The University of Maine women’s soccer team lost to Stony Brook University a couple weeks ago in the America East conference semi-final game by the score of 2-1 that wrapped up their season. The Black Bears earned a bye in the conference tournament after earning the number two seed in the America East playoffs, exceeding head coach Scott Atherley’s expectations for this year.
“I was pleased with the outcome of our season, considering how young and inexperienced we were and how we handled the significant number of severe injuries throughout the season,” he said.
The Black Bears seemed to always be missing a couple players each game. Despite the missing players, the Black Bears finished of 7-7-3 overall and 3-3-2 in conference play. They were also 3-3-1 on the road, which impressed Atherley.
“Last year we were 1-7 on the road with an experienced team, and this year we had a complete turnaround on the road with a young team, and I was very pleased with that,” Atherley said.
UMaine also had some big, unexpected wins this year against teams that may have underestimated them at the onset.
“We’re not going to sneak up on anybody next year. That’s something our players need to understand. We’re going to have to invest even more than we did this year because we’re not going to surprise anybody,” Atherley said.
“I think our expectations are, given this year of experience, that we should build off the momentum that we gained this season. And we can as long as we don’t think that it’s going to come to us automatically,” he said.
Maddie Hill and Meagan Price-Leibenzeder are the only two seniors the Black Bears are graduating. The fact that the team is only losing two players is great, but they’re also losing two leaders.
“Our seniors did an outstanding job providing leadership. Half of our roster was brand new and we had so many young players, it was imperative that we had great leadership on and off the field and both of them provided that for us,” Atherley said. “What they gave us off of the field was essential to our success and both of them had good years on the field as well,” he continued.
Atherley was also very happy with the way his freshman players handled their rookie seasons this year. The Black Bears were regularly starting five freshmen with about seven of them in the lineup. At some points in the season UMaine had as many as six freshmen starting for the team.
“Several of our new players had a profound impact on our success,” Atherley said.
Freshman forward Charlene Achille was America East Rookie of the Year and started all 16 games for the Black Bears, playing 1,426 minutes. She tallied seven points on two goals and three assists. Achille was also named to the 2012 All-America East Second Team and the 2012 All-Rookie Team.
“What impressed me most about her was not only her technical and tactical skills but her vision is outstanding. Her ability to execute and distribute was a key part to why we were able to keep possession and score as many goals as we did,” Atherley said. “But as adept as she was doing all those things for us I was more impressed with her consistency.”
Also on the All-Rookie Team was freshman defender Noelle Leon-Palmer. Leon-Palmer started all 16 regular-season games for the Black Bears and led the team in minutes played with 1,441.
“When you have two first-year players like Charlene and Noelle among your most consistent and effective performers it really says a lot about their qualities as players and as people,” Atherley said.
When looking back on the season, the Black Bears met their goals and exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“Before the season starts your goal is to make and qualify for the America East Championship. We accomplished that.” Atherley said. “By getting the No. 2 seed, receiving a first-round bye and playing at home. That’s never happened before for us. To be able to do that with such a young team and having not qualified last year, we exceeded our expectations.”