Seventh-year head coach Scott Atherley and his Maine Black Bears are hoping their third consecutive trip to an America East women’s soccer final will yield a championship when they face Boston University at Nickerson Field at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Maine field hockey team will open America East tournament play today when the second-seeded Black Bears (12-6 overall, 4-1 in America East) take on No. 3 Albany (9-8, 3-2) in a 2:30 semifinal at Jack Barry Field in Cambridge, Mass. Top seed BU (13-5, 4-1) will take on No. 4 Vermont (6-11, 2-3) in the noon opener.
The championship game will be Saturday at 3 p.m.
In women’s soccer, Maine lost to BU in penalty kicks in the 2003 final before losing to Binghamton 2-0 last fall.
“Historically, our games with BU have been very close and I expect the same on Saturday,” said Atherley. “We’re going to have to develop a rhythm in our play. We’ve been working on playing quickly and predictably for each other. BU’s team speed and athleticism is very good. They’re solid in all positions.”
“We have to keep their forwards in front of us and be real patient defensively,” added Atherley.
One of the intriguing match-ups will pit America East’s Striker of the Year, BU’s Meghann Cook, against Maine’s Jasmine Phillips, the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year, and Defender of the Year Linda Consolante. Maine also had the Midfielder of the Year in Marie-Andree Canuel.
Sophomore Phillips has allowed just one goal in her career, which spans 1,000 minutes and 57 seconds, including 820:57 this season.
“She has a terrific presence,” said Atherley. “She is an incredible athlete. For someone her size [5-foot-11], she has incredible mobility and quickness. She is also exceptional at distributing the ball with both her hands and her feet.”
He also said she is a “very good organizer and communicator from the back” and she reads and understands the game very well.
Canuel is Maine’s leading scorer with nine goals and three assists. Erin Corey has 7 & 6 and Heather Hathorn has 7 & 2.
BU, which has a 10-game unbeaten streak (8-0-2), has been led by Cook (9 & 6) and Melissa Shulman (8 & 0, 4 game-winners).
In field hockey, Maine coach Terry Kix said her Bears will have to play “a consistent 70 minutes” unlike last Sunday’s 3-1 loss to BU in which they fell behind 3-0 in the first half.
“BU is the team to beat but Albany will be a handful,” said Kix, who was chosen the league’s Coach of the Year for the fourth time in 15 years.
The Bears have been led by America East Defensive Player of the Year and first-team pick Meagan Connolly (2 goals, 3 assists, 5 defensive saves), along with fellow All-AE first teamer Kasey Spencer (8 & 5); and second-team and all-rookie team choice Kim MacDonald (8 & 5). They have also been powered by second-teamers Shaunessy Saucier (6 & 4), a right wing, defender Joanna Fernandes (3 & 3) and all-rookie team choice Katy LePage (6 & 0).
Albany has been led by AE first-teamer Tina Bryson (9 & 4) and second team picks Arlette Westdorp (3 & 14) and Kristen Holder (8 & 1).
BU features Lincolnville’s Sarah Shute (7 & 3), the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.