MDI’s Nick Duley controls the ball as Ellsworth’s Mason Tupper defends during the first half. ISLANDER PHOTOS BY MIKE MANDELL

MDI boys’ soccer rides depth to top Ellsworth

BAR HARBOR — After slow starts in past years, the Mount Desert Island boys soccer team wanted to avoid another at all costs in 2018. In one of the team’s biggest games of the year, the Trojans stepped up to the plate.

Missing top scorer September Murray and assist leader Reider Watson, MDI entered a rivalry showdown against Ellsworth at a disadvantage. Yet this year’s MDI team is one head coach Tyler Frank believes is greater than the sum of its parts, and on Monday, the Trojans showed why.

MDI showcased its team depth Monday night to earn a 3-0 win over Ellsworth in Bar Harbor. The win gave the Trojans four straight victories over the Eagles and provided the team a major boost as it approaches the second half of its schedule.

“We’ve had some injuries and illnesses, and September and Reider were caught up in that,” Frank said. “To have your No. 1 scorer so far this year and your No. 1 assist guy out and still be able to win like we did is a testament to where we are as a team right now.”

Ellsworth (0-6) controlled the ball in the MDI half for the first 10 minutes of the game, but the momentum soon shifted when the Trojans’ Leao Nelson had a shot on goal saved two minutes later. That scoring chance seemed to rejuvenate the home team, which took a 1-0 lead with 23 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first half when Derek Collin fired a shot into the top-right corner.

Just when it looked as if Collin’s strike would be the only goal of the first half, Oliver Johnston stepped up to the plate for MDI (3-2-1). With 4:10 left in the half, Johnston sent a powerful free kick past the Ellsworth wall and into the bottom-right corner to double the Trojans’ advantage going into the break.

“I sort of have a dipping shot, and I was trying to get it over the wall and into that corner,” Johnston said. “It was actually lower than I was hoping for, but it managed to go in.”

The Trojans put the ball into the net a third time with 27 minutes to go in the second half, but the goal was ruled out because of a foul in front of the goalkeeper. Although Ellsworth nearly scored when Carter Frank fired a shot just wide with 20 minutes left, Collin scored a second time with 6:12 to play to give MDI the game’s final goal.

MDI has been no stranger to regional playoff appearances in recent years, but the Trojans believe they can go even higher than they have in the past. The Trojans haven’t won the Class B North title since 2000, and this year’s group is hoping to change that.

“We set those goals each year, and I think this is one of the highest bars we’ve set,” Tyler Frank said. “This team is really focused on the Northern Maine championship, and we think we can beat anybody on any given day if we’re playing our best.”

MDI, which was scheduled to play Washington Academy on Wednesday, will be back in action when it plays on the road against Caribou (3-1-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22. The Trojans will then take on Presque Isle at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24.

Those upcoming contests will be important for MDI if it wants to further its hopes for a high seed in the Northern Maine playoffs. Both Aroostook County opponents are near the top of the Class B North standings, meaning the Trojans will need more strong results to position themselves for success come playoff time.

“I think this year we realized that we got off to slower starts in the past, and we wanted to not put ourselves in that hole this time,” Johnston said. “Now we’re to the point where we can win games even if guys are out, and that’s with these tough games ahead.”

Ellsworth was scheduled to take on Old Town on Wednesday. The Eagles will play on the road against No. 2 Hermon at 11 a.m. Saturday and host fourth-ranked John Bapst at 6 p.m. Monday.

MDI girls improve to 3-1

The MDI girls team won road contests against George Stevens Academy and John Bapst last week to improve to 3-1 on the season.

Against GSA last Thursday, MDI defeated the Eagles to earn their first away win of the season. Lily Turner scored in the first half of the Trojans, and Mei Cook added the team’s second with 13:39 left in the game.

On Saturday, MDI topped John Bapst 4-3 at the University of Maine. Maddy Candage scored twice for the Trojans in the won, and the team also got goals from Lelia Weir and Julia Rush.

MDI was scheduled to host Ellsworth (3-2) on Wednesday. The Trojans have upcoming road games against Washington Academy at 4 p.m. Sept. 20, and Caribou at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, but will start a four-game home stand when they take on Presque Isle at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25.

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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