Ellsworth’s Kayla Duhaime looks to win possession of the ball against George Stevens Academy’s Danielle Bianco during the first half of a high school girls’ soccer game Sept. 20 in Ellsworth. At 5-7, Ellsworth is nearing its first playoff appearance since 2013. FILE PHOTO

Ellsworth girls’ soccer team set to end 5-year playoff drought

ELLSWORTH — As the days become shorter and the end of the regular season draws near, the Ellsworth girls’ soccer team isn’t finished just yet.

There’s excitement in the air at Ellsworth’s practices these days, and for good reason: With two games to go, the team is within touching distance of its first playoff appearance in five years.

“It’s just so great to be where we are right now” senior Katie Hammer said. “We’ve worked really hard as players and as a team to get here, and being this close is a good feeling for everybody.”

With a 5-7 record, Ellsworth is currently ranked 13th in the Class B North standings. Fourteen teams advance to the playoffs, and although the Eagles still have to perform well in their final two games to get a spot, to even be in this position after the four previous seasons is a welcome sight.

That’s because, between 2014 and 2017, Ellsworth posted a record of 8-46-2. That stretch included a 2016 campaign in which the Eagles went 0-14 and scored just three goals all season.

Hammer, now a team captain, is one of four players remaining from that 2016 team along with fellow senior Kaitlin McCullough and juniors Marissa Havey and Alicia Kelley. Going through that experience, Ellsworth head coach Katye Lacasse said, has helped the Eagles’ veterans provide the leadership that has been key to the team’s revival this year.

Ellsworth’s Sara Shea (right) and Julie Mattson defend as Mount Desert Island’s Lily Turner shoots during the second half of a high school girls’ soccer game Sept. 18 in Bar Harbor. The Eagles, who lost the game 1-0 on a last-minute goal, will get their chance at revenge when they host the Trojans in the regular season finale Tuesday, Oct. 16. NELSON GOODWIN PHOTO

“They’ve always kept pushing, and they’ve always stuck by the team,” Lacasse said. “They were there when we were losing every game and when we were at the absolute bottom, and it would be really special to see them go out on top after all that. They’re awesome kids.”

Ellsworth also boasts a talented group of first- and second-year varsity players on this year’s squad. The team’s wins have often come on the heels of clutch plays from its young team members, including goalkeeper Kylie Robidoux and attacking threats Addi Laslie and Sierra Andrews.

Laslie, a freshman, is the team’s top scorer this year with eight goals. She made her presence known in her first varsity game by scoring twice as the Eagles beat Old Town 2-1 to open the season.

“I think I was able to flow well with the team right away because I have great teammates who all work well together,” Laslie said. “I’ve had a lot of training in the past, and I’ve just focused on playing my best.”

Ellsworth’s next game is on the road against Washington Academy (3-8) at 4 p.m. tomorrow, Oct. 11. The Eagles will close out the regular season Tuesday, Oct. 16, when they hosts Mount Desert Island at 6 p.m.

The Eagles are currently 2.6 points ahead of 14th-place Old Town in the Heal calculations, but they have breathing room for the final spot with a 12.3-point advantage over Washington Academy. Ellsworth can secure a playoff berth with a win in either of its final games.

Both contests are winnable for the Eagles, who defeated Washington Academy 7-1 back on Sept. 13 before falling 1-0 to MDI on a last-minute goal five days later. A playoff spot isn’t mathematically assured just yet, but the Eagles are aware of how close they are.

“Most of us look at [the standings] every day, and we know how close we are,” Hammer said. “The team is very focused because we want to make it happen for Coach. We know it’s been five years since she’s had a prelim game, and we have that belief and want to win it for her.”

Lacasse believes, too, and she knows this season could be a building block for Ellsworth teams to come. The Eagles will have 10 starters back next season, and a trip to the playoffs this year could be just the beginning.

“I really believe we’re going to get in there, and it’s only going to go up from here,” Lacasse said. “We have a young team that’s improving every game, and I know these girls can’t wait to go out two more times and get it done.”

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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