Bengals soccer teams open season with tough matches
FORT KENT, Maine — In the infancy of the soccer season, the University of Maine at Fort Kent soccer teams learned that they need to crawl before they can walk, much less run and kick soccer balls. Each team played on three consecutive days against Canadian opponents, with the men’s team competing in an additional game on Thursday against Maine Maritime Academy.
With their former head coach leaving the program with just over a week before the first scheduled game, and with only five days of practice to prepare, the women’s soccer team struggled mightily in their first week of action, according to UMFK Sports Information representative Fletcher Brown.
The Lady Bengals soccer squad went scoreless in their first two matches against Concordia University and Laval University, losing both matches. However, their knight in shining armor might have appeared in the form of new head coach, Alex Smith. Smith grew up in Jamaica and last worked at Union College. With Smith on the sideline, the Lady Bengals played Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 21, against the University of Moncton, and held their opponent scoreless late into the second half, eventually losing 2-0.
The women played hard, and they played together, creating a lot of optimism within the program and a positive outlook moving forward.
For Oniqueky Samuels and the men’s soccer team, the breaks of the game proved costly, as the first week of the season could have gone either way. In exhibition play, the Bengals tied Concordia University 1-1 on Monday evening, Aug. 19. The next day, against Laval University, goal keeper Glenroy Osbourne was called for a red card as he made contact with a Laval striker outside of the box. With only nine field players, Laval capitalized on the scrambling of the Bengals and scored three quick goals within a matter of a few minutes to close out the first half. The Bengals could not respond in the second half, eventually dropping the match, 5-0.
The Bengals showed their tenacity Aug. 21 as they responded with a 1-0 win over the University of Moncton. Nickalous Gayle scored on an assist from Travar McCollah and the Bengal defense combined to do the rest as they withstood multiple good scoring chances from Moncton.
On Aug. 22, against in-state rival, Maine Maritime Academy, the Bengals started off strongly and maintained the intensity at a high level as they cruised to a 5-0 victory. Nickalous Gayle, Ali Amin, Santiago Tovar and Ryan Merckel all scored. Merckel had an especially outstanding play as he corralled a lead pass almost behind the goal, and as he fell out of bounds he tapped it just past the outstretched hands of the Mariner goal keeper.
The challenges of the season have only just begun for the Bengal soccer squads, but the future is bright for both teams as they begin a long stretch of tough upcoming matchups, Brown said.
Submitted by the Sports Information Office of the University of Maine at Fort Kent.