Maine Tide midfielder-striker Christine DeVito has experienced a first.
“I’ve been told I have an accent. I’ve never been told that before in the south,” grinned DeVito.
That’s because DeVito is from Kennesaw, Ga.
She played for the University of Auburn-Montgomery along with Aindrea McHugh, her Tide teammate.
McHugh is from Bracebridge, Ontario.
“Aindrea was coming to play here and asked me to think about joining her. So I contacted the coach [Hailey Blackburn] and that’s how I came,” said DeVito.
“I wanted to play this summer. I want to keep fit. I’ve had a lot of injuries so I want to keep in shape to avoid [future] injuries,” said DeVito, who will be a senior next fall.
DeVito has never been to the northeast.
“I’ve been in the south my whole life so I’ve never seen the kind of soccer they play up here. It’s going to be a fun experience,” added DeVito.
DeVito has already noticed one major difference.
“It’s a lot less humid here. I love it,” said DeVito.
McHugh had been asked previously about joining the Tide by former University of Maine-Fort Kent player and coach Wulf Koch, who used to coach the Auburn-Montgomery women before taking over the men’s job in 2007.
“But I had already decided to go home. This year, I decided to come up here and I’m looking forward to it. It’s beautiful so far,” said McHugh.
The Tide will open their Women’s Premier League schedule on the road against the New England Mutiny in Massachusetts on Saturday night and the Connecticut Passion on Sunday night.
The Women’s Premier Soccer League is comprised of 56 amateur teams nationwide and the Maine team is made up of mostly high school and college-age players from all over the East.
Blackburn isn’t sure what to expect in her team’s opener after only a few practices.
Sarah Wolcott played 72 games in a distinguished career at St. Bonaventure University (N.Y.). Carly Olds was the player of the year for Jamestown Community College (N.Y.) and Emma Rossa was the team’s best freshman.
Chelsea Thompson was a senior at Farminton’s Mt. Blue High School and will commute from Farmington.
She will be one of five swing players who will play for the Tide and the Tide’s Under-20 team.
“It’s a two-hour trip [one way] but it’s worth it to play with more experienced players,” said Thompson, who will attend Bates College in the fall.
Catherine Wise will commute from the Portland area. She was the University of Southern Maine’s second-leading scorer as a freshman last fall. Her teammate, Bangor’s Kortnie Hudgens, a goalkeeper, will play for both Tide teams.
“When you love something that much, [the commute] is worth it,” said Wise, a Cape Elizabeth native.
There will be five University of Maine players in Greenville’s Hannah Breton, Alli Krous, Cari Gill, Courtney Harnais and Blackburn, who will be a player-coach.
“I’m taking a summer course and I’m excited about playing again,” said Krous. “And it will be a chance to make new friends.”
“It will be good competition,” said Harnais.
Husson University multi-sport star Shelby Bradford, who just graduated, has played for all three Tide teams.
“I love soccer and to have another chance to play after college, why not?” said Bradford who feels last year’s winless team was hurt by low numbers.
That won’t be the case this year.
“It should be a good time,” said Bradford.
Other players include Messalonskee standout Amy Jose and Winslow star Jordyn Mallett, Ali Trafton, Megan Willette and goalkeeper Jennifer Andrews, who was a freshman at St. Bonaventure. Andrews posted 48 shutouts in her high school career.
Blackburn, who graduated from the University of Maine earlier this month after an impressive career as a back for Scott Atherley’s Black Bears, has been juggling a variety of jobs so far.
In addition to coaching the Tide, she has been trying to find jobs for the players who need them and helping them get situated in their apartments.
“There’s a lot to deal with right now,” said Blackburn, who also recruited the players.
She has also scheduled a bunch of activities for her players away from the soccer field so they can enjoy the state and have a memorable experience.
They will hike Mount Katahdin, run a July 4 road race, visit Acadia National Park and spend time at a summer home off the Portland coast.
“They didn’t win a game last year, they didn’t have fun, so [some of the players] didn’t want to come back and play this summer,” said Blackburn, who hopes providing the players with a positive all-around experience will entice them to want to return in the future.
For those who will be playing at a college in the fall, she will develop them on and off the field so they can have productive falls.
“I want them to get better. A lot of them may need to get bigger. We’ll set up times for them to work out at the [University of Maine’s] Rec Center. They’ll be lifting three days a week and we’ll modify their workouts toward their college’s [demands].”