Striker Scott Douglas was one of those rare athletes who was worth the price of admission.
He was blessed with blazing speed and he also possessed the ball skills to go with it. Watching him isolated on a defender one on one was a treat.
Except for the defender.
Ricky Brown was a scintillating magician with tremendous instincts who was a threat every time he touched the ball.
Douglas and Brown were former members of the University of Maine men’s soccer team. Brown was a three-time all-conference choice while Douglas made it once.
The program, along with women’s volleyball, was cut earlier this year due to budgetary considerations.
It just won’t be the same in Orono this fall. The men’s soccer program had been an institution since 1963.
It’s not like fans flocked to Alumni Field, but it was a nice source of entertainment for those who did.
In terms of wins and losses, the men’s soccer program wasn’t a successful one.
It had won more than five games just twice in the past 13 seasons. But it was well on its way to respectability.
It was a grossly under-funded program.
Maine had just two-plus scholarships for several years until expanding to 3.5 for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. NCAA Division I programs are allowed the equivalence of 9.9 scholarships.
America East mandated that its member programs increase their scholarship allotments two years ago so the teams could become nationally competitive.
Maine had 5.75 scholarships in 2007, 6.5 in ’08 and would have had 7.5 this fall.
Despite the scholarship disadvantages, the program always found a way to be competitive against the top teams in the conference.
They rarely beat the front-runners but those teams always had to work hard and play well to win. They had to earn it.
It was always enjoyable to watch the underdog battle the heavy favorite on a beautiful fall afternoon at Alumni Field.
Several of those teams had players from Ireland, England, and other soccer-crazed countries and it was interesting to watch them utilize their skills.
Recent coaches like Jim Dyer, Scott Atherley, Travers Evans and Pat Laughlin used their money wisely, spreading it around to as many players as possible but making sure if there was a franchise-type player, they would give him a full ride or close to it.
They motivated their players to maximize their potential.
Their teams were always well-organized defensively. The players knew how to play positionally in order to pressure the ball. There was always another teammate nearby to help out.
If you keep the score down, you allow yourself the chance to pull off the upset. And it’s difficult to score goals.
Their work ethic was second to none. It had to be to stay in games against teams that had much more funding and talent.
In addition to Douglas and Brown, the Bears also had players like workhorse striker Jake Ouimet, who was constantly pounded by opposing defenders but produced a school-record 36 career goals through his grit, determination and scoring touch.
Ouimet is the career all-time scoring leader with 86 points and he is followed by versatile Mike Dunphy (70) and sniper Ben Spike (62).
There were also some memorable defenders like Paul Kelly and Gary Crompton who used their athleticism and toughness to control their penalty area.
Then there was Jeff Spring, whose acrobatic and aggressive goalkeeping produced a career-record 27 shutouts.