ORONO – Goals have been hard to come for the University of Maine women’s soccer team lately. Maine entered Thursday’s America East game against Vermont having scored only seven goals in its last eight games.
The Black Bears scored only once against UVM but that’s all they needed as junior midfielder Marie-Andree Canuel’s second-half penalty kick gave them a 1-0 triumph.
Maine improved to 12-3-1 overall, 4-3 in America East. The win sewed up a top-four finish for the six-team America East tournament that gets under way one week from today.
Vermont fell to 4-9-3 and 2-3-2, respectively.
Canuel scored with 32:44 remaining after Vermont goalie Eliza Bradley tripped Laura Harper on a breakaway. Canuel’s goal was her third of the season.
Jasmine Phillips made five saves on 13 shots in posting her ninth shutout of the season. Bradley finished with eight saves on 20 shots.
It was a perfectly-timed Canuel through-ball that enabled Harper to break in alone on Bradley.
“[Bradley] was close and I couldn’t really get a good shot off so I took an extra touch to go around her and she got her foot in there and took me out,” said Harper.
Bradley labeled it a “borderline call” but admitted “I did kind of step on her foot a little bit and she tripped up.”
Canuel placed her penalty kick low to Bradley’s right.
“I almost had it. It was a good shot. She placed it well,” said Bradley.
“[Bradley] was more on the left side of the goal so I put it to her right. She touched it,” said Canuel.
Maine coach Scott Atherley credited Harper for creating scoring chances throughout with her work ethic.
“She was very aggressive about taking players on [one-on-one] and she got chopped in the box [leading to the penalty kick],” said Atherley.
The tenacious Bears had a decided edge in possession and won most of the 50-50 balls.
Harper, Christine LaBelle and Veronique Fleury continually pressured the Vermont back line as did Canuel.
But UVM backs Erin Pichiotino, Laura Carollo, Emilie Rowe and Whitney Gonneville played well and frustrated the Bears in the first half by timing their offsides traps precisely. Maine was offsides five times.
Atherley said they made adjustments at halftime to counter the trap and it resulted in better-timed through-balls creating good chances
“We played very well in the second half,” said Atherley.
Phillips preserved the win when Kaitlin Francis had a menacing opportunity at the top of the box that required Phillips to dive to her left and steer a shot wide with two minutes left.
“It wasn’t a great shot but it had a weird spin on it and it dipped funny,” said Phillips.
Canuel said the team came back strong after Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Binghamton.
“We circulated the ball well … better than usual in the attacking third. We created more chances,” said Canuel.
Phillips said it was an important win “because finishing in the top four was one of our team goals.”