It would have been understandable if Ben Spike had bittersweet emotions about being inducted on Friday night into the University of Maine Sports Hall of Fame.
Spike set six men’s school soccer records from 1985 to 1988, including career goals (26) and points (58).
But on April 15, 2009, the university dropped the men’s soccer and women’s volleyball programs due to budget cuts that called for the reduction of $8.8 million for the next fiscal year.
The University of Maine is the only one of America East’s nine full-member schools that does not sponsor a men’s soccer program.
Spike said it is upsetting that UMaine does not have a team anymore but that he still relishes his induction.
“I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it,” Spike said. “I didn’t expect it, to be honest with you. I’m thrilled and happy to be here. I’m blown away.”
Spike said he understood the financial reasons behind the decision to drop soccer but argued that it’s the most popular sport in the world.
“It is the only Division I program in the state. That our flagship university has no representation [in men’s soccer] is really disappointing,” Spike said.
Spike’s rise to soccer prominence is a tribute to his resilience.
He was the captain and the leading scorer for one of the best age-group teams in Florida when his parents decided to retire to Maine as he was entering high school. They had ties to New England.
“But when I got to Maine, I went to Morse High School [in Bath], and they didn’t have a soccer team,” Spike said. “That blew me away.”
Fortunately, they did institute it his junior year, and he played two years there.
He was recruited by UMaine coach Jim Dyer and chose UMaine over Boston College because Dyer impressed him with his sincerity and caring nature.
Spike was named All-New England in 1987 and captained UMaine’s only North Atlantic Conference championship team in 1988.
He now lives in Portland and has been in the insurance business ever since he graduated from the University of Maine.
More than 330 people turned out for Friday’s induction ceremony at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer.
The other inductees were Heather Hathorn Driscoll (soccer), Kelly Newton (field hockey), Jerry Ellis (men’s cross-country, track), Corey Conner (women’s track, cross-country), Joe Johnson (baseball), the late Justin Strzelczyk (football), and the 1965 Black Bear football team that won the Yankee Conference and played in the Tangerine Bowl.
Newton, who flew in from her native Vancouver, British Columbia, was a two-time All-American and holds UMaine field hockey records for goals (57), assists (49) and points (163).
“It’s like walking down memory lane, seeing [UMaine coach Josette Babineau] and all these friendly faces,” said Newton, a registered nurse who now works in health policy regulation physicians in British Columbia.
Newton and teammates Brittany Fleck and Stephanie Gardiner began the British Coluimbia connection to UMaine that remains strong today with six British Columbians on the 2019 roster.
“This means a lot. When we started, we were ranked 67th or something like that. By the time we graduated, at one point we were ranked in the top 10,” Newton said.
UMaine has been ranked in the top 20 on a regular basis in recent years.