University of Maine women's soccer coach Scott Atherley is pictured during a game at Mahaney Diamond in Orono. Credit: Courtesy of University of Maine Athletics

University of Maine women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley is planning to return to work today after missing his team’s last two games while recovering from five broken ribs suffered in a bicycle crash last Wednesday.

He is intending to make the trip to the University of New Hampshire on Wednesday for Thursday’s game in Durham, New Hampshire.

“I was biking on Hogan Road [in Bangor] and there was some new pavement that I was looking forward to riding on,” Atherley said. “I was going pretty fast and I underestimated the depth of the new pavement. My tire hit something that felt like a curb and the next thing I know I was on the ground with five broken ribs. I got the wind knocked out of me.”

He landed on his right shoulder and right side after being jettisoned over the handlebars.

He had packed his bag earlier in the day to prepare for the afternoon trip to Sacred Heart University and then to the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

“I just wanted to get a workout in before we left,” he said.

Three people stopped to help and one man put Atherley and his bicycle in his car and drove him to the emergency room at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center.

“He was a great soul. He took care of me. I’m very grateful for what he did,” said Atherley, who was stunned and didn’t remember the good Samaritan’s name.

X-rays revealed the five broken ribs on the right side but, fortunately, he didn’t suffer a collapsed lung. 

Atherley said the bike route was one he has taken hundreds of times.

The games against Sacred Heart and UMBC were the first two he has missed in his 29 years as a head soccer coach at UMaine.

Atherley had coached the now-defunct men’s team for six years, coached both the men’s and women’s teams in 1999, and then became just the women’s coach in 2000.

The doctors advised Atherley not to travel for the road trip. He noted that he wouldn’t have been much of a help to the team in his condition. 

His only assistant coach, Liis (Emajoe) Abbott, guided the team to a come-from-behind 3-2 America East win at UMBC after dropping a 1-0 non-conference decision to Sacred Heart.

Athletic trainer and sports performance coach Ben Randall accompanied Abbott.

“Liis did a terrific job,” said Atherley, who watched the games via live streams. “She managed the team exceptionally well through both games. The win over UMBC was one of the best wins we’ve had in a long time.”

UMaine erased a 2-0 deficit to score three goals in a span of 19 minutes in the second half to earn the victory.

“That showed the character of our team. They stuck with what we wanted to do and scored three great goals. It was fantastic. It warmed my heart,” he said.

The team’s 5-2-2 start is its best in several years and the Black Bears have already exceeded last year’s win total (3-7-4).

The 57-year-old Atherley, who was also a player at UMaine, has been walking to stay active.

“The biggest thing is pain management and time. The challenging thing is sleeping. It’s really difficult to get comfortable,” Atherley said.

Atherley, who was wearing a helmet, said his bike riding days on city roads may have just ended.

“I was very lucky. It could have been a lot worse.”