It remains to be seen which team got the best deal.
The University of Maine-Fort Kent men’s and women’s soccer teams will open play against their counterparts from Northwood University (Fla.) in the NAIA Division I Tournament on Saturday.
The Bengal men, 20-0 and the No. 8 team in the country, will host the No. 18 Seahawks (15-2-2) in chilly Fort Kent at 11:30 while the unranked women (17-3) will travel 1,841 miles to warm West Palm Beach for a 1 p.m. game against the No. 6 Lady Seahawks (16-2).
“Even before [we knew], I thought Northwood would be a cool place to go,” said UMFK women’s coach Lucas Levesque.
Men’s coach Bill Ashby is hoping the Seahawk men find Fort Kent too cool.
“To go from 80-degree weather to 25 degrees is a big swing,” said Ashby. “We’ve got to pressure them, carry the tempo and make sure the home field advantage plays into our favor. Our guys are anxious to play in front of the home fans. We’re hoping to get 1,000 fans. ”
He said he will have to receive a “solid effort defensively” from his Bengals.
“You have to have defense in the playoffs. One goal goes a long way in the playoffs,” said Ashby who noted that they will be facing a formidable foe.
“They’re a good team and they play in a good [Sun] conference,” said Ashby.
The Bengals’ scoring leaders are Keith Williams II (28 goals, 14 assists) and Andre Anderson (24 & 19) but the play of backs Barrington Blake, Damion Stone, Oniqueky Samuels and Spencer Jacoby will be critical.
Northwood has seven Scandinavian and five British players and are paced by Joonas Siikala (21 & 12), Alvaro Romo (5 & 8) and Tom Stringer (8 & 1) along with goalkeeper Andy Robertson.
Levesque, who played the season’s first four games with just 12 players, said his team will have to “keep [Northwood] off the board early. We’re not going to play pretty soccer.
“We’re going to pack it in, boot the ball out of the back and try to frustrate them. We’ve got bring a little more energy than they do, win 50-50 balls, sneak one home and defend,” added Levesque.
Levesque had to rebuild his team after losing several players just before the season for a variety of reasons.
In fact, he said stopper Stephanie Schofield called to see if she could practice with the team and he told her he needed a player for the next day’s game. So she wound up playing 90 minutes against Maine Maritime Academy.
Whitney Sinclair has been the leading scorer with 30 goals and 12 assists. Brianne McGary (17 & 10), Pam Peralta (12 & 3) and Emily Burnett (9 & 5) have also had productive years.
Levesque said the midfield was his biggest question mark at the outset but Sarah Nadeau has provided a strong defensive presence and Angela Norsworthy has supplied him with an offensive spark and free kick specialist in the midfield.
Shanae Armstrong has been a thorough marking back to compliment Schofield, sweeper Jamie Daigle and ‘keeper Kayla Daigle.
Northwood has scored 90 goals and its top five scorers are Swedes Lisa Ohberg (26 & 12), Katya Salguero (20 & 19), Sofia Soras (9 & 6), Sofia Abrahamsson (3 & 12) and Lina Karlsson (7 & 0). They have allowed just nine behind Israeli ‘keeper Didi Jurman.