Mindy Morneault was ready for a new challenge.
She had been the Rookie of the Year in the Little East Conference in 2005 when she was the goalkeeper for the University of Southern Maine.
She was a medical redshirt her sophomore year after injuring her knee early in the season but returned the next season and was the All-Little East second team goalkeeper.
In 2008, she took a year off from school and joined the job market. She worked one-on-one with a young girl in Yarmouth who had disabilities and eye problems.
“That was a very good experience for me and I still keep in touch with the girl and her family,” said Morneault, who then returned home to Eagle Lake.
“I was talking with my mom [Sue] and she mentioned that I should look into playing at the University of Maine-Fort Kent,” said Morneault.
“I talked to Lucas [coach Lucas Levesque] to see if he needed a goalie and everything fell into place.”
Morneault has been nothing short of superb for the 17-0 Bengals this season.
Granted, she hasn’t had a lot to do. In 16 games, she has faced only 54 shots.
But she has saved 50 of them, including 11 in a season-opening 3-1 win over Husson University of Bangor in which the Bengals were outshot 20-7.
She has 12 shutouts and has a current scoreless streak of 388 minutes and 58 seconds entering Saturday’s NAIA Tournament game at Azusa Pacific (Cal.), the nation’s fourth-ranked team.
“I’ve been satisfied with my season,” said Morneault. “I haven’t seen that much action. I was actually tested in the Husson game. I had a good game and I’m hoping that’s what it’s like against Azusa-Pacific and we come out on top.”
“Mindy has definitely helped us out a lot,” said sophomore striker Whitney Sinclair. “It’s great to know she’s back there. She’s the best goalkeeper I’ve ever played with.”
In addition to her physical skills, Sinclair said Morneault does an exemplary job communicating with her backs and teammates to make sure “everyone is where they need to be.”
“She’s a tremendous player. She’s technically sound and she isn’t afraid to get dirty,” said Levesque. “People feed off her energy. She’s brought things that we needed. She has been a good leader for us.”
Morneault thoroughly enjoys being a goalkeeper.
“I’ve been playing it ever since I was in elementary school,” said Morneault. “I love it. I love the feeling of making a great save. It’s amazing.”
She said playing for a team that has dominated most of its opponents has been a challenge.
“In a couple of games, it’s been hard to stay awake. But I try to keep my head in the game. I talk to my defense,” said Morneault. “I’ve got to be ready just in case. You can go 60 minutes without touching the ball and then your opponent gets a breakaway and you’ve got to make the save.
“You’ve got to stay mentally ready,” said Morneault.
She said she is excited about the game with Azusa Pacific.
“To be honest, I’m a little bit nervous,” said Morneault. “This is a big game for us. It’s one of our more nerve-wracking game.
“After not seeing much action all year, I’m excited to finally see some shots so I can show people what I can do and what our team can do,” added the 22-year-old former Fort Kent High School star.
She knows her team has nothing to lose.
“We’re going in as the underdog against the fourth-ranked team in the country,” said Morneault. “We don’t have anything to lose. We have to play like we did against Husson. We’ve improved since the beginning of the season and I believe we can compete against them. If I can be there for my team in the back and do what I have to do, all we may need is one goal to come out on top.”
UMFK women leave early
The UM-Fort Kent women left Tuesday for California and were scheduled to arrive at 2:30 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.
The Bengals left early Tuesday morning and bussed to Manchester, N.H. where they caught a flight to California.
“It was $7,000 cheaper to leave early,” said UMFK athletic director and men’s soccer coach Bill Ashby. “The only other option was to fly out of Bangor later in the week but we wouldn’t have gotten there until 22 hours before the match. And then they would have had to leave four hours after the game to come back.”
Ashby said leaving later in the week was risky in case they lost a bag or missed a connection.
“We could have been in big trouble,” said Ashby. ”That wasn’t a very good option. This makes it a lot easier.”
Levesque said leaving earlier will give them a better chance to overcome jet lag and the three-hour time difference.
“We’ll practice at least Thursday and Friday. We may just do cardio and everything else on Wednesday. We’ll let everyone get caught up on their sleep,” said Levesque.