The Impact of Aaron Marston
By Ricky Goupille
It’s difficult to put into words the effect Aaron Marston had on everyone he encountered. But if words don’t suffice, perhaps an enormous crowd of blue and gold can help.
On Oct. 29, 2022, the University of Maine at Presque Isle Women’s Soccer team competed in a playoff game against in-state rival Husson University. But the events of that day and that week preceding the game extend far beyond the game of soccer. The UMPI women’s team took the field that day for the first time without their beloved coach, Aaron Marston.
Aaron tragically and very suddenly passed away 10 days prior to this game. “It was about as difficult a situation as anybody can imagine,” UMPI President Raymond Rice said. In the hours following the tragedy, the UMPI community showed an enormous amount of support for everyone affected by it. “Our student athletes were there for one another, and it shows the great culture we’ve built. You can’t help but be proud of the group we have here,” Athletic Director Dan Kane said.
Coach Marston took over the program in 2019. He had built the team from the ground up. His first recruiting class, now seniors, took the field that day with their hearts broken. “We knew it was going to be the hardest thing any of us have ever done,” senior Captain Monica McLaughlin said.
But behind the women who were playing in their coach’s honor was an overwhelming crowd who made the two-and-a-half-hour’s drive to Bangor to support the team. “I would guess there was probably 500 people there, and we had probably two thirds of them,” Dan Kane said.
On Husson’s home field, UMPI had the crowd.
Throughout the game, the UMPI players battled through all the emotions. “The whole team’s hearts were aching for Aaron. We felt like we were missing something throughout the entire game,” Monica McLaughlin said. The Owls fought with the best team in the conference, trailing by one goal at the halfway point. “When we ran across the field during halftime to warm up for the second half and we heard everyone cheering for us, it brought tears to every single one of our eyes,” McLaughlin said.
UMPI continued to compete but trailed 2-0 late in the game. With their season nearing its end, senior defender Kassandra Nelson hit a great free kick. Freshman Camryn Ala was able to get a touch on it and score for UMPI to bring them within one goal. In that moment, the crowd went into a frenzy. “When they scored with a couple minutes to go, the place just erupted,” Dan Kane said. “We were all just overwhelmed by the cheers coming from our fans. After we scored, I think every single one of us was crying,” McLaughlin said.
From sorrow in the days and weeks after Aaron Marston’s passing, to complete joy following Ala’s goal. Although UMPI didn’t end up winning the game, the joy in the moments after they scored shows the outpouring of support during a time of tragedy.
The community’s support, however, is a direct product of the man Aaron Marston was.