FAIRFIELD — It took only one game in Class A for Mt. Blue field hockey to show it could make the move from Class B.
In their season opener, the Cougars drew Lawrence, one of the top contenders this year in Eastern A.
Mt. Blue, which finished 8-6 but out of the playoffs last year in Class B, turned up its offense in the second half and posted a 2-1 victory on goals by Krista McClatchy and Victoria Newbill.
“Class A’s way more intense and every team’s going to be a team to beat,” said Newbill, a junior forward. “So this just gives us a good start and it shows people that we’re coming from Class B, but we’re ready to play.”
Lawrence, an Eastern A semifinalist last fall, was playing without Nia Irving (ankle), one of its top defensive players, and right wing Julia Lawrence (shin splints), one of its top offensive players. Mt. Blue came out flying in the first half, earning four penalty corners in the first nine minutes. Lawrence coach Lisa Larrabee called timeout at that point, and the Cougars had only one corner the rest of the game.
Though the play was even in the first half overall, Lawrence held a 1-0 lead at the break on a goal by Kapriece Dahms. Alexis Chamberlain delivered a nice pass off a free hit, and Dahms was able to deflect the ball past the dive of Mt. Blue goalie Rileigh Blanchet with 17:38 left in the half.
“They were beating us to the ball the whole first half, and we just picked up our intensity the second half, and started to attack like we can,” Mt. Blue coach Jody Harmon said.
Lawrence goalie Emily Tozier preserved that lead with a fine save in the early minutes of the second half, but the Bulldogs lost the lead on a play where they had a decided offensive advantage. On a penalty corner, a Lawrence back inserted the ball. That wouldn’t have been a problem unless the insertion pass went by everyone and to about midfield — and that’s what happened. Suddenly Mt. Blue had a breakaway with Lawrence short-handed on defense, and McClatchy scored to tie it up with 21:20 to play.
“My left half inserted it, and we did upright, standing hockey: Three of us, standing and swinging the stick to receive the ball,” Larrabee said. “Worst-case scenario, and they were down in the other end, 5-on-2.”
Mt. Blue’s game-winner also came on a thunderbolt. Jenna Bullen passed the ball to Newbill, who was standing just inside the top of the circle. Newbill swatted a perfectly-placed reverse-stick shot into the right corner of the cage with 15:11 left.
“I would say when I do a reverse chip, it just happens,” Newbill said. “I don’t really think about it. I just see it and I go. It’s like a blur, and then it just went in.”
Even with less than four minutes to play, Mt. Blue still moved nine players across midfield on offensive charges. That nearly came back to bite the Cougars, as Lawrence got a breakaway before losing the ball in the circle on a dangerous stick call.
“We’re going to play aggressive, no matter what,” Harmon said. “We don’t ever want to hold back, or hesitate. In that instance, where we got beat, we didn’t rotate back the way we were supposed to, and that’s a good lesson to learn.”
Blanchet had a standout game for the Cougars, while Hanna Deon and Kyrie Harnden each thwarted Lawrence attacks in the final minutes. The Bulldogs now play Lewiston on Saturday and Cony on Tuesday, and Larrabee is looking for her young team to bounce back.
“We seem to have a theme that we want to score goals, so I would like to see more pride in defense,” Larrabee said.
College field hockey
Bates 8, Thomas 2: Caroline Falcone scored five goals and Lexie Carter added a pair to lead the Bobcats in Lewiston. Claire Markonic also scored for Bates (1-0) while Danielle Pierce had two assists.
Erica Blake and Brittany Premo each scored for the Terriers (1-2).