The University of Maine-Fort Kent men’s soccer team had a record-setting year last fall by winning 21 games, collecting its first-ever NAIA Tournament victory and denting the NAIA national top 25 poll.
They eventually lost to No. 4 Ohio Dominican 7-0 in the Sweet 16 to wind up 21-1.
Third-year coach Bill Ashby and his Bengals have picked up where they left off last year with five consecutive victories to run their regular-season winning streak to 24 games.
And they are now ranked 13th in the nation, their highest ever.
“We’re better than we were last year,” said Ashby, whose program has gone from a nonscholarship situation to the equivalent of 2.2 scholarships this season. “We’re stronger in the back and we have better depth.”
One of their triumphs came at the expense of nationally ranked Savannah College of Art and Design (Ga.), 2-1, in Fort Kent.
“We have a lot more depth and what I like most about our team is everyone is more committed,” said sophomore striker Andre “Shorty” Anderson, the NAIA Region X Player of the Year last season when he scored 27 goals and dished out 12 assists.
Anderson’s 3.29 points per game and 4.0 shots on goal per game led the nation’s NAIA Division I scorers and his 1.29 goals-per game was second-best.
“We’ve been training much harder and with a lot more effort. We know what it takes [to be successful at the national level]. We want to be more competitive at the national level,” added the dynamic 5-foot-5 Anderson, who has six goals and three assists already. “We want to be more competitive at the national level.”
“We’re also more experienced now and we have [more] character on and off the field,” said junior midfielder and team captain Emlyn Jacoby, who has four assists after tallying 18 to go with five goals last season.
Jamaica native Anderson and South African Jacoby were among four Bengals who played for Ashby and the Maine Sting in the competitive National Premier Soccer League this past summer.
“I enjoyed it. It pushed us to a new level [of competition],” said Jacoby. “It was high-intensity every game.”
“Playing competition like that can only make you better,” concurred Anderson.
Ashby has strengthened his team by moving striker Barrington Blake to sweeper and attacking midfielder Damion Stone to stopper and both have been outstanding, according to the coach. Right back Oniqueky Samuels and left back Spencer Jacoby, Emlyn’s brother, have been rock solid, also.
UMFK has allowed just one goal and that was a penalty kick.
Sophomore Giovanni Sinclair and senior Derick Plourde supply the Bengals with quality goalkeeping.
The ever-dangerous and highly skilled midfield features Jacoby and converted outside midfielder Luka Odak in the middle where they provide a “great presence,” according to Ashby.
Speedster Dwayne Smith and sniper Jarryd Phillips play on the outside.
Phillips has three goals and Smith, who had nine goals and seven assists last year, has two goals.
Anderson is joined up front by 5-7 freshman Keith Williams II, who has six goals and two assists and leads the team with 20 shots on goal.
Sophomores Henley Comrie (2 & 0) and Walford Stewart (1 & 2) and freshman Jermaine West (2 & 0) give Ashby three more dangerous attackers off the bench.
Husson coach Seth Brown, whose Eagles lost to UMFK 3-0 last weekend, said the Bengals are definitely better than a year ago and have the potential to be “very good.
“They have more depth, more speed and more confidence than last year. They’re very technical. They play hard. They’re very confident on the ball. They’re fun to watch,” said Brown.
Hip surgery sidelines McCue
Former Hampden Academy basketball standout Daniel McCue, now a sophomore point guard at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will miss this season with the Engineers as he undergoes surgery on both of his hips.
McCue underwent laparoscopic surgery on his right hip last Thursday in Nashville, Tenn., to correct a condition known as femoroacetabular impingement that involves the relationship between the hip bone and associated cartilage.
The surgery was performed by Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd, founder of the Nashville Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center and team doctor for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
Similar surgery on McCue’s left hip is scheduled for Dec. 21.
McCue’s father, Carl, said his son is back at MIT recovering from the initial surgery and taking classes while awaiting his second surgery. Several months of physical therapy will be required in the aftermath of the surgeries, but Carl McCue said Daniel is expected to make a full recovery and rejoin the Engineers’ basketball team for the 2009-10 season,
Daniel McCue played in some pain throughout his high school career at Hampden, where he was a four-year starter who helped the Broncos win the 2005 Class A state championship and a second straight Eastern Maine Class A title in 2006.
McCue, an engineering major at MIT, played in all 26 of the Engineers’ games last season, including six starts. He averaged 8 points per game while shooting 82 percent from the free-throw line and 37 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in conference play.
He subsequently was named the team’s rookie of the year.
MMA’s Allen candidate for award
Becca Allen, a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, has been nominated as the North Atlantic Conference representative for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.
The honor recognizes outstanding female student-athletes in Divisions I, II and III who have excelled academically and athletically while demonstrating exemplary community service and leadership.
Last fall, Allen was named the captain of the Mariners volleyball team and helped lead them to the program’s first North Atlantic Conference title and NCAA tournament berth. The Bucksport native also was honored as a Scheel Scholar symbolic of the outstanding student in each major at MMA.
Allen, a CoSIDA Academic All-American, graduated Summa Cum Laude in May.
“Becca Allen is the absolute epitome of the true student-athlete,” MMA athletic director Jim Dyer said in a press release. “She was one of our top students, an Academic All-American, received our highest community service honor, was an all-conference player and our female athlete of the year.”
Allen is serving this fall as an assistant volleyball coach at MMA, where she is pursuing a graduate degree.
To be eligible for the NCAA honor, the student-athlete must have earned a varsity letter and competed during 2007-08. Each individual must have completed intercollegiate eligibility in her sport and must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.5.
The top 10 nominees in each division will be announced later this month.