WATERVILLE — To use a boxing analogy, the Skowhegan field hockey has long been kind of like Larry Holmes: Always dangerous, but if you knock them down, you’d better finish the job, because they’re going to come back even stronger.
That ability to bounce back has helped carry the Indians to 12 Class A state titles over the last 13 years. On Tuesday afternoon, this year’s Indians showed they have the ability to get back up after the other team’s best shot.
Skowhegan controlled the flow most of the game, not even allowing Messalonskee a shot over the first 45 minutes. The Eagles scored on their first shot to tie the game at 1, but Brooke Michonski sent one home less than five minutes later and Skowhegan had a 2-1 victory at Thomas College.
“Even though it’s a new team, we try to keep the same mentality,” Skowhegan senior back Mikayla Toth said. “Obviously (we’re) bringing new people in, new everything, but we always try to work hard.”
Skowhegan, which had seven new starters, improved to 3-0-0 with the win. Even though the Indians had a 28-4 advantage in shots and an 11-1 edge in penalty corners, this was a far cry from Skowhegan’s first two games, won by a combined score of 21-0.
“I always admire Messalonskee,” Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty said. “They have good stickwork, and good passing, and I thought they played a nice, balanced game.”
For much of the afternoon, the story was Skowhegan coming within a few inches of putting the game away. The Indians went up 1-0 just 12:37 into the game, when Cassidy Clement scored on a penalty corner, with assists from Toth and Renee Wright.
Messalonskee’s Mikayla Turner made two defensive saves in the first half — including one in the final minutes that several of the Skowhegan players later insisted was a goal. The Indians had another goal disallowed in the second half when Logan LeBlanc drilled one in on a corner, but the shot was ruled too high. Overall, though, Doughty was not worried about the missed opportunities.
“I think that we’re really coming,” Doughty said. “We’re starting to put it together. It’s early in the season. To get that many shots, and that many corners — we’re going to start converting them. I’m really pleased with the progress we’re making.”
Much of the reason for Skowhegan’s frustration was Messalonskee goalie Abby Roberts, who made 20 saves. Roberts stood her ground as Skowhegan’s Rylie Blanchet set up several scoring chances with accurate passes into the circle.
“This is the best game she’s ever played,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said of Roberts. “We’ve been working on a lot of different approaches for her when the ball is coming in, and she did awesome. Our defense was unreal today.”
That defense kept Skowhegan at one goal long enough for Messalonskee to draw even. The Eagles earned their first corner with 14:43 left in the game, but the insertion pass went through one player to Riley Field, who was backing up the play. Field drove a pass straight ahead to Nathalie St. Pierre, who knocked one into the right corner of the cage with 14:16 to go.
Michonski tapped in the winning goal with 9:45 left. By hustling to the cage, Michonski found the ball right on her stick after a shot bounced off Roberts’ pads. Though well-covered, Michonski quickly deflected the ball in for a 2-1 lead.
Messalonskee had one more chance with 3:40 remaining. Ashley Pelotte passed ahead to St. Pierre, who quickly found Kassi Michaud on the left side. Michaud’s hard shot got through the entire Skowhegan defense, but was barely wide right of the cage. McLaughlin said she’d like to see more of that aggressiveness, no matter the opponent.
“We just really have to work on (thinking) more offensive-minded,” McLaughlin said, “Sometimes that’s a creature of habit, playing Skowhegan. We think more defense — don’t let them score — vs. ‘Wait a minute. We can get some goals in ourselves.’ “
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243