Third-year forward Genaya Loftis made the only play necessary for the win in Maine’s victory against the University of Vermont (UVM) Sunday, Sept. 25. Loftis’ goal came in the seventh minute and not another point would be scored for the remainder of the game. The 1-0 triumph boosts UMaine to 5-3 on the season, 1-0 in conference play, while UVM falls to 5-4-1 and 0-1 within the America East league.
A high-arched lob from mid-field found second-year forward Vivien Biel deep in UVM territory. Biel’s shot was fumbled by third-year goalkeeper Coco Speckmaier. Loftis was ready to capitalize on the error, tapping the ball into the net to set the final score at 1-0.
“We did exactly what we did in practice,” Loftis explained. “Our strikers were able to take their defenders out wide so I could get through the middle and our midfielder played the perfect ball over the top.”
This was Loftis’ first goal of the season.
An injury precluded first-year goalkeeper Annalena Kriebisch from competing. In her place stood second-year Samantha Cobotic. In Cobotic’s first start of 2016, she faced a daunting 10 shots from a highly skilled UVM offense. Cobotic held her own, managing to hold on to the shutout.
“We brought in our new keeper, she played fantastic,” Maine’s Head Coach Scott Atherley said. “I think that helped our team emotionally the way she came in and really just gained confidence for her, gave a lot of confidence for our team.”
Maine would find another chance in the 20th minute as second-year back Kate Evans wound up from 20 yards to unleash a cannonball. Her shot ended up hitting the crossbar and deflecting out of bounds. Evans was an offensive threat in the midfield region, registering two shots from deep.
Later on the 28th minute, a two-on-two rush was created after a fast break in the mid-field. Second-year forward Anetra Byfield produced a give-and-go pass to first-year forward Kaitlyn Ball. Ball tapped it back to Byfield who charged towards the UVM goalkeeper. Speckmaier came out to challenge Byfield, gobbling up the ball to stop the offense. The pace in the midfield was what made the difference to Atherley.
“We had several sequences through our midfield that we just played so fast and that allowed us to keep possession but really put Vermont on their heels,” he said.
Byfield registered a team-high three shots.
On the other end of the field was UVM’s high-powered offense. UVM’s third-year midfielder Sarah Martin led all other shooters with five shots, three of them on net. UVM logged a total of 19 shots, 10 of them on net, but were completely stymied by an impenetrable Maine defense. UVM’s 11 total corner kicks would either be headed away by third-year midfielder Kendra Ridley or cleared by second-year back Mikayla Morin.
UVM had a legitimate chance to tie the game up before the half with a direct kick from close range. Martin’s shot was blocked by UMaine’s wall of defenders but possession was retained by UVM. A last-ditch effort from UVM’s first-year midfielder Julia Smith kept a tie score within reach. Her shot sailed over the net as time expired, keeping Maine’s lead to one going into halftime.
Second-half play was noticeably more physical. UVM’s second-year midfielder Brook Jenkins got tied up with Byfield in a frustration play that cost Vermont a foul. Byfield responded with a shot on Speckmaier that was sent just barely wide.
At the 66-minute mark, Byfield got another chance. Her bullet from the right nailed the crossbar, going straight down off the bounce. It looked like a goal, but play continued and it was not called as a goal.
With five minutes left, Maine was struggling to clear the ball. A weak pass from a Maine defender led to a point blank shot from UVM’s Smith. Cobotic’s diving save was miraculous, stopping what should have easily been a goal, preserving her shutout. Speckmaier watched from a safe distance of 120 yards.
“I think we played well,” she said. “We should have buried some chances, but it just happens. We just got to keep going.”
Speckmaier would advance out from safety in the final minute to give UVM an extra attacker on Martin’s corner kick. The effort would prove to be fruitless as the ball was knocked wide left, protecting Maine’s 1-0 win.
“We lost to a good team,” UVM’s Head Coach Kristi Lefebvre said. “They had two weeks off, they were pretty fresh, they came with a lot of energy and a lot of credit to them.”
The game versus UVM was the first in an eight-game streak of America East competitors. Maine moves to Lowell, Mass. next to do battle with the University of Massachusetts Lowell Riverhawks. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 29. Vermont will also go on to play another American East game against UMass Lowell on Sunday, Oct. 2. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.