The University of Maine at Fort Kent men’s soccer team is on a “business trip,” according to coach Bill Ashby.
That business is trying to win the NAIA National Championship and they will attempt to take the next step Tuesday when they face Grand View University from Des Moines, Iowa, in the Round of 16 at Orange Beach, Ala.
UMFK is 22-0 and the fifth seed while Grand View is 19-1 and the No. 12 seed. Game time is 1 p.m.
“Our focus is very good. We’ve had a great week of practice,” said fifth-year coach Ashby, who has compiled a 93-6-3 record at UMFK. “Grand View has a very good team. They play a traditional 4-4-2 (formation) and have a strong central midfielder (Brazilian Luis Heitor-Piffer). They have a couple of good front-runners and some tall, strong backs.”
“We’re going to have to play well to beat them,” added Ashby.
“We’ve got to play a strong defensive game and (capitalize) on our chances when we get them,” said junior left back Spencer Jacoby. “When you reach the Final 16, you aren’t going to get many good chances so you’ve got to put them away when you get them.”
The Bengals have seven outstanding seniors who want to conclude their careers by winning a national championship.
“And I think we have a legitimate chance. We just have to execute,” said Ashby.
Top seed Rio Grande (Ohio) was eliminated by Bethel (Tenn.) 2-1 on Monday, leaving Ashby feeling the tournament is “wide open.”
The games are being played on Bermuda grass, which Ashby compares to short FieldTurf that he and Jacoby feel is beneficial.
“The ball moves very quickly. It’s like a putting green. That’s a positive for us, no question about it,” said Ashby, who added that they hope to capitalize on their “flank speed” against the Vikings.
“You couldn’t ask for a better surface for the type of game we play,” said Jacoby.
The Bengals have outscored their opponents 123-5 and will be led by Andre Anderson (25 goals, 15 assists), Amine El Moumen (22 & 7), Jermaine West (13 & 12) and Keith Williams II (15 & 5) along with Luka Odak (5 & 19) and Walford Stewart (6 & 10). Anderson, Henley Comrie (7 & 2), Stewart, Odak, Barrington Blake, Damion Stone and Oniqueky Samuels (2 & 13) are the seniors. Sophomore David Girouard (0.26 goals-against average, 18 shutouts) will be the goalkeeper. Blake and Stone each have a goal and an assist and anchor the defense along with Samuels and Jacoby.
Grand View features All-Midwest Collegiate Conference first-team selections Jonny MacAdam (15 & 6), Heitor-Piffer (13 & 1), goalkeeper Darren Martin (0.62, 10 shutouts) and defender Danny Gillespie-O’Neill. Grand View has outscored its opponents 59-12 and has won eight in a row.