By Emilee Eustis Staff Reporter
The crowd was buzzing with excitement under the beaming sun while waiting for the UMF men’s soccer team to take the field last Saturday morning.
It was the season opener, or first conference game, for the Beavers and they were facing one of their rivals, the Mariners of Maine Maritime Academy (MMA). “We knew it was going to be a fight for 90 minutes and that this game goes a long way towards playoff standings at the end of the season,” said Tristan Price, a senior athlete at UMF. “Everyone was really excited and looking forward to the game.”
The Beavers spent two practices preparing for the challenge and focused on capitalizing on every chance they had. “We always talk about coming out of the kickoff strong and putting the other team under pressure immediately and we were able to do that,” said Price. After scoring their first goal within minutes of the game, the team was focused on not letting the Mariners offensive push take away their quick lead.
The Beavers showed a strong defensive effort, keeping the Mariners at one goal until the last seven minutes of the half when Matt Caron of MMA scored on a penalty goal. The momentum swung in the Mariners favor, and with a tied score at halftime, the Beavers were prepared for an intense start of the second half.
“[At halftime] we talked about getting the ball more wide to create more chances,” said Michael Pingree, another captain and senior athlete at UMF. “We wanted to work smarter off the ball.”
The second half started out at a fast pace with both teams focused on an offensive push. At the 25-minute mark, the Mariners used that energy to get another goal, again by Caron, putting them ahead 2 to 1.
“I think their goal in the second half kind of changed everything,” said Price. “We started throwing guys forward trying to score and we abandoned our game plan towards the end.”
In an effort to get the game back in their hands, the Beavers worked extremely hard to keep the ball on our end of the field. “With about 15 minutes left, we missed a good opportunity on net that helped shift momentum our way,” said Pingree. “From that point on we got some dangerous balls in and created many good opportunities to even the score.”
With seconds left, they had one last chance to tie the game. “Time was running down and the urgency to score was full throttle,” said Pingree. The ball reached Jake Heimlich, a Junior at UMF, and flew into the back of the net as the time ran out. The team “plead” for a penalty as one of their players was on the ground, but the referee did not agree.
The final score was 2 to 1 in favor of the Mariners, but the outcome did not discourage the Beavers. “We work extremely hard every day,” said Pingree. “We’re just looking to stay disciplined in our overall game plan, and that will make us really hard to beat.”