Two of today’s field hockey regional finals at the Weatherbee Complex in Hampden match the top two seeds in their classes. Those two are also rematches of last year’s title games.
In the case of Skowhegan and Messalonskee, they’ll be playing for the Eastern A title for the fifth consecutive year. Winthrop and Dexter are meeting in the Eastern C playoffs for the third straight year, and in the regional final for the second time in a row.
The Eastern B final matches No. 1 Belfast (13-1-2) and No. 3 Foxcroft (14-2) at
The Winthrop-Dexter face off at 3:30 p.m. and the Messalonskee-Skowhegan game is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.
Skowhegan and Messalonskee are both having historic seasons statistically, partly because of the lack of parity in Eastern A, and partly because they’re both outstanding teams. The previous state record for goals by a team in one season was 116, by Dexter in 2003. Both Skowhegan, with 142 goals, and Messalonskee, with 121, have already surpassed that.
In addition, Skowhegan (16-0-0) has allowed only one goal, and Messalonskee (14-2-0) has given up eight. Messalonskee’s Kristy Bernatchez has 43 goals (45 if you include the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference runner-up game) and Skowhegan’s Makaela Michonski has 42 (47 if you include the KVAC championship game).
Both Bernatchez and Michonski are not only among the leading scorers in the country, they have both tied or beaten the old single-state record of 42 goals, set by Dexter’s Megan Fogarty in 2003. Still, Skowhegan also has five other players with at least 10 goals, led by Sarah Finnemore and Rylie Blanchet, and Messalonskee’s offense includes potent forces like Lynnae Luettich and Emily York.
Skowhegan beat Messalonskee 4-0 and 3-1 this fall. Indians coach Paula Doughty felt both teams played better in the second meeting. In both cases, Messalonskee played the Indians even or better in the first half, but Skowhegan controlled the second half.
“I think when it comes to the mental aspect of the game, we’re in a much better place than we’ve ever been going into the Eastern Maine championship game,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “We’ve got to play it like we do every game, and focus on every play a time (instead of) the ending outcome.”
The Indians have outscored their opponents 25-0 in the playoffs, and have not allowed a shot. That won’t be the case today, and Doughty said usually teams take a little while to get settled in a huge game — although she pointed out Skowhegan came charging out of the gate in last year’s regional final.
“Who knows?” Doughty joked. “They’re kids. You don’t even know whether the Patriots are going to show up. How would you know with kids?”
Second-seeded Winthrop (14-1-1) was in control for all of its 2-0 victory over Stearns in the Eastern C semifinals. The Ramblers know they’ll have to play a more balanced game today — much like they did last year in a 1-0 victory over Dexter (15-1) in the regional final.
“Our backs have had some really good games,” Winthrop coach Sharon Coulton said. “When we played Dexter in the regional last year, we played a lot of defense, and everyone was on. We need everybody to play their best game again. It’s nice when everyone chooses to do that on the same day.”
Coulton says she wants the entire team to be more defensive-minded. Even the inners on the forward line, who haven’t had to worry much about defense all year, will be more like “upper mids,” as Coulton put it.
Winthrop lost in the state final last season, and with only two seniors graduated from that group, there’s a natural desire to go one step further. But Coulton is confident her players will not be so focused on winning the state title that they overlook top-ranked Dexter today in any way.
“They’re No. 1-ranked for a reason,” Coulton said. “They’ve scored a lot of goals this season. With their tradition and their record, there’s no way you can look past them or take them lightly. If anyone is inclined to think that way, I think their teammates will straighten them out.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243