The University of Maine women’s soccer team mustered only 14 goals in 16 games last season and just five in eight America East contests.
UMaine went 7-9 overall, 3-5 in league play and lost to New Hampshire 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
Goal scoring could be a problem again this season.
Four of the five players who scored multiple goals have departed including leading scorer and two-time All-AE first team selection Vivien Beil (3 goals, 2 assists), who transferred to UConn.
“We’re going to need multiple players to emerge in the attack and and get goals for us,” said 19th-year head coach Scott Atherley, who noted that he doesn’t have a dynamic striker to build the attack around. “We’ll also need to manufacture goals off restarts.
“If we’re able to do that and stay sound defensively, I’m quite optimistic about our year,” added the Black Bear coach.
UMaine opened the season with a 0-0 overtime tie against LIU-Brooklyn on Sunday.
UMaine’s Beate Naglestad’s shot hit the post in regulation and Nicole Bailey rattled the crossbar in overtime.
UMaine attempted 21 shots to LIU-Brooklyn’s 12 and had 13 corner kicks to LIU-Brooklyn’s one.
“We created some threatening opportunities off our corners but when you have 13 of them, one has to go in,” said Atherley, who intends to devote a lot of practice time on restarts.
The strikers Atherley will be counting on include sophomores Kaitlyn Ball and Nicole Bailey and freshman Charlotte Messer from Camden.
Ball, the only returnee with multiple goals a year ago (2 goals, 3 assists), was an All-AE Rookie Team selection but is coming off May knee surgery and isn’t game fit yet.
“One of her strengths is her ability to hold the ball under pressure which allows us to get numbers forward to support her. She can jump and get her head on balls and she has a quick first three steps. Once she takes off, she’s faster than anybody you’ll see,” said Atherley.
Bailey has been UMaine’s “most dangerous player” said Atherley.
“She has blossomed. She is smart, technical and explosive,” said the coach.
Messer, according to Atherley, has “great instincts” and the ability to make something out of nothing.
“She has a real aggressive mentality around the goal. Like any freshman, she just has to transition to the physicality and speed of the game,” said Atherley.
Messer, a midfielder at Camden Hills High, was the school’s first soccer All-American.
UMaine allowed only 17 goals in 16 games and Atherley considers his team’s “defensive organization” and sound defensive play to be the “cornerstone of our team.”
Both goalkeepers return as German sophomore Annalena Kriebisch, who posted three shutouts in seven games and had a 0.71 goals-against average, has recovered from knee surgery.
Junior Samantha Cobotic registered three shutouts in nine games and had a 1.29 GAA.
Atherley said Kriebisch is “strong and explosive and gives us the ability to control the tempo and play through her. She is a great distributor. She can launch a counter attack with her precise side volleys.”
The defense will be headlined by efficient workhorse backs Amy Falkin, a senior, and South Paris junior Mikayla Morin. Freshmen Emma Cossette and Jane Stevens will also figure prominently. Falkin is the vocal organizer in the back.
Sophomore Priscilla Domingo is a capable outside back.
Senior Kendra Ridley, a second team All-AE choice and an AE All-Tourney team pick, is the glue that links the midfield to the backs.
“She’s great at closing down players thanks to her long legs and she knows how to use her body to protect the ball. She never loses the ball,” said Atherley.
Sophomores Emilie Andersen from Norway and Kayla Brace join Ridley in the midfield and the trio can also be attacking options as well as solid defenders.
Senior Genaya Loftis, Norwegian sophomore Naglestad and freshman Olivia Bamford are resourceful players who can play different positions and contribute to the attack.
UMaine, which has 15 freshmen and sophomores, will visit Brown University (Rhode Island) on Friday night before hosting 2016 NCAA Tournament team Northeastern University (Massachusetts) on Sunday at 2 p.m.