WATERVILLE — Thomas College men’s soccer coach Chris Parsons knew his team’s record to start the year wasn’t great. And really, he didn’t care.

“We had a really tough schedule at the beginning. We wanted to test ourselves,” said Parsons, whose Terriers began the year by dropping two of their first three matches. “We wanted to test ourselves early so we could make adjustments come conference (play).”

The Terriers’ last two opponents have seen exactly what Parsons was talking about. Thomas has quickly turned into a North Atlantic Conference bulldozer, the latest example coming Tuesday when the Terriers trounced Maine Maritime Academy, 7-1, at Smith Field.

Coming on the heels of a 10-0 throttling of Johnson State, Thomas (2-2-1), which led 6-0 at halftime Tuesday and got a hat trick from sophomore forward Josh Emard, is beginning to look every bit like the playoff teams the school has regularly churned out in recent seasons — if not better.

“We’re playing for a national championship,” Parsons said. “We feel that this group is a very strong group. … That’s our expectation as a coaching staff.”

The coach’s confidence trickles down to the players.

“It’s great putting some goals in the back of the net after the rough start,” Emard said. “This team, it’s definitely the most talented team I’ve been on. We had a great 11 last year, but I think this year we’ve got a complete team.”

Thomas’ teams before this season have been pretty good themselves. The endings, however, were a different story. The Terriers have made the Division III tournament four of the last six seasons, but stalled there, never able to get out of the first round. So Parsons set about toughening up his squad, scheduling a difficult start to the season that included a game against No. 11 UMass Boston, a 3-2 double-overtime loss, and games against St. Joseph’s (1-1 tie) and Colby (1-0 loss).

The team shook off the losses with the rout of Johnson State, and Parsons said there’s been a different vibe since.

“The team is finally coming together,” Parsons said. “We have 12 new players on the team this year. It took us a little bit for the chemistry to get together.”

The team that took the field against MMA (1-4-1) had all the makings of an oiled machine. The Terriers shredded the Mariners defense with outside speed, using long through balls that gave the forwards on the receiving end clear — if not wide-open — looks at the net.

The first goal came when Willie Clemons buried the rebound of an Adam LaBrie shot in the sixth minute. It was 2-0 in the 12th after DJ Nicholas headed in a beautiful pass up field from Nawfal El-Antri, and 3-0 in the 16th when Thomas sent passes through the MMA defense after a Mariners corner, culminating in a pass from Nicholas to Bermudan London Steede-Jackson — there are nine on the team — for an easy score.

The rout continued as the half went on. A tripping call set up Steede-Jackson’s penalty kick in the 18th minute, a defensive error left Emard all alone in front of the net for a goal in the 26th, and another instance of MMA over-pursuing the ball left Emard open to strike again for a 6-0 lead in the 39th.

MMA got a goal back in the 75th minute when Dalton Moore buried a long cross from Erik Andreasen, but Emard raced past the Mariners’ backs for a loose ball and then fired it past keeper Joshua Reeks (seven saves) in the final minute of play to set up the final margin.

“They know how to work the ball well. They came out with a different formation than we thought they were going to come out with,” MMA captain and former Waterville player Tim Samson said. “They got on us quick. We’ve got to come out stronger next game. Every single (game) we’ve got to come out stronger and bring it to them.”

There wasn’t much the Mariners could do Tuesday — not against a team whose confidence is starting to match its talent.

“We’re incredibly fast as a team,” Parsons said. “We have some great attacking players on this team. The depth is more than we’ve had since I’ve been here.

“We have six players (in which) any of those lines could be a starting lineup for us.”

It’s enough for Thomas to make a national impression — one the Terriers have been waiting to make the past several seasons.

“We need to show the conference that we’re the top team right now,” Emard said.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifant


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