The University of Maine-Fort Kent’s men’s and women’s soccer teams may have already overcome the bump in the road as they shoot for two more Sunrise Conference Tournament titles at Scarborough High School.
“We decided to treat ourselves and share a motor coach for the trip rather than use two 25-seater busses we have at the school,” explained men’s coach and athletic director Bill Ashby.
“But the bus broke down in Eagle Lake,” said Ashby referring to a town approximately 15 miles from Fort Kent. “The bus driver and mechanic tried to fix it for a couple of hours but they couldn’t. So we went back to school and got our busses.”
Neither top seed should have much trouble defending their conference titles and returning to the NAIA National Tournament.
The men are 15-0-1 and ranked fifth in the country after reaching the Elite Eight in the NAIA National Tournament a year ago. Ashby’s Bengals have never lost to a Sunrise Conference opponent in his four years.
The Bengals will take on fourth-seeded UM-Presque Isle, 11-4-2, today at 2. The winner will play the winner of the 6 p.m. game between No. 2 UM-Machias (9-5-2) and No. 3 SUNY Canton (10-5-2) on Saturday at 3.
The UMFK women, 15-0, will face fourth seed UM-Machias (7-10) at noon with the victor squaring off against the winner of the 4 p.m. game between UM-Presque Isle (10-5) and SUNY Canton (9-8) in Saturday’s 1:00 title game.
Ashby expects his team to return to the NAIA Tournament regardless of this weekend’s results but he wants his team to “stay focused” and put together some impressive performances.
“We’ve been playing a lot of guys at a lot of different positions, [to develop depth and versatility],” said Ashby. “We’re much more versatile than we were last year.”
Striker-midfielder Jermaine West’s allergic reaction to aspirin and a knee injury sustained by sweeper Barrington Blake proved pivotal in their 4-0 loss to Rio Grande College (Ohio) in the Elite Eight a year ago because they lacked versatility.
Keith Williams II (14 goals, 7 assists), Andre Anderson (15 & 4) and West (13 & 5) have paced the Bengals along with Luka Odak (4 & 15), who leads the nation in assists, Emlyn Jacoby (4 & 12) and defenders Blake, Damion Stone, Spencer Jacoby and Oniqueky Samuels.
Lucas Levesque’s UMFK women have been led by Whitney Sinclair (31 & 10) and Theresa Biggs (10 & 8) but third-leading scorer Morgan Chasse (9 & 5) is out with a sprained ankle.
“Hopefully, we’ll get challenged this weekend,” said Levesque who added that Marie-Pier Daze (4 & 4) has done an exemplary job in the midfield and Mindy Morneault has been outstanding in goal.