Husson University of Bangor three-sports star Shelby Bradford is the only returnee on the roster of the second-year Maine Tide of the Women’s Premier Soccer League and, despite a pair of season-opening road losses last weekend, she likes what she sees from the team.
“It’s a lot younger and not as experienced as last year’s team,” said Bradford, who scored the lone goal in the Tide’s two losses, 2-1 to the Bay State Selects and 4-0 to the powerhouse New England Mutiny.
“But everybody is really willing to learn. It’s a fresh start. Everyone is happy to be here,” Bradford added. “It’s way more enjoyable than last year.”
The Tide, with 10 of its 15 players being from Maine, had just four days of practice before they played so they weren’t familiar with each other.
“Once we get going, hopefully we’ll learn a lot and it will be a great year. Carmen is great,” said Bradford, referring to new coach Carmen Masalin.
“You can already see a difference [between the weekend and now],” said 30-year-old striker and mother of one, Connelly Castle, the elder stateswoman on the team. “We’ve already gotten to know each other a lot better and that will help our dynamic.”
“I’m very excited to see how this team will turn out,” said the 25-year-old Masalin. “We’ve got some young talent here and we just need to develop as a team and start working together more. We have a lot of hard workers. They’re willing to do whatever I ask them to do, wherever I ask them to play.
“They give me 110 percent every time. I’m very grateful as a coach to have a team that is willing to work and do whatever it takes to win,” she added.
One definite strength will be in goal where the Tide has a veteran Division I goalkeeper in Houston Baptist University’s Michelle Rich, who is 16-9-2 in her two seasons there.
“She’s amazing,” said striker Megan Clement.
“We’ve also got a real good back four,” said Castle, referring to Caitlyn Butterfield, Catherine Lammert, Sami Axtman and Ashley Michaud.
Bradford, Clement, Butterfield and midfielder Cristin Grant all play for Husson.
Amy Tanaka will also see duty in the back when she isn’t patrolling the midfield.
Hawaiian Tanaka, the second-leading scorer (8 goals, 3 assists) at the University of Mary (N.D.) last fall, heads up the midfield along with Jess Curl, Sarah Briggs, Caitlin Kupferman, Bangor native Amy Hackett and Grant.
Curl, Tanaka and Axtman are teammates at the University of Mary.
Bradford and former John Bapst of Bangor standout Whitney Sinclair are the starting strikers in the 4-4-2 alignment with Clement and Massachusetts native Castle rotating in.
Clement said this is a tremendous opportunity to improve her skills.
“The pace is so much faster than college. I don’t know why anybody would pass it up,” said Clement.
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” concurred Butterfield.
The team hosts Soccer Plus (Conn.) on Saturday, May 30 at 3 p.m. at Boucher Field.