If the University of Maine women’s soccer team is going to host an America East quarter-final, it will probably have to win its last two games.
The first of those two games is today against New Hampshire at 3 p.m. The Bears finish at Stony Brook on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the field hockey and men’s soccer teams are also in the hunt for playoff spots and find themselves in critical games this weekend.
In women’s soccer, the top two teams receive byes into the AE semifinals while the third and fourth seeds host quarter-final games against the sixth and fifth seeds, respectively.
Maine is in fifth place with a 2-2-2 conference record good for eight points (three for a win, one for a tie). New Hampshire is second at 5-2 behind 6-0 Boston University. Hartford is 4-2-1 and Stony Brook is 4-2. Chasing Maine are Binghamton (2-4), Vermont (1-3-1) and Albany (1-5).
The Maine women have scored three goals in their six conference games and allowed three.
“One of our goals this year is to finish in the top four so we can host a playoff game,” said Maine coach Scott Atherley. “There’s no secret that what we have to do is finish [score]. We’re not far from being a great but in order to be a great team, you have to bury your chances. That’s what wins you games and prevents you from being under a lot of pressure.”
Maine is coming off a frustrating 1-1 tie with Vermont in which the Bears outshot the Catamounts 25-7.
“If we could play that way every day, I’ll be happy. The only thing missing from our performance was finishing and that’s everything,” said Atherley.
Maine has received a boost from the return of freshman striker Carolyne Nellis, who missed four games with mono. She scored against Vermont.
The back line of Cristina DiIelsi, Anjelica Hodgson and Hailey Blackburn; goalkeeper Jasmine Phillips and mid-fielder Kim Stephenson have been consistently good, according to Atherley.
The Maine field hockey team pulled off a stunning 2-1 win at Boston University last Saturday, the first win at BU since 1993. BU has since upset No. 6 UConn 2-0.
Maine is 1-2 in the conference along with Vermont and Fairfield while BU, New Hampshire and Albany at 2-1. The top four teams make the playoffs.
Second-year coach Josette Babineau said her team has strung together a pair of impressive performances including a 3-2 loss to No. 16 Rutgers before the BU triumph.
“We’re still developing but having a win of that caliber gives us the confidence we need going forward,” said Babineau whose team finishes against Vermont and Fairfield.
Freshman forwards Kelly Newton and Stephanie Gardiner, Vancouver natives who were teammates at Crofton House School, have combined for 13 goals and 11 assists as Newton has 7 & 7 and Gardiner has 6 & 4.
“They’re dangerous every time they touch the ball,” said Babineau.
America East Rookie of the Week goaltender Brittany Fleck, the only remaining goalie on the team after Elizabeth Anderson left for personal reasons, according to Babineau, has improved noticeably. So has the back line of Gigi Niekrash, Kim MacDonald, Ellen Andrews, Jackie D’Amato and Mallory Pollard.
Maire Dineen (3 & 3) has been a stalwart in the midfield.
The Maine men’s soccer team is tied for sixth with New Hampshire at 1-3-1 in conference play.
Maine has games left with 2-1-1 Vermont, 3-1-1 Albany and 3-2 Binghamton.
“We have to keep games tight. We have to limit [our opponents’] scoring opportunities and we have to make the most of our chances,” said second-year coach Pat Laughlin.
Maine’s 153 shots at goal and four overall wins (4-7-2) are the most since the 2004 season.
“We need a player or two to get hot [and score],” said Laughlin, who has received stellar goalkeeping from Nemanja Kostic (0.87 goals-against average, .846 save percentage).
The return of injured back Stu Rodgers has been a plus.