MDI’s Sophia Baker boots the ball past Ason Munro during high school boys’ soccer practice Aug. 24 in Bar Harbor. MDI will begin the regular season when it plays on the road against Presque Isle at 3 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 4. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

MDI boys’ soccer aims to stay at the top in 2021

Whit Chaplin of the Mount Desert Island boys’ soccer team boots the ball up the field during practice Aug. 24 in Bar Harbor. MDI is returning all but three players from last year’s team, which went 7-0 in a pandemic-abbreviated season.

BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island boys’ soccer team didn’t get many opportunities to play a year ago – but when they did, the Trojans couldn’t be beat.

In a season abbreviated by the coronavirus pandemic, MDI embarked on a campaign unlike any other. Starting a month later than usual, the Trojans would play a schedule of just seven games that consisted solely of local opponents.

With no playoffs at the end of the line, MDI played for pride. The result was a season in which the Trojans, despite lacking a single senior on the roster, went 7-0 and outscored opponents by a 19-3 margin.

“We had a great year,” MDI head coach Tyler Frank said. “We knew it was obviously going to be a different kind of season going into it, but we had a chance to play, and we took advantage of every practice and every game.”

MDI has suffered a few unexpected personnel changes since last year with the departures of key players and an injury to another. Yet much of the core that propelled the Trojans to success in 2020 remains. With the return of the traditional schedule and postseason play, MDI enters 2021 aiming to reassert its status as one of the region’s top teams.

A year ago, MDI entered an uncertain campaign with a relatively fresh roster after losing seven seniors from a squad that won 12 games and finished as the Class B North runner-up in 2019. The Trojans also had a few players who opted out of the season in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

The Trojans, though, proved their staying power early in the season as they beat Hampden Academy 3-1, topped Ellsworth 1-0 and posted back-to-back wins over Bucksport by scores of 1-0 and 4-1. MDI then bookended a 5-0 victory over Hampden with 4-1 and 1-0 wins over George Stevens Academy before the cancellation of the season finale against Ellsworth brought the year to an end.

“We’ve tried to build the culture of our program to where we’re ready to succeed with whoever steps in,” Frank said. “We know the ball is going to move and move fast with any player out there. We try to show that every year, and last year, we were able to do that.”

Although MDI’s team a year ago consisted entirely of underclassmen, the Trojans must replace two impact players as Henry Lester and Walker St. Germain have transferred to play at private high schools. The Trojans will also spend much of the season without injured starting goalkeeper Quentin Pileggi.

MDI’s Weston Granholm looks to keep the ball from Ason Munro during high school boys’ soccer practice Aug. 24 in Bar Harbor. MDI was set to begin a busy preseason schedule Wednesday with a home game against Orono.

Nevertheless, MDI returns a strong senior class that includes leading scorer Ieuan Howell (six goals in 2020) as well as Pileggi, Sophia Baker, Whit Chaplin, Cedar Ellis and Julian Walls. The Trojans also boast a solid group of returning juniors in Philip Catanese, Weston Granholm and Cole Watson, each of whom scored goals a season ago.

“There are a lot of guys who did come back from that group,” Frank said. “That junior group from last year that’s come back is a really strong core of players. They’re leaders now, and they’ve really done a good job of buying into the fundamental beliefs we have of how we play soccer.”

As its scorelines last year might suggest, MDI has found a successful balance on both ends of the pitch. That balance was particularly evident on the offensive end, where the Trojans had two games with three separate goal-scorers, one game with four scorers and one contest with five.

“We’ve got a lot of options, and everybody wants to see other people score,” Howell said. “I think if you ask anybody if we would give up a goal for someone else on the team, everyone would say yes. I think that’s where our biggest success is.”

MDI was set to open its preseason schedule at home against Orono on Wednesday. The Trojans will compete in a preseason tournament at Wainwright Sports Complex in South Portland on Saturday, Aug. 28, and play on the road against Hampden at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, before opening the regular season at Presque Isle at 1 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 4.

Those road trips, Frank and Howell agreed, will be welcome bonding experiences for MDI following a season in which teams were restricted to local contests. They’ll also provide chances for the Trojans to hit their stride early, something Howell believes the team is already on the verge of achieving.

“I feel like we’ve started exactly where we left off last year,” Howell said. “Coming off that 7-0, I’m excited to keep it going and be the team to beat this season.”

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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