GARDINER — The Mt. View and Gardiner field hockey teams open with two of the toughest schedules around. After playing each other Wednesday, Gardiner travels to perennial power Nokomis on Friday, while Mt. View takes on defending state champion Leavitt.

But if Gardiner plays like it did in the first half Wednesday, the Tigers might be able to play with anyone this season. Lilly Chepke and Nickyia Lovely each scored a pair of goals as Gardiner rolled to a 5-2 victory.

“Either we’re not as good at this point as Gardiner is, or they stepped up a notch,” Mt. View coach Gloria Hewett said. “Because they just look a lot better than what I saw the last couple years.”

Gardiner had winning records each of the last two seasons, but also lost in the quarterfinals both years. The Tigers have higher goals this fall, and were clicking in the first half. Mt. View didn’t have a shot in the first 20 minutes, and Gardiner went to the break with a 3-0 lead.

“First half, we had a lot of communication, and that’s definitely key in a field hockey game,” Chepke said. “We talked real well, up and down the field. We wanted this more than anything, really. We knew that this was a tough team to beat, and we came out and gave it our all.”

Mt. View was a little sluggish in the first half, and Gardiner made the Mustangs pay for that. Just 5:06 into the game, Chepke fired in a long shot. That lead became 2-0 with 11:32 to go when Chepke tipped in Ellen Kelley’s shot, and 3-0 with 3:48 left when Emily Malinowski set up Lovely.

“Nobody wants to open up with Mt. View, and you don’t want to follow it up with Nokomis,” Gardiner coach Moe McNally said. “So we had to come on fast and strong, and plug some holes. We’ve got some kids who are (inexperienced), but they’re coming. Lilly’s a great example. Lilly’s just worked her tail off since the beginning of preseason to (put) herself in a starting position.”

Gardiner goalie Emalee Couture had to make a nice save late in the half, and back Abby Dunn prevented a goal with a defensive save. That foretold what was to happen in the second half, although Gardiner went up 4-0 less than four minutes in on Nicole Chadwick’s goal. Less than seven minutes later, Mt. View’s Kersey Boulay sent a pass ahead to Reanna Boulay, who had gotten free behind the defense. Couture blunted Reanna’s first attempt, but couldn’t stop her second, and Mt. View was on the board.

With 10:38 remaining, Reanna Boulay scored again, this time with an assist from Braley Leadbetter, to make it 4-2. Hewett felt improved effort was a factor in Mt. View’s improved showing in the second half.

“Hustle was a large part,” she said. “Hustle, and playing aggressively.”

Mt. View couldn’t score again, even when Gardiner had to play short-handed for two minutes because of a green card. Lovely put in the game’s final goal with 20 seconds to go, off an assist from LeeAnne Greenleaf.

“The first 20 minutes of that game, we owned it,” McNally said. “Then we had 10 or 15 minutes in there, we let them back in, and the seniors got together and said, ‘Enough.’ That’s the kind of leadership we look for from those guys.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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