FARMINGTON — Before the start of the season, University of Maine at Farmington women’s soccer coach Molly Wilkie had one piece of advice for Kayla Tuttle: Have fun.

A Waterville native, Tuttle is trying to take that advice to heart. A junior co-captain for the Beavers, Tuttle admittedly puts pressure on herself to succeed, and at times last season, that pressure came at the expense of just enjoying the game.

“This season, I’m just trying to focus on having fun, playing my role, distributing the ball, making goal scoring opportunities. I’m definitely having more fun this year than last year,” Tuttle said. “I put pressure on myself a lot of times. It’s just goals I set for myself, and I try to do the best that I can.”

Entering Tuesday game against Colby College, Tuttle led the Beavers with four goals and two assists for 10 points, good for fourth in the North Atlantic Conference in scoring.

“She played well for us last year, she just didn’t have the stats. I just want to make sure she’s having fun. She works so hard. She’s intense in the best way,” Wilkie said. “But with that comes pressure, mostly from herself, I think.”

As a freshman in 2010, Tuttle had four goals and eight assists, and earned first team all-conference honors. Last season, Tuttle was chosen second team all-NAC. She had three goals and two assists, and Wilkie felt that Tuttle may have tried to do too much. This season, Wilkie urged Tuttle to simply play her role.

“She doesn’t have to do everything for us, even though she can,” Wilkie said.

Tuttle scored three goals in the season opening 10-1 win over Wheelock. The first came when Tuttle tapped the ball into the left corner of the net on a breakaway. Her next goal was also into the left corner, while Tuttle lifted a shot from 18 yards out to complete the hat trick.

“I didn’t play center mid in high school, so I’m kind of learning a new position,” Tuttle said.

Added Wilkie: “A lot of times, we want her to set up a teammate, but she has the freedom to do things.”

As a senior at Waterville Senior High School, Tuttle was the Class B state champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

“I do miss track. If they had it here, I’d probably do it, but soccer was my first sport I played. It kind of stuck with me,” Tuttle said.

The Beavers finished sixth in the conference last season, and lost in the first round of the league playoffs, to Husson. With the return of co-captain Renee Brown, a junior defender who missed 2011 with an injury, Tuttle feels UMF can improve.

“I think we have some great potential this season,” Tuttle said. “I’m excited to see what we can do this year.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]