There are high expectations for the University of Maine-Fort Kent’s men’s and women’s soccer teams as well there should be.
Men’s coach Bill Ashby and women’s coach Lucas Levesque both feel their current teams have the potential to be their best ever and their recent successes have been impressive.
The men’s team hasn’t lost a regular season game in three years and is already 5-0. It has played in the NAIA National Tournament the last three years, reaching the Elite Eight two years ago.
UMFK currently has a 57-game regular season unbeaten streak (56-0-1). UMFK wound up 17-1-1 last year.
The women’s team has reached the NAIA National Tournament the last two years and is hoping to win its first tourney game this season. The Bengal women are off to a 4-1 start after going 17-1 a year ago.
Ashby’s team is currently ranked No. 7 in the country in the most recent NAIA national poll as the Bengals have outscored their five opponents 29-0.
“This could be my best team. There’s a lot of maturity,” said Ashby. “We have seven seniors this year who have been starters for four years.”
“Having seven seniors gives us very good chemistry,” said third team All-American senior striker Andre Anderson, who has 77 goals and 40 assists in his 66-game career to date including 9 & 1 this season. “Everyone is willing to work very hard. We’ve been together for a long time.”
Adding to their motivation this season is the sting left over from last year’s 1-0 overtime home loss to the Indiana Institute of Technology in the first round of the NAIA Tournament.
Anderson said any time they have a sloppy stretch in a game, “that [Indiana Tech] game creeps into our minds. We get a different feeling. We know how we have to play to win a game so we take our game to another level.”
Ashby and Anderson said the team returned to training camp in exceptional shape and it is paying off.
“I’m very, very happy with our start,” said Ashby. “They boys came together real quick.”
“Everyone played soccer or worked out [diligently] this summer and that has made things even better for us,” said Anderson. “We’re a very fit team and that has helped a lot. The fitter you are, the better you play and you also have fewer injuries.”
Anderson was one of three 15-goal scorers a year ago and the other two are also back in Keith Williams, his partner up front, and midfielder Jermaine West.
West has 4 & 3 so far this season and Williams has 3 & 3.
Senior Henley Comrie also sees time up front and Ashby has received a big lift from freshman striker Amine El Moumen (8 & 2).
Williams also sees plenty of time in the midfield where he is joined by West and Luka Odak (4 & 15 last year). Jarryd Phillips (3 & 2 last year), who has been slowed by injury, is another first-rate midfielder as is Walford Stewart (6 & 5 last year). Stewart has five assists this season.
“We have a very strong midfield,” said Ashby.
Third team All-American Barrington Blake anchors a highly-efficient and seasoned back line. He is joined in the back by Damion Stone, Oniqueky Samuels and Spencer Jacoby. All are seniors except Jacoby, who is a junior.
Sophomore Russ Mortland has looked good in the back and freshmen Sebastien Arsenault and Pierre Lachance help provide depth back there. Sophomore Shawn Parker has been an effective midfielder, according to Ashby.
The Bengals do have a new starting goalkeeper in sophomore David Girouard, who backed up Giovanni Sinclair a year ago.
“I played against him this summer. He has been very sharp and we have a lot of confidence in him.”
The UMFK women’s team will also have an inexperienced goaltender after senior standout Mindy Morneault suffered a concussion in a 4-0 win over Maine Maritime Academy. Levesque said she had to be airlifted from Castine to the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
“It’s going to be tough without Mindy,” said Levesque who has replaced her with her younger sister Liz.
“Liz is a good ball-stopper. She’s aggressive and fearless,” said Levesque.
Morneault set an NAIA Tournament record with 24 saves in the 3-0 NAIA Tourney loss to Azusa-Pacific (Calif.), ranked fourth in the country at the time.
He said he doesn’t anticipate Morneault returning to the lineup this season “but I wouldn’t rule it out.”
The Bengal women have plenty of firepower led by 39-goal scorer and former John Bapst High School star Whitney Sinclair.
She is off to another good start with 8 & 4 through the first five games. Speedy sophomore Donique Ferriera has a more elevated role and has responded with a 7 & 2 start.
Sinclair’s former John Bapst teammate Morgan Chasse (9 & 5 last year) and sophomore Theresa Biggs (10 & 8) have been slowed by injuries. Chasse has yet to play this season and Biggs has played in just two games, scoring twice.
Sophomore Jamie Pelletier (3 & 0 this season) has filled in nicely.
Biggs, sophomore Marie-Pier Daze (9 & 5 last year) and senior Angela Norsworthy are the central midfielders in the 3-5-2 alignment freshman Victoria Dubois-Iredale, who has been “phenomenal” according to Levesque, at one outside midfield position with either Callie Rigsby or Jamie Nadeau at the other outside midfield slot.
Headlining the backs is Shanay Armstrong, who missed last year because she had a thyroid gland problem according to Levesque.
Marie-Michele Lachance, Andrea Baril and Jamie Daigle will also supply quality in the back.
“Without question, this is our best team,” said Levesque. “We’re a lot deeper and we have a few more weapons. And the team chemistry is fantastic. They’ve matured a lot as a unit.”