After using a 4-4-2 alignment (four backs, four midfielders, two strikers) for the first six games of the season, University of Maine women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley decided it wasn’t well-suited to his players.
He changed to a 4-3-3 (four backs, three midfielders, three strikers) for Sunday’s game against regional power Northeastern University and the result was a 4-1 Black Bear triumph.
Northeastern had allowed just two goals in its first six games while going 5-1.
Atherley explained that with the 4-4-2 formation, “we were not getting enough pressure on the opponents’ back line. And we were also conceding too much territory so opponents were able to get too close to our goal. They were winning the ball much closer to our goal than we were to their goal.”
Playing with three strikers instead of two put more pressure on opposing fullbacks which prevented them from initiating the attack and forced them into mistakes. It also reduced the amount of pressure opponents could put on Maine’s midfielders and backs.
Atherley added that playing with three strikers “reduced the amount of running our forwards had to do. When you play with just two strikers, they have so much more ground to cover that by the time they win the ball, they’re too gassed to go forward.”
Atherley moved senior attacking midfielder Laura Martel from Lewiston up to the front line and put her on the flank “to utilize her speed and get her isolated [on a defender].”
Martel already has five goals for the 3-3-1 Black Bears, one fewer than her previous single-season high set two years ago.
Veronique Fleury is the central striker with Carolyne Nellis being the other wing.
Atherley spells Fleury, Martel and Nellis with Courtney Harnais, freshman Josee Descoeurs and Greenville’s Hannah Breton.
Martel, Descoeurs and Breton scored against NU and the other goal was an own goal.
Atherley has also moved Cristina Di Ielsi from fullback to the midfield to capitalize on her passing and attacking style.
Gorham’s Kelsey Wilson and freshman Maddie Hill join Di Ielsi in the midfield while the back line is comprised of right back Kaitlyn MacIsaac, left back Stephanie Frenette-Blais and center backs Hailey Blackburn of York and Anjelica Hodgson.
Freshman goalkeeper Meagan Price-Leibenzeder has been “one of our most consistent performers,” according to Atherley, whose Bears open their league schedule by hosting Maryland Baltimore County on Sunday at noon.