ORONO, Maine — Although disappointed to be eliminated from the America East semifinals after losing to Binghamton in penalty kicks (4-2) after 110 scoreless minutes, University of Maine women’s soccer coach called this season one of the most “gratifying” in his 11 seasons at the helm.
The Black Bears went undefeated in their last six games (5-0-1) with four shutouts. The Binghamton game is a tie in the eyes of the NCAA.
“The measure of a team is its consistency and how you finish,” said Atherley. “We were 4-5-2 at one points and went unbeaten the rest of the way. Four of those six games were on the road. I couldn’t have asked for any more from our team.”
Atherley pointed out that the six-game unbeaten streak in the second longest in school history.
He said the Binghamton game was “very even” and could have gone either way.
“We had some great chances and they had some great chances,” said Atherley, whose team lost at home to Binghamton 1-0 for its last loss despite outshooting the Bearcasts 25-5.
Second seed Binghamton outshot third seed Maine 14-8 on Sunday.
He said the nine and a half hour trip; the fact his team played on Thursday (2-1 overtime win over New Hampshire in the quarterfinals) while Binghamton was rested after earning a bye and that Binghamton plays on turf while his team plays on grass factored into the game.
Veronique Fleury hit the crossbar for Maine in the 58th minute and her rebound attempt nudged the outside of the post.
And America East Striker of the Year Laura Martel was robbed by goalkeeper Erin Iman on a partial breakaway.
Atherley praised the leadership exhibited by his six seniors: strikers Martel and Fleury, center backs Anjelica Hodgson and Hailey Blackburn and midfielders Cristina Di Ielsi and Alli Krous.
He will have players returning in every position but Atherley admits the major question will be “how are we going to replace [Martel’s] 13 goals?
“I don’t know the answer to that. Hopefully, we’ll be more balanced; more dangerous on set pieces and somebody will develop and emerge,” he said.
All three goalkeepers are back including All-Rookie team choice Meagan Price-Leibenzeder (0.97 goals-against average, .798 save percentage, 7 shutouts). Outside backs Kaitlyn MacIsaac and Stephanie Frenette-Blais (1 goal, 0 assists); midfielders Kelsey Wilson (3 & 4) and Maddie Hill (3 & 1); strikers Hannah Breton (4 & 2), Carolyne Nellis (3 & 4) and Courtney Harnais also headline the list of returnees and productive midfielder Sady Tobin will probably be moved to the back line.