OAKLAND — Beaten by neighboring rivals in its previous two contests, the Messalonskee field hockey team craved a bounce-back game as the Eastern A playoffs opened this week.
The Eagles got it Wednesday.
Seniors Kylee Knight and Mikayla Turner scored penalty stroke goals and No. 2 Messalonskee advanced to the regional semifinals with a hard-earned 4-1 victory over No. 7 Mt. Ararat. Emily Hogan and Nathalie St. Pierre also scored for Messalonskee.
“We had two tough games back to back, with Skowhegan and Winslow,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “We had to re-group. We had to find our focus again, and I think we did.”
Added Turner: “We wanted to start out strong. We knew that this could be our last game — for the seniors anyway — forever. We had to have a new level of intensity.”
Messalonskee (13-2) will play No. 3 Mt. Blue (12-3) — a 2-0 winner over No. 6 Cony on Wednesday — in an Eastern A semifinal game Saturday. The Eagles beat the Cougars 3-0 on Sept. 14.
Mt. Ararat, which dropped its first five games of the season by a combined 29-2 margin, finished 7-8-0.
“It was one of those games you just try to survive,” Mt. Ararat coach Kelly LaFountain said. “We played really well. This is the best game I’ve seen the girls play. We were losing by quite a lot at the beginning of the season.”
Messalonskee beat Mt. Ararat 10-0 in a regular-season game Sept. 6. Both teams expected a tighter game in the rematch, and it was for the most part.
Hogan opened the scoring 6 minutes, 49 seconds into the first half when she ripped a low shot past Mt. Ararat goalie Nellie Hetherington.
“Emily and St. Pierre were working the ball down together and when Emily got it in the circle she just put a good shot on net,” McLaughlin said.
Messalonskee made it 2-0 about eight minutes later when Knight beat Hetherington with a high shot to the far side on a penalty stroke.
“We’ve had a lot of penalty strokes this season, for some reason,” Knight said. “I don’t want to tell what my strategy is on them, but there is some pressure.”
St. Pierre buried a rebound with 11:11 left in the half to make it 3-0 before Messalonskee again took advantage of a penalty stroke six minutes later.
Turner lined up to take the shot, and she aimed for the left corner. The ball banged off the post and into the cage for a 4-0 lead.
“It went in, that’s all that matters,” Turner said.
Mt. Ararat spoiled the shutout when Evangeline Jerome scored with 14:43 left in the second half.
“Messalonskee is a very tough team,” LaFountain said. “They are tough to get shots against so to score a goal against them is a big deal.”
Added Knight: “We started out strong, which was good, because we need momentum going into the next one.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640