University of Maine women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley and his Black Bears will make two debuts on Friday at 4 p.m. when Quinnipiac University invades Orono.
It will be the Black Bears’ 2014 opener and it will also be their first game on Mahaney Diamond. They will play four of their eight home games at Mahaney Diamond rather than their regular facility, Alumni Field.
They will be playing on FieldTurf on Mahaney Diamond rather than the natural grass surface on Alumni Field. Alumni Field also doesn’t have lights while Mahaney does.
The other Mahaney Diamond games will be against Bryant University on Sunday at 1 p.m.; Vermont on Thursday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. and Hartford on Thursday, Oct. 16, also at 7 p.m. The games with Vermont and Hartford are America East games.
The Vermont and Hartford games would have had to have been played in the afternoon at Alumni Field.
“We’ve been looking at a way to play on turf for a long time and we’ve wanted to play our midweek home games at night,” explained Atherley. “Every team in our conference plays on turf except UMBC and they play on Bermuda grass which might as well be turf. And UMBC has access to Turf in case of inclement weather.”
Atherley said being able to play at night is just as valuable.
“Virtually every team in the country plays its midweek games under the lights,” said Atherley. “For our kids to transition from getting out of class at two to playing a conference game at four isn’t easy.
“To be able to play on turf and to be able to play at night are very important to our team,” he added.
Atherley credited Claude Junkins, the coordinator of engineering support services, with taking his surveying equipment and finding “a perfect-sized soccer field on Mahaney Diamond.”
Morse Field, the football field, wasn’t an option because it was too small, he explained.
“Baseball uses such a big sheet that I figured there had to be a way [to fit a soccer field on it],” said Atherley, noting that the soccer field is located primarily in the outfield. “The way it is laid out is fascinating.”
He also said the clay undersoil at Alumni Field and the drainage system are deteriorating, which slows players down and makes it a challenging surface to play on when its wet.
They have been practicing on Mahaney Diamond throughout the preseason.
“Our team is very appreciative of the opportunity. We couldn’t be happier,” said Atherley, who added that they may try to play more of their homes games at Mahaney.
He said the surface will also be beneficial because his team is fast and skilfull.
They will use portable goals and some portable stands will also be added to the facility.