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High school boys soccer

Cagey Panthers get kick from being perfection personified

Medomak Valley squad first in school's boys soccer history to finish unbeaten in regular season
By Mark Haskell | Oct 29, 2019
Courtesy of: Maria Thiboutot Medomak Valley High School boys varsity soccer team members include, front from left, Addie Mellor, Zach Cheesman, Arie Vannoy, Aiden Starr, Isaiah Staples, Tyler Cox and Patrick McKenney; middle row, Nathan Andrick, Will Cheesman, Parker Morrison, Gavin Readinger, Blake Morrison, Coleman Swain, Ian Doughty and Po Pfirrmann; and back, manager Dominic Athearn, assistant coaches Paul Berube and Patrick Mellor, Justin Mahoney, Jake Bickmore, Will Smith, Brandon Starr, Zach Winpenney and head coach Brian Campbell.

Waldoboro — Years from now, the 2019 campaign could be the one historians look back on as the season that started it all for the Medomak Valley boys soccer team.

Veteran coach Brian Campbell said after an injury-riddled 2018 campaign saw the Panthers end at 5-8-2 and with a loss in a Class B North prelim playoff, “we set an early offseason goal to get everyone healthy and play together as much as possible.”

The Panthers not only met that goal — and surpassed it — but seemingly lapped it several times, churning out the best all-around regular season in the 50-year history of the school.

The team finished the regular season with an undefeated 12-0-2 record in its first year in Class B South, with ties against Class C powerhouse Maranacook of Readfield (11-2-1) and Class B Gardiner (7-5-2) the only blemishes — if one chooses to call them that — on a tremendous regular season of pitch play.

According to longtime Panther cross-country coach George Gould, who has coached at MVHS since 1983 and has been involved in the school since it opened in 1969, the 2019 season is the first undefeated soccer campaign in school history.

In addition, the team also collected its first Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference boys soccer title and second crown overall, as the girls earned a conference championship in 1995.

“I shared with the boys at the completion of the season that there are 129 schools that play high school soccer in Maine and only eight went undefeated this year,” Campbell said. “It’s difficult for them to truly comprehend how special this feat was for not only the team, but for our community.”

Yarmouth (11-0-3) of Class B South, Caribou (12-0-2) of Class B North, Sumner of East Sullivan (13-0-1) of Class C North, Hall-Dale of Farmingdale (13-0-1) and Monmouth Academy (13-0-1) of Class C South and Penobscot Valley of Howland (14-0) and Central Aroostook of Mars Hill (11-0-3) of Class D North are the other seven undefeated boys teams this fall.

Panther team members, led by Campbell and assistant coach Paul Berube and volunteer coach Patrick Mellor, include seniors Justin Mahoney (co-captain), Nathan Andrick and Arie Vannoy; juniors Aiden Starr, Isaiah Staples, Coleman Swain, Ian Doughty, Parker Morrison, Zach Cheesman (co-captain), Gavin Readinger, Anthony York, Tyler Cox, Will Smith, Brandon Starr and Zack Winpenney; sophomores Patrick McKenney, Addison Mellor, Po Pfirrmann and Jacob Bickmore; and freshmen Will Cheesman and Blake Morrison.

Medomak Valley is not a team that boasts gaudy offensive numbers, only outscoring opponents this season 40-8. But the Panthers commitment to the game and to one another this season, has been unmatched.

This season, the Panther offense was paced by Cheesman (18 goals, 3 assists), Smith (8 goals), Brandon Starr (3 goals, 2 assists), Morrison (3 goals), Doughty (2 goals, assist), Mellor (2 goals, 2 assists), Swain (2 goals, assist), Staples (goal), Winpenney (2 assists), McKenney (assist), Mahoney (assist), Bickmore (assist) and Vannoy (assist).

Zach Cheesman, who missed half of last season with a dislocated kneecap, set a new school single-season scoring record with his 18 goals and has “incredible skill and determination," Mellor, whose “foot skills, vision and ability” allow him to connect with everyone and Smith, who missed most of last season with a broken collarbone and specializes in winning 50/50 balls in the air, makes up the team’s midfield.

Mahoney, who started the season as a defensive back, and Staples, who has the ability to use both feet and “is always counted on to be in on the offensive attack, are the team’s starting strikers.

And the defensive side of the field, which did its part to help preserve eight clean sheets on the season, is made up of Vannoy, McKenney, Bickmore, Winpenney and Morrison.

Vannoy is “smooth, focused and reliable,” while McKenney has “excellent field vision” and Bickmore, who played the first four games of the season in goal, has “lots of leadership qualities [and] shut down the middle of the field and won all balls in the air that came into his area," coach Campbell said.

Morrison’s athleticism and his “ability to throw the ball further than any other player” on the team aids Medomak Valley, while Winpenny is the team’s “most skilled and fast central back” and is “the anchor for our outstanding defense," the coach said.

In net, Aiden Starr has been, well, a star. He has been the team’s starting goalie since his freshman year, has “great instincts, great hands and a punt that consistently goes 60-plus yards," Campbell said.

While the team has 11 talented starters, they have a bench that goes deeper than most as Doughty, Parker Morrison, Swain, Brandon Starr and Will Cheesman spell the offense, as do Readinger and Andrick on the defensive side of the ball.

While last season, the Panthers saw several key pieces miss large chunks of time due to injury, this season, everything has fallen into place.

“The difference this year compared to previous years is that we are fortunate to have depth at all positions,” said Campbell. “We were able to keep a balanced team on the field at all times. These boys have years of success at each level they have played. Their soccer IQ is high and their passion for the game is unmatched. We were able to avoid significant injuries and overall remained healthy for the entire season.”

That passion was on display from the end of last season to the first day of preseason practice.

“These boys spent the winter representing MVHS every Sunday for one or two games at The PITCH and then committed several nights per week all summer long playing games and practicing,” said Campbell. “We knew we were going to have an improved team this season and returning Medomak to the postseason was a priority.”

Then, after the Panthers ended Mount View’s 29-game regular season unbeaten streak with a 1-0 win on Sept. 24 in Waldoboro, “our confidence level and focus on finishing the regular season without a loss was high.”

It was the only time Mount View, which outscored opponents 70-10 in the regular season, had been held off the scoreboard this season.

And, the Panthers' play has gotten the attention of other teams throughout the region, unfamiliar with this largely unknown school from the north.

“Finishing In second place our first year in Class B South has certainly generated conversation from some of the southern teams that are not in our schedule,” said Campbell. “Late in the season our games were being attended by Yarmouth, Freeport, and Greely, who were trying to get an idea of who we were and how to plan for us as the postseason approaches.”

Campbell added that many of his players' involvement through other area soccer organizations, namely Dutch Soccer Academy and Pen Bay Soccer Club through The PITCH, “has directly led to the success at the high school level.”

“I am so proud of these boys and all of the hard work that they have put in,” said Campbell. “Not only this season, but over the years with their commitment to school and club soccer teams. They truly understand the game of soccer and watching them get rewarded with such a successful season is something special.”

Medomak Valley, the number two seed in the region, will begin the playoffs on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. when it hosts No. 7 York (7-7-1) on the turf field at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle in a quarterfinal clash.

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