It was a feat that would have seemed unfathomable a month ago.

After dropping a 5-4 match in overtime on Oct. 2 to the University of Southern Maine, the University of Maine at Farmington women’s soccer team stood at a paltry 1-8-0.

Five of the eight defeats were shutouts, and a North Atlantic Conference title seemed, at best, far-fetched.

But the Beavers believed, then they achieved.

UMF went 7-4-0 in its next 11 contests, highlighted by a 3-1 victory over Thomas in the NAC title game Sunday in Waterville. It was the first conference title in 15 seasons for the Beavers, who clinched a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.

UMF (8-12-0) will play Middlebury College in a first-round game Saturday in Vermont.

Beating Middlebury (15-1-2) will not be easy. The Panthers won the New England Small College Athletic Conference after edging Williams 1-0 on Sunday.

Then again, nothing has come easy for the Beavers this season.

“Any day that we get an opportunity to play, we’re psyched,” UMF head coach Molly Wilkie said. “To get one more game, we’re feeling good about it and we’ll just take it moment by moment, just try to stay in it and enjoy the opportunity and soak it all in.”

UMF had plenty of confidence this fall after going 7-11-0 last season, including an appearance in the NAC quarterfinals.

But the Beavers started 0-7-0, and were outscored 28-3 in that stretch. UMF finally broke through with a 2-1 victory over Husson on Sept. 22, but then came that overtime setback to USM.

Despite the slow start, the Beavers stayed focused.

“I think we just stayed the course,” Wilkie said. “Before the season began — part of our vision for the season — we wrote out ‘We will be NAC champions.’ That’s a big goal, but it’s something that this team fought for. Every day, after every loss, we said ‘We’re building toward something. We’ve got to stay in it.’ It’s a credit to the team that they bounced back after every tough game — after all the adversity — and they just knew we were good enough to win the championship.”

Sophomore forward McKenna Brodeur, a Messalonskee graduate, paced the Beavers on Sunday with her team-leading 21st goal of the season.

“We just fought, we fought to make it through (the season),” Brodeur said. “There’s always going to be those (regular season) battles, and we just wanted to come out on top. We just had great attitudes, cheering for each other, we wanted to do so well. I think that really helped us through it.”

UMF also received tough, physical play from Waterville graduates Morgann Tortorella (junior back) and Lydia Roy (senior midfielder), who found just enough room to score the final goal in the NAC title game to clinch the crown.

“I think we stopped putting too much pressure on ourselves and over-thinking everything (earlier in the season),” Roy said. “I think we went into (games) with too many thoughts and having everything on our shoulders.”

The dream season continues Saturday, although UMF enters another contest as the underdog.

“I think it’s going to be tough, but it’s a great challenge for us,” Roy said.

That’s OK with the Beavers. Nothing has come easy.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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