This, this is why so many choose to live in The County

Aroostook County soccer communities show love and support during a difficult time


Cassidy Carlisle

Community members created a special shirt for the members of the UMPI and PIHS soccer teams. “The T-shirt idea was created as a tangible way of pulling everyone together in Aaron’s memory,” said PIHS parent Heather Harvell. “His heart was obviously for his lady Owls soccer team and also for his girls and their Wildcat soccer team. We knew that the two teams needed to surround each and come together to grieve and heal and celebrate Aaron’s life and legacy.”

Cassidy Carlisle, Staff Writer

Lots of people wonder why you would want to live in an area where snow can last from October to May and the local mall consists of practically one store, but PIHS alum Savannah Rodriguez ’19 would tell you it’s because you can’t find a community like The County. “When ‘The County’ is called upon for anything, you know it will get done no matter how hard or how easy,” Rodriguez said. “The County is a great place to live, everybody knows everybody, and when you’re in need of help, people step up.” 

On October 19, an unexpected tragedy hit the community of Presque Isle when husband, father, coach, professor and community member Aaron Marston passed away. As the head coach of the UMaine Presque Isle women’s soccer team and the dad of two PIHS varsity girls soccer players, Marston’s passing – just as playoffs were underway for both teams – at first left both teams gutted. “It felt like everything froze,” Olivia Kohlbacher ’23 said. “The next day at practice we just made sure Taylor and Kacie felt loved.”

As both the PIHS and UMPI women’s teams grappled with grief and reconciled with the idea of getting back to work on the field, they wouldn’t be facing it alone. The spirit of The County stepped up to make sure these teams had support. 

Members of the UMPI men’s and women’s soccer teams help pack the stands on Tuesday, October 25 as the PIHS girls varsity soccer team competed in the quarterfinal against Ellsworth. Both UMPI boys and girls soccer teams showed their support at the game by wearing their Aaron shirts. (Dave Allen)
Members of the UMPI women’s team embrace and congratulate Taylor Marston ‘23 and Kacie Marston ‘25 after their win over Ellsworth on October 25. Taylor’s assist in overtime helped life the Wildcats to a 2-1 win. (Olivia Boardmen)

In the Wildcat home field quarterfinal against the Ellsworth Eagles on October 25, the PIHS fan section was roaring. The Wildcats pulled out of that game with an overtime win, ultimately losing 2-1 on the road in the semifinal matchup at Old Town on September 29. “The crowds at the games were extremely fun and it was such a good time,” Sidney Tawfall ’25 said. “It’s cool to know that we have that many people who support us even when we travel downstate.”

For the UMPI players in their playoff game, the spirit of The County ran the stands on October 29. “Looking out into the stands at our Husson playoff game made us all emotional,” Camryn Ala said, a freshman for the Owls who scored the only goal for UMPI in the 3-1 quarterfinal loss. “Seeing that many people out there supporting us was truly incredible.”

UMaine Presque Isle fans pack the Husson sidelines to support the women’s soccer team in their quarterfinal on Saturday, October 29. “It’s not that much of a stretch to say that it takes a special person to live in Aroostook County. So, it’s no surprise that The County is full of special people,” said spectator and former UMPI athlete Mark Shea. “We struggle together, we celebrate together, we look after each other.” (Edie Shea)

Addie Clairmont ‘25 feels as though even though the girls teams’ paths rarely cross they were there for each other in a time of need. “Even though we are not the same age and not on the same team, we feel for each other,” Clairmont said. “We had more than just soccer in common, we had Aaron.” The teams as well both had shirts that represented a Wildcat and an Owl, with Aaron’s number and one of his famous quotes, “Believe in Yourselves.”  

John Ala, assistant UMPI women’s soccer coach, knows how much the community spirit mattered to his team.“Everyone wanted to step forward and to be there, and this created such a wave of support and compassion,” Ala said. “Our girls rode that wave through the high and low points, and overall it carried them through.” Freshman Aubrey Ellsworth feels as though the girls needed to be at the UMPI game to return the support the Owls had shared days before. “Although the outcome of the game wasn’t what we had wanted, it was extremely important for us to be there for them,” Ellsworth said. “We made posters for them and cheered as loud as possible so they knew we were there for them.”

Ala points out the administrative efforts taken to help the two soccer teams support each other in this unique situation. “Thank you to SAD 1 and Old Town for adjusting their game time, that’s not as easy a task as it sounds, but it was much appreciated,” Ala said. Noting that Husson had outscored their opponents 25-0 in the last month of the season, Ala shared that the ground shook from the energy of the Presque Isle crowd when UMPI scored. “We, our community and teams, needed that moment,” Ala said. “It was something to feel good about and celebrate. That one was for Aaron.”

The Madawaska Owls and the Ashland Hornets shared their sentiments for fellow County athletes before their quarterfinal game on October 25. “The County is a place where neighbors take pride in supporting one another, regardless of who you are,” UMPI soccer player Savannah Rodriguez said. (Ashland District School)