ELLSWORTH — The goals just don’t stop coming.
Throughout the Ellsworth girls’ soccer team’s two-week preseason slate, the net has seemed to be as wide as the goal line for a prolific attacking unit. From six goals to nine goals to 10, it’s been hard to keep track of just how many times the Eagles have scored in a given game.
“It’s been fun to watch,” new Ellsworth head coach Eric Terrill said. “The girls are just in sync right now. You can see it in every game we’ve played so far.”
With a high-octane attacking line, a creative midfield and a compact defense, Ellsworth has the pieces to take the next step in its ascent as a program. Now, as the regular season begins, the Eagles are ready to keep translating their potential into success when it counts.
Ellsworth began the preseason last Tuesday with a 6-0 home win over Brewer before claiming a 9-0 home victory over Nokomis the next day. The Eagles then continued their success Saturday as they marked a play day at Hampden Academy with two wins and a draw, including a 10-0 shutout against Mattanawcook Academy.
In all five of those contests, Ellsworth’s organization and communication have been on full display up and down the pitch. Structure in the back line and efficient link-up play in the midfield have generated countless scoring chances for the Eagles’ attackers.
“Our play on the ball and our passing have been great,” Ellsworth senior Addi Laslie said. “We have some speed up top, and we’re all on the same page, so we work really well together up there.”
Laslie herself is the source of much of that speed. One of the fastest players in the state, as her third-place 100-meter dash finish in June’s state track championships would attest, the senior has found success in both midfield and forward roles.
Last season, Laslie scored five goals in just nine games despite settling into more of a midfield role as Sierra Andrews (17 goals) provided the bulk of Ellsworth’s scoring. With Andrews having graduated, Laslie (two goals, one assist against Brewer; three goals, three assists against Nokomis) has emerged as the Eagles’ primary scorer while still generating chances on goal for her teammates.
Adding to the Eagles’ flair and fluency in the attacking and midfield thirds is fellow senior Paige Sawyer, who appeared in just two games last year before suffering an ACL tear. It was the second season-ending ACL injury in three years for Sawyer, who previously missed her entire freshman campaign after tearing her other ACL before the 2018 season.
As a sophomore in 2019, her lone full season, Sawyer emerged as one of Ellsworth’s top players as she scored eight goals and added five assists. The senior has regained that form in 2021 with two goals apiece against Brewer and Nokomis and multiple tallies in Saturday’s play day, and although she isn’t quite at 100 percent health, she feels she’s fairly close.
“I’d say I’m maybe around 98 percent,” Sawyer said. “After I tore both of them, I didn’t think I’d have a good comeback, but it’s been great so far. … There are still some balls that I get a little bit scared or nervous for, but the most part, it’s been good.”
Ellsworth, though, is far from a two-girl show. Jordan Berry, Morgan Clifford, Miah Coffin, Emily Hagarman and Tori Watkins are among other players who have netted for the Eagles, and Abby Bland, who scored three goals last year, has provided a number of key assists.
As Ellsworth showed with clean sheets in its first four games, the Eagles are no less stout defensively. Although senior and three-year starter Julie Mattson is the player in Ellsworth’s back line with significant playing experience, the team’s younger backs, Megan Jordan, Sydney Libby, Kiera Springer and Anna Stevens have fit in nicely.
“All three of our outside backs are really young, and our other center back is really young, but they’ve been able to step in and be successful,” Terrill said. “Julie is obviously the leader back there, but with all of those younger players stepping up for us, we have a really solid young core of defenders.”
Then, of course, there’s Ellsworth’s new head coach. Following Katye Lacasse’s departure after nine seasons, Terrill, who coached 25 seasons at the NCAA Division I level at Charleston Southern, has the kind of high-level coaching experience that’s rare in the high school ranks.
At Ellsworth, Terrill has taken charge of a program that’s gone from a winless season five years ago to consistent playoff berths and even a winning record against a tough schedule last year. The ease of the coaching transition, Terrill said, has paved the way for the Eagles to maintain their recent success.
“Katye has done a great job of building a great foundation, and my job is to come in and keep pushing it in that direction,” Terrill said. “The girls have really bought into it. Anything I say, they soak it up, and they put it to good use on the field.”
Ellsworth will open the regular season at home against Caribou at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4. The Eagles will then face George Stevens Academy at 4 p.m. next Wednesday, Sept. 8, in Blue Hill.
Whereas the state’s community sports guidelines kept a potent Ellsworth team from proving itself in the playoffs a year ago, there are no such barriers this fall. For an Ellsworth team positioned to make a run in Class B North, that’s all the motivation needed.
“We know we have a chance to see what we can do,” Laslie said. “As seniors, we want to leave everything out there and make it the best year it can be.”