It’s September, which means everyone is settling into their class schedule, winter is only a couple weeks away and the women’s soccer season is well underway. The season started off robustly, with the Black Bears recording four wins in their first four games and three of those wins ending in a shutout. Last year, the Black Bears placed second in America East for goals allowed (1.11), goals against average (1.07) and shutouts (seven).
This season, after having played five games, the women have had three goals scored on them compared to the seven goals they scored, continuing the defense seen last year. This year, the women’s soccer team welcomed 13 freshmen into their ranks. With such a young team, an experienced player will often display leadership on and off the field. Luckily for the younger women, Kendra Ridley returned to UMaine for her junior year.
Ridley, the midfielder from Ottawa, Ontario, returned as captain for the second year in a row. Since freshman year, Ridley has started every game she appeared in. While far from dominating the stat sheet, Ridley has been instrumental to the Black Bears’ success. Her teammates describe her as poised and calm on the field.
“When she gets the ball, you always know she will make the right decision,” fourth-year back Hannah Lipinski said. “Whenever I see someone running at our back line, I don’t worry because I know Kendra is right there to stop them.”
Since the Black Bears play with a defense-oriented strategy, having someone who makes can make decisions is something teammates count on in Ridley. Second-year forward Vivien Beil agreed.
“Kendra is a very firm and consistent player. I feel very secure knowing that she’s playing in the line behind me,” second-year forward Vivien Beil said.
Ridley’s leadership ability extends off the soccer field as well. Last year she made the America East Commissioner’s Honor Roll, was a Maine Scholar-Athlete Bronze Medalist and was also the women’s soccer “Team Maine” representative, an award which honors the top sophomore, junior or senior achieving the highest grade point average on each sports team. Ridley, a nursing student, consistently finds herself at the top of her class. Academics were a serious consideration for Ridley as she chose where she wanted to play soccer.
“Looking at possible NCAA Division 1 schools to attend, the University of Maine has consistently come upon top,” Ridley said. “The Nursing Program has an excellent reputation within the academic community and among employers for producing top quality graduates.”
It is no wonder why Ridley has such a high soccer IQ.
Ridley’s balancing of school, soccer and a social life is something that younger members have taken note of. “Juggling school, a social life and soccer can be hard in college,” first-year midfielder Anna-Marie Dagher said. “Kendra has helped ease the transition for me and the other freshmen. It is girls like Kendra who keep us motivated and the momentum going throughout the season.”
Ridley herself is simply focused on keeping the team united under one common goal.
“Since we do have many new players, most of our team hasn’t competed in an America East tournament thus far,” Ridley said. “Many of the older players and I are concentrating on helping the new players adjust to the demands of season and to the distractions they will face. We are really trying to not let any setbacks get in our way so that we can continue to get better every game in hopes of earning a spot in the America East Championship.”
After a heartbreaking loss to the University of Hartford last year in the playoffs, it is obvious: the Black Bears are back with a vengeance. No doubt Ridley will be a player to watch as the Black Bears cruise through a season filled with must watch match-ups versus dreaded rival University of New Hampshire (Oct. 16) and the long anticipated rematch with the University of Hartford (Oct. 6), last year’s America East semi-final game winner.