Connecticut native Scott Atherley first stepped on the College of Maine campus in Orono in 1984 as a soccer participant for the Black Bears.
He grew to become a workforce captain, assistant males’s coach and head males’s coach. In 1999, he coached the women and men. After that, he took over the ladies’s program solely.
Now it’s making its first journey to the NCAA Match by advantage of final Sunday’s 3-2 double-overtime win over UMass Lowell at Mahaney Diamond in Orono. The Black Bears, with an 11-1-6 report, will tackle Ivy League champion Harvard, in Saturday’s 5 p.m. NCAA first spherical sport in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Practically 40 years after he first kicked a ball on the outdated grass area in Orono, the 58-year-old Atherley is realizing a dream after dropping 11 gamers from a great workforce final season.
“It has been a aim and to see that come to fruition has been actually rewarding,” he mentioned. “The margin between profitable and dropping, particularly in our convention, may be very skinny.”
The construct as much as this championship was speedy. Two years in the past, UMaine went 3-7-4 total and 1-6-2 in America East Convention play. The Black Bears scored solely six objectives of their 9 league video games and 4 got here in a single sport.
Final 12 months, the Black Bears had a dramatic turnaround at 9-3-5 total and 4-0-4 within the convention, dropping to New Hampshire on a late aim within the America East semifinal. It was their first convention event look since 2016 and their first profitable season since 2015.
Atherley mentioned when the NCAA elevated the variety of full scholarships from 12 to 14, that damage his program as a result of it meant gamers who may have been good at UMaine went to higher-profile faculties.
However when the NCAA instituted the one-time switch rule in 2021, which allowed gamers to switch to a faculty with out having to take a seat out a 12 months on a one-time foundation, Atherley took full benefit. 5 of his starters are transfers who had been of their first seasons at UMaine.
Three of them, midfielders Lara Kirkby and Kristina Kelly and again Rebecca Grisdale, had been chosen to the all-tournament workforce and Kirkby was the Most Worthwhile Participant. Kirkby was an All-America first-team choice, and Kelly was a second-team selection.”
Simply because there are extra high quality gamers obtainable within the NCAA switch portal doesn’t imply they might contemplate Orono a vacation spot. It’s a geographic outlier. The workforce doesn’t even have its personal area, though it’s imagined to get one within the subsequent two years. It presently performs on Mahaney Diamond, the baseball area. The locker room is outdated.
“Prospects are interested in our program due to our tradition,” he mentioned. “When they’re afforded the chance to work together with our workforce, workers, school and help workers, they instantly join with our values — or not.”
Kirkby, who’s Australian, mentioned it was the gamers and the teaching workers that bought her on this system after she performed on the College of Oregon.
He mentioned his teaching model has modified “dramatically” over time to go well with the wants of as we speak’s student-athletes. The daddy of three and grandfather of 1 with one other on the best way mentioned parenthood had a significant affect on his teaching model. His gamers “perceive the worth of being cared for and recognize the chance to pursue their potential,” he mentioned.
“Having my very own kids, particularly two ladies, gave me a greater appreciation for the issues they undergo: their issues, their challenges, the issues of their lives that affect them and what they’re motivated by,” Atherley mentioned.
His son, Carson, was a standout soccer participant at Bangor Excessive Faculty who went on to play at Brown College. Daughters Teagan and Kyelin will play for Bangor within the state Class A championship sport in opposition to Scarborough on Saturday.
Atherley meets with each participant individually as soon as per week or as soon as each two weeks. A lot of that point is spent speaking about issues aside from soccer.
“It fosters good relationships and relationships are essential to workforce success,” he mentioned. “It offers an perception into what the workforce wants and what they want.”
He mentioned assistant Liis Abbott is an distinctive “relationship builder” and helps the gamers with their confidence whereas additionally working with them individually on their technical abilities. The 2 coaches evaluated this system throughout the COVID 12 months and adopted a “holistic” method.
“We felt we wanted gamers who had been explosive, aggressive and who react shortly,” mentioned Atherley. “They need to be resilient and mentally powerful. The prototypical participant on our workforce is athletic, quick, has nice perception and is shiny.”
At the start, they have to be top-notch individuals and teammates who’re “selfless.” He locations character on the prime of the checklist of mandatory traits.
His forwards can’t simply search objectives, they have to additionally defend. The backs don’t solely defend, they’re additionally inspired to stand up into the assault.
“Quite a lot of groups don’t know how you can defend you in case your heart again is up in the course of their penalty space,” he defined.
The longer term is shiny for the Black Bears, who will graduate simply two starters in goalkeeper Kira Kutzinski and outdoors again Doireann Fahey. Atherley’s incoming class is “among the many finest we have now introduced in” after current success and the promise of a brand new area boosted recruiting.
Atherley, who lives in Bangor with spouse Lynn and their two daughters, mentioned he has by no means thought of leaving and is grateful for the chance he has had at UMaine.
“This expertise has afforded me the chance to see how great this neighborhood is,” he mentioned.