BY MATT DIFILIPPO
After Skowhegan won the Class A state title in 2011, Skowhegan field hockey coach Paula Doughty told her husband that the Indians would be even better a year later.
“Little did I ever, ever imagine that we would ever turn out like we did,” she said.
Skowhegan had one of the most incredible seasons of any team in Maine high school sports history. The Indians not only won all 18 games, including the state title, they outscored their opponents, 147-2. In the state final, facing a Scarborough team that had not allowed a goal all season, Skowhegan won 3-0 and did not allow a penalty corner or a shot on goal.
For her part in Skowhegan’s season of domination, Doughty is the choice as the Morning Sentinel Field Hockey Coach of the Year. Lawrence’s Lisa Larrabee, Mt. View’s Gloria Hewett, and Waterville’s Ashley Pullen were also considered.
Seniors Makaela Michonski and Anne-Marie Provencal both said Doughty is intimidating when you first play for her as a freshman, but that changes after you play for her.
“I was definitely intimated by her,” Michonski said. “Coming into high school as a freshman and you’ve got Coach Doughty who’s got all these winning streaks — it’s intimidating. But once you get to know her, she’s not intimidating. She’s nice and compassionate.”
“I love her,” Provencal said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better coach. She’s very good with kids at explaining things. She doesn’t sugar-coat anything. She tells us how it is and how she wants it done.”
Potentially, Skowhegan’s biggest problem this season was complacency. In one stretch of four games — two of them against playoff teams — Skowhegan’s closest game was 10-0. In most of the games during the season, Provencal didn’t face a shot.
Doughty said the Indians overcame that by focusing on individual and team goals, none of which had anything to do with the final score.
“We go into every game thinking that we need to play our best,” Michonski said. “We don’t really think about who we’re playing. We think of every team as our competition, our opponent, and we have to do our best to beat them. So we always bring our A game.”
There was also a lot of interest because Skowhegan was so good. Al Mattei of topofthecircle.com had them ranked No. 4 in the country. Michonski was within range of the state’s career goal-scoring record and the national lead in goals this season. The Indians also broke the state record for goals in one season by 31.
“I was really proud of them, because once the year starts rolling along and you’re scoring all these goals, (everybody) gets caught up in that,” Doughty said. “Which is great. I’m glad there are so many people following the game who didn’t used to. But it’s really important to me to keep them out of it.”
Otherwise, Doughty coached mainly the same way she always has, and the Indians kept winning.
“She sticks with us,” Michonski said. “Even when we don’t get it right away, she still is there encouraging us, and helping us every moment of every day. I have her as a government teacher, and she’s there for her students just like she’s there for her players.”
“She does so much for the team, and the whole program in general,” Provencal said. “She likes to work with the little kids, and bring them all the way up through high school. I think it shows how much she cares about the team.”
The state championship game was a matchup between Skowhegan, holding a state record for goals, against Scarborough, attempting to become only the second team in U.S. high school field hockey history to go through a year without allowing a goal.
“I remember her just telling us to play our game, and everything would be fine,” Michonski said. “With our offense — and our whole team — I knew we were going to score eventually, where it was in the first half, second half, or the last 10 seconds. I knew we were going to score.”
Doughty turned 60 earlier this year. She has no plans to stop coaching.
“I think I’ll keep coaching until I feel I’m not effective anymore,” she said. “I’ll retire from teaching in a year or two, but I’ll keep coaching. I don’t see me retiring anytime soon. I think that I’m probably more generative right now, in terms of my coaching, than I’ve ever been.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243