KENTS HILL — Gardiner is a good enough field hockey team this year that beating the Tigers can serve as a statement of sorts. On Saturday afternoon, the team wanting to speak up was Winslow.
After three relatively easy wins to open the season, the Black Raiders were eager to show what they could do against another contender.
Winslow prevailed, as Mackenzie Winslow helped set up goals by Ciera Poulin and Brooke Haskell in a 2-1 Black Raiders victory at Kents Hill School.
“I think for both of us, it was a great game, even-matched,” Winslow coach Mary Beth Bourgoin said.
“Both teams rose to the challenge. My defense needed to see (the) pressure that they saw, and I think they rose to that.”
Due to Thursday’s and Friday’s rain, the game was moved from the swamp formerly known as Gardiner’s home field to the turf at Kents Hill. One of the big differences in the game was the way the Raiders controlled the first half.
Winslow (4-0) went up 1-0 just 7:05 into the game by capitalizing on a penalty corner. Mackenzie Winslow was tied up in a stick-ball-stick lock with a Gardiner defender for what seemed like five minutes before finally getting the ball free and sending a shot off the pads of Gardiner goalie Emalee Couture. The rebound went to Poulin, who fired it in for the goal.
That was the only score of the first half, as Gardiner went into the break with one shot and one penalty corner. Many of Gardiner’s attempted shots never got to Winslow goalie Delaney Wood because they were blocked by Winslow defenders.
“We have a crazy strong defense,” Winslow said. “Without the defense, it’d be really hard. They’re always circling back, cutting. They’re always on their feet and it’s great. And our goalie’s awesome.”
“I certainly think their defense stepped up today and played really well,” Gardiner coach Moe McNally said. “They shut us down on our long runs. They marked tight in the circle. Other than Nokomis, we haven’t played a team that marks that tightly, which tells us that our forwards have got to move a little bit more. Second half, we started moving, and got some more shots.”
The Tigers did get more shots in the second half, but still had trouble denting Winslow’s defense. At one point, the Tigers nearly got through, but after a long scrum, Poulin came away with the ball for Winslow. Less than two minutes later, The Raiders did everything right on their penalty corner. Poulin inserted the ball to Bethany Winkin, who made a short pass to Winslow, who slid a pass to a wide-open Haskell on the left side. Haskell scored and it was 2-0 with 19:22 to go.
“We told them, ‘That was like a click. Take a picture,’” Bourgoin said. “That one was just perfect. It was executed the way you envision it happening.”
Gardiner (3-2) had another chance when the Raiders lost the ball on another corner and Madeline Reny broke free down the right side. But Winkin slowed her down and Katie Smith knocked the ball out of bounds. The Tigers scored with 8:46 remaining, when Nickyia Lovely snuck behind the Winslow defense to gather in a long pass from Reny and put in a close-range shot.
The only other scoring chance for the Tigers came with 1:30 left, when Smith intercepted a pass from Lilly Chepke to Lovely. Meanwhile, Couture was called on to make four saves in the final four minutes.
While Winslow is undefeated and No. 2 in the Eastern C Heal points, Gardiner has two one-goal losses. Still, the Tigers are No. 3 in Eastern B.
“We’ve got some improvements to make,” McNally said. “Our sophomores are coming along. I’m real happy with where we are. As I said to the kids, we’re going to continue to improve. We’ll be a different team at the end of the season than we are right now.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243