On a cold and rainy night in Orono, the University of Maine women’s soccer team took on the University of Vermont in a midseason clash. The Black Bears pressed high early on, forcing Vermont into rushed decisions. Second-year midfielder Delaney Labonte looked to add to her team-leading two goals on the season, sending the ball into dangerous areas as UVM looked to counter.
Vermont eventually broke through via a goal from fourth-year forward Cricket Basa only ten minutes into the contest. After sprinting down the wing, the Vermont native slotted home the opening score into the far left corner of the goal, forcing the Black Bears into recovery mode early on. Basa looked to beat fourth-year Maine goalkeeper Kira Kutzinski again at the 17-minute mark, but had her strike parried away.
With the attacking contingent dealing with the wet conditions, fourth-year Black Bear defender Julia Mahoney unleashed a shot from distance that forced Vermont goalkeeper Lydia Kessel into a save only five minutes after Basa’s chance. Switching the tempo again, Vermont’s third-year midfielder Frances O’Donnell found herself in space alone and sent a shot toward Kutzinski, who preserved the deficit with a great reactionary save.
Maine regrouped and charged back up the field to press Vermont in, nearly equalizing the score when fourth-year forward Gaby Panagakos’s strike at the 38-minute mark whistled just over the bar. UVM answered with a chance of their own, when first-year forward Kate Bossert had her shot from close just barely kept out with a phenomenal kick save from Kutzinski just before halftime.
Heading into the second half the Black Bears were down 1-0 and the mission was clear for them: get back in control of the match. Early on in the second half, Maine’s play mimicked that of a team that would end up on top at the end of 90 minutes. Labonte had a chance to score on a volley about eight minutes into the half, before a long looping ball from third-year defender Halle Rogers rolled past everyone, nearly tying up the score.
Vermont took back control of the game with authority only minutes later after a brilliant dummy from first-year midfielder Bailey Ayer led to a completely uncontested goal from fourth-year midfielder Alyssa Oviedo, making the score 2-0 in favor of Vermont. The Black Bears weren’t going to roll over and give up that easily though, and they made that very obvious soon after. Fourth-year forward Emma Donovan came within inches of cutting the lead in half when her 60-minute header bounced by the post.
Defender and fourth-year captain Tiana Bucknor used her cannon of a leg to deliver free-kicks from a distance throughout the half, causing mayhem in the opposition’s eighteen-yard box. Maine continued to search for an answer, with Donovan coming the closest of any Black Bear during the game when her shot from in-close was kept out after an acrobatic lunge from Vermont’s Kessel. With 20 minutes to play, opportunities were beginning to run scarce for the Black Bears.
Vermont’s offense was not ready to give up just yet, despite being up 2-0. A late chance from Vermont forced a save à la famous German goalie legend Manuel Neuer, as Kutzinski slid out to the edge of her box to deny a third Vermont goal with a stunning double save, keeping the Black Bears’ hopes alive.
With the whistle sounding at the 90 minute mark, Maine had officially fallen to Vermont 2-0. Post-match, head coach Scott Atherley remarked on the team’s effort. “I thought our team had really good energy, came out and we were very aggressive in their half with the press, forcing turnovers,” said Atherley. “It’s tough to win when you can’t put the ball in the net, but there were a lot of good moments we had in the game, but ultimately the outcome was based on scoring goals.”
This loss puts the team’s record at 2-4-2 heading into their next match against the University at Albany on Sunday Oct. 3 in Albany, New York.