There’s a fine line between setting lofty goals and reaching them. University of Maine at Farmington senior Kayla Tuttle found that balance last season for the women’s soccer team by learning to relax a little and have fun.

Tuttle led the Beavers in scoring with 13 goals and four assists, good for 30 points, and was named a first-team North Atlantic Conference all-star. This came just a year after the center midfielder scored three goals and recorded two assists.

Farmington coach Molly Wilkie attributes Tuttle’s off year to opponents realizing just how good she was after being named first-team all-conference her freshman season. Another factor was the pressure Tuttle places on her performance.

“She expects so much of herself,” Wilkie said. “At times it can seem more like work than play. She came back (last season) with a renewed sense of not putting too much pressure on herself.” That was Wilkie’s only quibble with her all-star midfielder, who she describes as an ideal teammate, whether it’s setting up a goal or offering encouragement in her role as captain. Tuttle was a similar athlete at Waterville Senior High School where she was an all-star defender for the soccer team and won state championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs for the track team. There’s no track program at UMaine-Farmington, but that hasn’t slowed Tuttle’s conditioning.

“I’m still running,” she said. “I still work hard to stay in shape.”

Tuttle’s motor, coupled with deceptive strength for her size — she’s 5-foot-4 — make her a tough matchup for opponents.

“She’s very quick,” Wilkie said. “She can sprint and recover. People see her and underestimate how strong she is.”

Tuttle admits she gets beat up in games now and then, but said that’s part of the fun playing college soccer. Wilkie said Tuttle would have had more assists last season had her teammates finished some of her passes.

“She sees things that sometimes the rest of us don’t see,” she said. “Her biggest strength is she creates opportunities for other people.”

The Beavers finished third last year in the NAC playoffs and were picked third again recently in the preseason poll. With several talented teammates returning, including forward Ava Amador and midfielder Alexandra Crocker, Tuttle thinks the Beavers could make a run at the championship.

“I always set pretty high standards,” she said. “I definitely think we can go far if we put in the work and effort.”

Work and effort have been Tuttle’s calling cards since arriving in the fall of 2010.

“She is just the best teammate,” Wilkie said. “She’s an excellent leader.”

A psychology major, Tuttle plans to go to graduate school and become a school psychologist. She also plans to become a soccer coach. First, there’s the issue of finishing her senior season.

“It’s just been a lot of fun, just getting to meet a ton of different people,” she said. “It went by fast.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com