UMaine soccer, field hockey teams looking to light up scoreboard

Posted Sept. 06, 2011, at 5:37 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 06, 2011, at 8:10 p.m.

One team can light up a scoreboard.

The other appears to have potential to light up a scoreboard.

That is the story of the University of Maine field hockey and women’s soccer teams in the early going.

Fifth-year coach Josette Babineau’s field hockey team has averaged 5.2 goals and 20.8 shots on goal per game in its 3-1 start.

Thirteenth-year coach Scott Atherley’s women’s soccer team had scored five goals in its first three games entering Tuesday’s game at Holy Cross after averaging one goal per game a year ago. The Black Bears took a 1-1-1 mark into the game at Holy Cross.

Babineau’s team has already knocked off the nation’s 14th-ranked Boston College Eagles, 4-3 in overtime, in Chestnut Hill, Mass., a win she considers the “best we have had” in her time at Maine.

“BC has a real good team and they’re competitive in the ACC. They finished in the top four in the ACC last year,” said Babineau.

The Atlantic Coast Conference is considered one of the best field hockey conferences in the country.

“I think it’s going to be difficult to keep us off the scoreboard. We’re an aggressive team,” said Babineau. “But we’ve got to be more patient defensively and teach people when to think more conservatively.”

Babineau feels her team is capable of annexing its first ever NCAA Tournament berth by winning the conference tourney.

“We’ve got a real good senior class full of gamers and winners. They’ve come through in big games for us, like the Boston College game, and there’s no reason we can’t do the same in our conference tournament. They’re the same caliber of teams,” said Babineau.

The Bears had three players with 13 or more goals a year ago in All-American and America East Offensive Player of the Year Kelly Newton (19 goals, 7 assists), Jocelyn Mitchell (16 & 5) and Stephanie Gardiner (13 & 7) and all are back.

Gardiner has already scored five goals and assisted on two others, Newton has 1 & 9 and Mitchell has 3 & 1.

Newton is a three-time first team All-America East pick, Gardiner was a first-teamer a year ago and has also been a second-team pick twice and Mitchell is a two-time second-teamer.

All are seniors.

The Black Bears graduated five midfielders, so Mitchell has been moved from forward to midfield where she accompanies Gardiner. Newton is a forward.

Junior Megan Miller and freshmen Becca Paradee and Hannah Keating have been in the midfield rotation as has junior Zoe Adkins (1 & 1), who has been moved up from a back position. Miller and Keating have each scored a goal.

“We want to solidify our midfield defensively,” said Babineau. “We don’t want to be going in just one direction (forward). We need better defensive coverage.”

The return of highly skilled Lelia Sacre in the back has given the Bears a boost. Sacre missed all of last season due to illness and is still in the process of working herself into game shape, according to Babineau.

Sophomore Alexa Binnendijk (4 goals) and freshmen Annabelle Hamilton (3 goals) and Zoe Berkey supply Babineau with a quality back line. Binnendijk and Hamilton are two of the mainstays on Maine’s prolific penalty corner unit.

Newton is accompanied up front by speedy freshman Holly Stewart (1 & 1) and seniors Molly Arute and Courtney Glynn (1 goal).

Babineau said she’s hoping to develop consistency and depth in the midfield so she can move Mitchell back up front for some shifts and return Adkins to the back line.

All-AE second team goalkeeper Brittany Fleck has returned in goal.

For the women’s soccer team, Atherley said for the first time in his career, he has changed his formation to a 4-4-2 (four backs, four midfielders and two strikers) with the midfielders in a diamond alignment.

“We have potential to be a lot more dangerous in our attack this year for two reasons,” explained Atherley, whose 9-9 Black Bears became the first sixth seed to reach the America East final and win two road playoff games. “One, we’ve added some personnel that are very attack-minded players who are certainly capable of scoring goals. Second, we’ve changed our formation to complement the players we have.”

Waterville freshman Jordan Pellerin, a two-time high school All-American and producer of 171 career goals, and fellow freshman Camille Varin-Tremblay have been the attacking midfielders at the front of the diamond and they have helped create space and scoring chances for senior Carolyne Nellis, who has scored four of Maine’s five goals to already equal last year’s total.

Pellerin, who has good natural instincts, according to Atherley, and Varin-Tremblay have both averaged more than 70 minutes of playing time per game.

Nellis has been joined up front by promising Christine Dubuc, a redshirt freshman who missed all of last season with an injury and is playing her way back into game shape.

All-America East Rookie Team selection Lisa Bijman is the holding midfielder with sophomores Maggie Malone and Nikki Misener on the flanks. Bijman had two goals last season, Misener had four assists and Malone had a goal and an assist.

There is plenty of experience and efficiency in the back with senior Kaitlyn MacIsaac, sophomore Meghan Bradica and juniors Maddie Hill (2 & 1) and Stephanie Frenette-Blais (1 & 0) patrolling the defensive third.

Hill was a midfielder a year ago.

“We haven’t given up many good looks at goal,” said Atherley. “We’ve limited our opponents’ quality scoring opportunities.”

The five goals Maine has surrendered have come off two penalty kicks, two corners and a long free kick. Atherley said they have to do a better job defending set pieces.

Junior Meagan Price-Leibenzeder is back in goal and is coming off a season in which she posted a 1.33 goals-against average.

“Meagan is punting the ball 20 yards further up field than last year,” said Atherley, who pointed out she was hampered by a groin injury last fall.

All-AE second team midfielder Kelsey Wilson, Maine’s leading scorer a year ago with eight goals and two assists, is now a student assistant coach with Atherley and assistants Jim Dyer and Linda (Consolante) Hathorn.

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