MACHIAS, Maine — The University of Maine-Machias men’s and women’s soccer teams used high-octane offenses this season to roll into the upcoming Yankee Small College Conference tournament.
Both teams have their eyes clearly on the tournament this weekend after finishing undefeated in league play. The conference tourney will be hosted by New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord this weekend.
The UMM men finished with an overall record of 15-2 and 12-0 in the league after beating UM-Farmington 3-0 Sunday while the UMM women finished 12-3 and 8-0, respectively, after beating UMF 2-1.
The UMM men’s closest rivals in the Eastern Division, Central Maine Community College in Auburn and Southern Maine CC in South Portland, ended at 8-3-1. In the West Division, Paul Smiths of Brighton, N.Y., and NHTI were atop the standings at 7-1.
The YSCC men’s league features 12 teams, with seven in the East, while the women’s league has eight teams, four in each division.
The UMM men put an unrelenting offense on the field, leading the conference with 423 shots. The next-closest team was SMCC with 232. The Clippers had the top three players in the conference for shots.
UMM outscored all opponents 91-19. Except for two losses to UM-Fort Kent, including a 10-0 defeat, UMM either shut out every other team or allowed only one goal.
The Clippers have a cadre of six players from California, including 6-foot sophomore forward Tyler Troup, who paced the conference with 102 shots and was second in goals with 26.
“He’s a really good striker,” said first-year coach Pablo Yepez, who is from Ecuador, where he played professionally. “He’s a strong guy. He’s fast. He knows where he needs to be.”
Troup was not the only player who accounted for the team’s offensive punch. Junior Alfredo Palacios, also from California, was No. 4 in the conference with 14 goals. And the Clippers had three of the top five players in the league in assists. Olaff Mina was second in the conference with 13 and was followed by Juan Solares (9) and Stefan Zalucky (8). Mina was No. 2 in the conference in shots at 76 and Palacios third at 66.
“We’ve been working really hard,” said Yepez. He credited the team’s success to “good players, and they are working as a team.”
The Lady Clippers, last year’s conference champion, also feature a high- powered offense, finishing first in the East above 4-2-2 SMCC. NHTI and Paul Smiths tied for first place in the West with 5-1 records. Like the men’s team, the UMM women were the runaway conference leader in shots, goals and assists.
The Lady Clippers have three of the top five players in the conference in goals scored and two in assists. Emma LeGallais, a 5-foot-2 senior, was second in goals with 16, followed by freshman Clayre Saunders with 12. Kayla Angelico was fifth with 11. Cayla Thomas was second in the conference in assists with 10 and Saunders was fourth with six.
The UMM women had four of the top five players in the conference in shots, with LeGallais leading at 74 and Thomas with 69. Saunders was fourth with 38 and Angelico fifth with 37.
Coach P.J. Singh singled out Thomas for her role.
“Most of the attacks go through her,” he said. “When we play, we look for her to create.”
In a 6-2 win in Machias against UM-Presque Isle on Friday, LeGallais unleashed three goals while Thomas was credited with three assists.
LeGallais and Saunders were modest about their accomplishments this season when they talked briefly before the start of the contest against UMPI.
LeGallais said defense is the reason for her standout performance.
“The whole team … The whole team helps out,” she added.
Saunders was similarly modest. “I can’t score,” she said, “if my team doesn’t help out.”
Although the team boasts plenty of players from Maine, such as freshman goalie Jessica Bickford of Lebanon, who was third in the conference in goals allowed (13), UMM draws from elsewhere in New England and has a small contingent of foreign students — notably LeGallais, who is from Ontario, and Saunders, who hails from the Bahamas.
Singh, in his second season as head coach, previously served as an assistant and last year was administrator of the university’s soccer program, a position that had Singh — who also works in the admissions office — recruiting for both teams.
When talking to prospective players, Singh, an alumnus of the university, notes that Machias is a small community.
“They appreciate the school … They like the environment,” he said.
The faculty is akin to a family, he tells prospects. “Like a family. I keep using that word.”
“If you want that, you’ll get it here,” added Singh.