girls are used to coming out here and getting better every day, and I fully believe they’re going to keep doing that.”