Junior Yusuf Mohamed has seven goals this season for the University of Maine at Farmington men’s soccer team, which plays for the North Atlantic Conference championship on Saturday. Contributed photo/University of Maine at Farmington Athletics

The University of Maine at Farmington men’s soccer team has already enjoyed a historic season.

Now, the Beavers hope to finish it on top.

UMF beat Husson 1-0 in the North Atlantic Conference East Division semifinal on Sunday in Bangor. The victory sent UMF into first NAC final since it joined the conference in 2003. It was also the program’s first victory over Husson since 215.

The Beavers will play for the conference crown Saturday at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Marcy, New York.

“It feels great,” said UMF head coach Blake Hart. “I think we’ve been pushing all season to get to this point. I think most of the time, especially with UMF men’s soccer, we’re typically underdogs. But we’ve believed all year that we’re the top team in the conference. Week in and week out, we just keep proving that.”

UMF (11-4-1) dropped a 2-1 decision to the Eagles in Bangor on Sept. 11, but had no fear taking Husson on again in the semifinal.

“I don’t think in our minds it was an upset,” said UMF senior Silas Mohlar, a Maranacook graduate. “We have all the confidence in the world. Thomas and Husson are two big powerhouses in the NAC, everybody knows that. But we have a lot of confidence in our team and in ourselves.”

UMF is riding a wave of strong play, having picked up consecutive victories over Husson, as well as a 3-1 win over rival Thomas College on Saturday. Forward Cade McHugh scored in both games over the weekend, while Yusuf Mohamed and Gracien Mukwa scored against the Terriers. Senior goalkeeper Jonah Sautter, a Lisbon High School graduate, allowed just one goal over the weekend and earned a shutout against the Eagles.

University of Maine at Farmington senior Silas Mohlar moves the ball during a game earlier this season. Contributed photo/University of Maine at Farmington Athletics

“The past couple of years, we kind of hit a bump in the playoffs against Husson,” Mohlar said. “It feels good to kind of get over that hump and get into the championship game and see what happens.”

“We felt confident (going against Husson) after scoring three goals against Thomas the day before,” Hart said. “We knew that if we stayed in the game, we had a chance to win… I think when they accepted (the attitude of) ‘We’re just going to go out there and play, and if we lose, we lose. If we win, we win, great.’ I think as soon as they accepted that mindset and had the confidence, they were just free to play.”

The Beavers have found success with a mix of senior leadership and strong contributions from underclassmen. Mukwa, a freshman, leads the team with eight goals, while Mohamed is second with seven. Senior James Pelletier, a Mt. Ararat graduate, has five goals.

“Since I’ve been here as an assistant or as a head coach, this is definitely the most depth that we have had,” Hart said. “We can rely on a lot of guys, and it just takes that pressure off. Obviously, Gracien has been our (scorer), kind of leading. The last couple of games, when teams have focused on him, he’s done well changing his game and involving his teammates more.”

It’s a group that is likely to stay intact heading into next season, as the NCAA granted players an additional year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were confident coming into the year that we had the intangibles and the players to really make us successful,” said UMF junior Aric Belanger, a Maranacook graduate. “I’ve been on some really successful teams, especially in high school. Championship-winning teams. This team has something that’s a little distinct and different from my previous teams. Very, very unselfish. Seniors that are willing to do whatever it takes to win. Our seniors are a big part of our team, they really lead by example, like Silas, our two backup goalies, Josh (Castonguay) and Brad (Neal). They really lead by example. There’s just a lot of unselfishness on this team, and it really builds a strong camaraderie.”

University of Maine at Farmington junior Aric Belanger makes a play on the ball during a game earlier this season. Contributed photo/University of Maine at Farmington Athletics

To win the NAC title, the Beavers must get past a tough Wildcats (14-2-3) squad. The two teams played to a 2-2 tie on Oct. 10 in Farmington. SUNY Poly has two players who have scored more than 10 goals this season, including sophomore Noah Fagnani (11 goals) and junior Wakeley Banker (12 goals).

“We’ve got a big week for us here,” Mohlar said. “It’s big for the program, it’s big for everybody here. It’s a really exciting time for us.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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