Thomas men’s soccer coach Chris Parsons has a new challenge.

The Terriers — who have won four North Atlantic Conference championships in six seasons — are dealing with some changes. First, the coach has a much bigger roster — the team entered the season with 29 players. It’s also a younger roster, as 19 of those players are either freshmen or sophomores.

“I would call it a little bit of a rebuilding year,” Parsons said. “We have a lot of new players. We have 16 returning players and 13 new players, so it’s a big group for us, a lot of young players.”

As anticipated, the Terriers — the NAC runner-up last season — are dealing with some early growing pains. Thomas is off to a 3-3-1 start after going 12-4 last season. The Terriers began the year with victories over Unity and Fisher College. But inexperience and an injury to leading scorer Adam LaBrie led to consecutive losses to Endicott, the University of New England and Colby.

Thomas snapped the skid with a 3-0 victory over Husson on Sept. 16, before settling for a 1-1 tie with Maine Maritime on Tuesday. The early growing pains have not changed Parsons’ confidence.

“It’s just taking us a little bit of time,” Parsons said. “We’re changing, a little bit, the way that we play, because of all the new guys that we have. We also have a little bit of a different look of the type of guys (the team has) this year. I think things are coming together for us now pretty good.”

Thomas carries 14 Mainers on its roster.

“This is a big group of Maine kids that are really contributing, which is kind of a transition for us,” Parsons said. “We still have a handful of those international guys, and they’re key players for us, obviously. But some of those Maine guys are the key guys now.”

LaBrie — a junior forward from Yarmouth — remains the key for Thomas offensively. He scored a NAC-best 17 goals last season, and tallied four goals before exiting the Endicott game with an injury. He returned to action in the Husson game.

“We’re expecting Adam to be a big goal scorer for us this year, just like he was last year” Parsons said.

But the new players will help LaBrie on offense, including freshmen forwards Michael Sunzari of Falmouth and Shammah Gahomera of Westbrook.

“They were rivals in club soccer,” Parsons said. “It’s kind of neat to see those guys come together, be on the same team, be good buddies and help each other in the field.”

Parsons is also pleased with how the younger players are meshing with the veterans.

“I think this is our best group — as far as that goes — since I’ve been here at Thomas,” Parsons said. “I think that piece of it has been huge for us. With the 29 guys on the roster, we tended in the past to play only 14 or 15 guys in a game. At Husson, we played the most I’ve ever played here in a game. It was 24 guys, in a competitive game…When you’re playing more guys, the camaraderie, the positivity, all those things are just greater on the team.”

And the results are starting to show on the field. Parsons added that the race to the NAC title will be tight.

“I think the top four or five teams in the conference this year are really close (in talent),” Parsons said. “That’s going to make it exciting in conference play this year.”

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The University of Maine at Farmington women’s soccer team (2-4-0) is also playing with a young roster, with nine freshmen on the roster.

The Beavers have been competitive in each game, with two one-goal defeats.

“I think for our young players there is an adjustment to the college game,” UMF head coach Molly Wilkie said. “The field of play, the physicality. We have to put them in positions where they have to do a lot for us, so overall they’ve responded very well. I’m really proud of our team as a whole, too, (the veteran players) have really welcomed the newcomers, included them and really brought them into the team.”

Young players, including freshman forward McKenna Brodeur, have started to produce. An Oakland native and Messalonskee graduate, Brodeur leads UMF with seven points and is tied with Kaiti Kinney and Waterville native Lydia Roy for the team lead in goals with two.

“McKenna has really had a big impact so far,” Wilkie said. “One of our defenders, Anna Manuel (from Mt. Ararat), she’s played almost every minute on the back line….Emi Higgins (from Hermon), she bounces from midfield to defense, but she’s been able to step in and adjust quickly. I think those three have adjusted quickly to the speed of play and play a lot of minutes for us.”

Fellow freshmen Haley Michienzi and Leah Stevens have also contributed early, with each scoring a goal.

“I’m pleased with the team we have, and the camaraderie we’ve developed on and off the field,” Wilkie said. “One of (the team’s mottos) is ‘getting better every day’ and I think we’re working toward that each day.”

The Beavers will next play Saturday at UMaine-Presque Isle.

Around the area: The Unity women’s soccer team entered Wednesday’s contest against Central Maine Community College with a 2-2 record and a two-game win streak. Both wins were by 1-0 scores over the University of Maine at Machias and Paul Smith’s College…The Unity men’s soccer team has also had recent success, entering Wednesday’s game against CMCC at 2-2-1 record. The Rams beat Paul Smith’s College 4-0 on Sept. 10, before beating UMaine-Presque Isle 3-1 on Sept. 15…The UMF field hockey team (2-3) had an offensive outburst in a 9-0 win over Wheelock on Sept. 17. Lewiston native Jenessa Talarico scored two goals, while Minot native Kyla Sturtevant added two goals. Winthrop graduate Emmah Spahr also scored for the Beavers.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer