ORONO — Jordan Pellerin received a first-hand look last fall at the substantial adjustment from playing Maine high school soccer to playing in Division I at the University of Maine.
Pellerin scored 171 goals during her remarkable career at Waterville High School but was held without a goal last fall.
However, Pellerin still had a productive season with a team-high four assists in 15 games, which helped land her on the America East All-Rookie team.
She hit the weight room, and a much stronger Pellerin scored her first goal in a 2-1 loss to Bryant University last Friday. She had four shots on goal, which equaled her total of 2011. She attempted six shots which is just two fewer than she attempted a year ago.
“She took a [big] step in the offseason. She put on 14 pounds of muscle,” said Maine coach Scott Atherley, who noted that Pellerin is more dangerous in one-on-one situations.
“Last year, she tried to take a step to get around a defender but she wouldn’t be able to because she’d get knocked off the ball or didn’t have that extra step [of speed],” said Atherley. “Not this year. She can get by people. She has so many qualities that make her a real threat. She’s now a legitimate goal scorer at our level.”
“That 14 pounds of muscle is noticeable,” said Pellerin. “It makes the game so much easier now. It has helped me out a lot. I used to get pushed off the ball.”
She said the special program outlined for the Maine players has enabled her to gain muscle without sacrificing her speed.
“She’s a different player now,” said Maine center back Maddie Hill, one of two seniors on the team. “She has improved a lot and it has helped her with her confidence.”
“She’s a beast on the field,” said Maine junior left back Maggie Malone.
Pellerin termed her freshman season “a learning year. It was a big adjustment.”
She said it felt good to score her first goal.
“Hopefully, I can keep it going,” said the 5-foot-5-inch Pellerin, who is joined up front by junior Nikki Misener.
Another striker trying to make an impact is freshman Ashley Robinson, who scored 28 goals to lead Bangor High to its first state Class A title last season and was named the Class A Player of the Year by the Maine Soccer Coaches Association.
Pellerin has been a mentor to Robinson.
“It’s funny thinking back to when we were once rivals,” said Robinson. “I love being her teammate. She has helped me out a lot.”
Robinson consulted Pellerin when she was considering going to Maine.
“She was great. I look up to her. She told me what to expect,” said Robinson.
“The speed of play is so different than high school,” said Pellerin. “Once she gets that, puts on extra weight — she reminds me of me last year — and has that one year under her belt, she’ll [flourish].”
“The thing that most impresses me is that she hasn’t come in here trying to blow everybody away,” said Atherley. “She has kept things simple and that has made her effective. She has natural instincts.”
Robinson also has gained some muscle from weight training.
In addition to the Bryant game, Maine has played a pair of exhibitions, losing to Northeastern (2-0) and beating Harvard 1-0 in Portland.
Atherley and his players are optimistic despite the fact there are 10 newcomers and they have lost players who scored 13 of last year’s 18 goals.
“We have a lot of critical pieces all over the field now. We’re multidimensional. We’ll be able to beat people with our athleticism,” said Atherley, whose Black Bears went 5-9-1, 2-6 in America East, in 2011.
“We’ve got so many new players that it’s going to take time. But we should be playing our best at the end of the season and that’s what you want,” said Hill. “We have depth that we’ve never had before. They’ve brought in a lot of talent.”
Hill anchors the back line, where she will be joined by freshman center back Noelle Leon-Palmer, left back Malone and right back freshman Joanie L’Abbe.
Junior Lisa Bijman will be the holding midfielder with freshman Charlene Achille being the attacking midfielder. Sophomore Camille Varin-Tremblay will be the left midfielder with junior Meaghan Bradica or newcomer Liis Emajoe from Estonia at right mid. Bradica also can play in the back.
Up front, Pellerin, Misener and Robinson are among a pool that includes Waterville sophomore Taylor Frame, Greenville sophomore Gretel Breton, freshman Eve L’Abbe and Richmond freshman Danica Hurley. L’Abbe, twin sister of Joanie, also can play a flank midfield position.
Seasoned veteran Meagan Price-Leibenzeder, a senior, returns in goal, but she will be pushed by 5-foot-10-inch freshman Lauren Swant. Price-Leibenzeder started all 15 games last year and had a 1.58 goals-against average and a .736 save percentage. Lewiston junior keeper Elise Applegate is injured.
Greene sophomore Brianna Hammond and York freshman Addie Labonte provide depth in the back along with freshman Alex Abrahams.
Misener is the top returning scorer with two goals and two assists; Hill had two goals; Pellerin had her four assists; Malone had a goal and an assist; Varin-Tremblay had three assists and Bijman had an assist.
Maine hosts The Citadel (S.C.) Friday at 4 p.m.