SKOWHEGAN — It might be too early to tell, but Skowhegan and Messalonskee certainly looked like the two best field hockey teams in Eastern A on Monday morning.
Skowhegan played superbly in the first half, and was one goal away from putting the game out of reach. After Messalonskee struck back in the second half, Skowhegan’s Rylie Blanchet scored with 1:10 to go to wrap up a 3-1 Skowhegan victory.
The Indians (14-0) played about as well as they can in the first half, which is a level not many teams in the state can reach. Allison Lancaster got things started when she scored just 1:40 into the game. From the edge of the circle on the right side, Lancaster drilled a perfect shot inside the left post to make it 1-0 Skowhegan.
Skowhegan scored again less than seven minutes later when a Messalonskee defender couldn’t control the ball in the circle. The ball went to Renee Wright, who fed Brooke Michonski for a 2-0 lead with 21:42 still to go in the first half.
“When Skowhegan scored so quickly, that hurt, and then the second one was a real downer,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “I think mentally, that was a really tough hump to get over for the girls.”
Messalonskee (12-2) did not get inside the Skowhegan circle until there was 5:10 left in the half, but a defensive save by Kate Levesque helped keep the Indians at two goals. Skowhegan had nine corners in the first half and 13 in the game, and consistently executed open shots off the corners, but couldn’t translate that into goals.
“Even though you have more numbers on corners, (it) doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to score,” Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty said. “I’m pleased with our corners. We have probably 15 options. I thought we were executing well today. It’ll happen.”
What finally got the momentum Messalonskee’s way was the mandatory 10-minute halftime. The Eagles regrouped, and played evenly with Skowhegan for the entire second half. Messalonskee made its move with nine minutes left, and Kylee Knight tucked a penalty stroke inside the right post to get the Eagles within 2-1 with 8:51 still remaining in the game.
“She did a great job,” McLaughlin said. “Kylee is so mentally strong that I knew she was the pick for that stroke.”
The Eagles got a couple more shots and had Skowhegan teetering, but goalie Leah Kruse made the saves. Blanchet’s goal finally iced it, and Holly Lupo preserved the two-goal margin with a defensive save in the final minute.
“It’s always the mentality that, no matter what happens, we stay together and we keep doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Lupo said. “Just stick with the basics, and stick through it and be together, and we’ll be OK.”
Lupo and her sister Heather each had solid games on defense for the Indians. Heather played the strong-stick side and cut down a couple Messalonskee rushes by herself, while Holly was a force in the defensive circle.
“Those kids have just really stepped it up for us,” Doughty said. “I thought they both played the best games today they’ve played all year.”
Skowhegan’s only two goals allowed this season have been against Messalonskee. The Indians have now won a state-record 71 games in a row, and since they can’t learn from losing, Doughty wants them to learn from being challenged.
“I wish we had no halftime,” Doughty said. “It’s hard. They’re kids, we’re up by two, and they tend to sit on the lead. They’re no different than professional athletes. We really never got it going (in) the second half. Messalonskee’s a good team, and it’s better for my kids to learn right now that you can’t sit on a lead with a team like Messalonskee. We’re going to be playing Messalonskee (type-teams) from here on out.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243