South Paris native and former Oxford Hills High School star Mikayla Morin never expected to play regularly as a freshman for the University of Maine women’s soccer team this fall.
York’s Addie Labonte didn’t have high expectations when she decided to attend UMaine four years ago.
But Morin has played every minute of every game this season at either right back or left back, and center back Labonte has played every minute for the last three seasons.
They have helped anchor a UMaine defense that has allowed only 17 goals in 17 games entering UMaine’s America East playoff quarterfinal against visiting New Hampshire at 7 p.m. Thursday.
UMaine (9-7-1) finished in a three-way tie for second with a 4-3-1 league record but claimed the fourth seed via the tiebreaker. UNH (6-9-3, 4-4 AE) is the fifth seed.
Morin and Labonte are among six Mainers who have seen significant playing time this season for coach Scott Atherley along with Bangor senior Ashley Robinson, sophomores Abby Maker of Naples and Kaitlin Saulter of Hermon, and freshman Jenna Soucy of Windham.
“It’s been kind of crazy. I was just hoping to get some minutes this year. I was going to work hard and do everything I could to play,” Morin said.
Labonte had set her sights on attending a “small NCAA Division III liberal arts college.”
“I had a Division III coach tell me I couldn’t play even at the Division III level,” said Labonte. “Maine was the only Division I school I applied to.
”I thought it was a long shot, but I took a chance, and here I am four years later. These have been the best four years of my life. I love playing with this team and the girls,” said Labonte.
Atherley has been pleased with both of them.
“Mikayla has a really high soccer IQ. She is deceptively fast, and I love her versatility,” said Atherley. “Addie is tenacious and is a fierce competitor who comes out every day wanting to prove herself.”
Morin said Labonte and senior back Noelle Leon-Palmer have been very helpful to her and the entire team has been very supportive “which has made me a lot more comfortable.”
Labonte, daughter of former Black Bears quarterback Rich Labonte, and Morin are looking forward to the UNH game.
“I grew up with that rivalry. My dad never liked UNH,” grinned Addie Labonte.
UMaine has the America East Defender of the Year for the second straight year in Leon-Palmer and the league’s Rookie of the Year in German midfielder Vivien Beil (3 goals, 4 assists). UNH has the Striker of the Year in Brooke Murphy (11 & 4) and Midfielder of the Year in Caroline Murray (1 & 8).
Beil and Leon-Palmer were chosen to the league’s First Team, and Maine senior striker Charlene Achille (7 & 2) and junior goalkeeper Claudia Dube-Trempe (0.98 goals-against average, .832 save percentage) were second-team picks. Freshman forward Anetra Byfield (4 & 0) joined Beil on the All-Rookie Team.