FRYEBURG — If a nine-match losing streak doesn’t knock you down, then clearly some life lessons, spirit and fight are within any sports team. Such is the case for the Fryeburg girls’ soccer team, after the Raiders (3-11-0) began their season with two wins and two losses before facing the iron of their schedule.
Amid a spree of injuries the program was reduced from 25 healthy players to as few as 17 dressing for some games. And yet the Raiders kept working and ended the season on a winning note, bringing a 1-0 victory home from Naples with a result achieved through much perseverance under the lights at Lakes Region ( 2-8-4) last week.
The Raiders swept the local Route 302 derby behind a goal by Kayla Willard 15 minutes into the match. The defense, organized and compact in front of Morgan Fusco, who was returning for her first appearance after a broken bone sidelined the first-team goalkeeper for most of the season, proved impenetrable for the Lakers.
Meanwhile, the Fryeburg midfield was on its passing game, receiving, turning and passing in quick rhythm. Central midfielder Luna Barrionueva was able to beat defenders on the dribble, and to exploit opponents with sharp give and go passes.
Coach Antonio Barrionuevo noted, the Raiders had "more passing and passion (in the final match). We finally found the rhythm we needed to play at."
From mid-September to mid-October, Coach felt that final game scores did not reflect the Raiders efforts; "Most every game we had good moments."
Opponents' depth of roster and experience with club teams put the Raiders at a disadvantage over the 80-minute high school matches. The loss of Fusco early in the season required a major re-tooling of the Raider defense, with younger, less experienced goalkeepers forced to learn the position at the varsity level under great pressure against strong metro-Portland area teams.
The Raiders most dangerous scoring threat, Sharla Mae Day, drew frequent fouls with her speed, which led to significant game-time lost with knocks and bruises. Luna Barrionuevo, as the Raider midfield general, was frequently the target of double-teaming or opposition tactics to minimize her touches on the ball, including more physical play. Karyn Johnson, an integral part of the starting 11, missed three weeks due to a concussion.
Coach cited several resilient seniors who were "always there: Kayla Willard, Maddie McIntyre, Sophie Kummer and Maddie Darling"
The Raiders will also lose to graduation Audrey Hamlin, Victoria Hayes and first-year soccer player Hannah Moore, of whom Barrionuevo observed, she was "a surprise, improving with each game."
The 2020 Raiders will return some experienced players up the center of the field, with next fall seniors Fusco in goal, defender Lucy Hodgman-Burns and midfielder Luna Barrionuevo. Coach was pleased with the growth of several sophomores and underclassmen, including Sophie Krug, Katy McIntyre, Keysha Winters and Day.
A key for success in Western Maine Class B girls soccer is commitment to improving one's game during the off-season, according to Coach Barrionuevo. While this year's seniors were athletic and committed from Aug. 15 through the final game, Coach is hopeful that next year's roster will be more technically proficient to implement his preferred passing, ball possession game. This is best achieved through committing to play soccer with other teams and beyond the fall High School season.