HAMPDEN — Through 13 consecutive Eastern A titles, the same scene has played out: Skowhegan’s players dance, scream, and hug, while coach Paula Doughty nods and takes it in like someone who has been there before.
This year was different.
After Skowhegan defeated Messalonskee, 1-0, to win the Eastern A championship on Tuesday evening at the Weatherbee Complex, Doughty was beaming. She knew how far this team had come.
“Every year’s special, but we had to WORK for it this year,” Doughty said. “I’m more excited and happy this year than I’ve been in a lot of years. We started from scratch.”
Skowhegan will go for its 12th state title in 13 years Saturday at Yarmouth High School. Game times for the state finals will be determined today.
The Indians scored their only goal when Allison Lancaster converted a penalty stroke with 25:20 left in the second half. The call came after the ball hit the foot of a Messalonskee player on the goal line.
“I was very nervous when we ended up getting the call,” Lancaster said. “I tried to use my fake and I guess it worked out.”
The game was scoreless at halftime. It marked the first time all season that Skowhegan did not score on the first half. The Indians had only five shots and three penalty corners over the first 30 minutes.
“At halftime, we definitely felt good about it,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “We knew that Skowhegan was far from being done.”
“We talked about that all week,” Doughty said. “Our games, we get ahead in the first half and try to cruise through the second half. Our biggest goal today was to be a second-half team, and we did.”
As is their custom, the Indians responded to a sub-par half with an extraordinary one. After the break, Skowhegan had a 9-2 advantage in shots and 9-1 in corners.
Messalonskee goalie Abby Roberts made nine saves in the second half, but Lancaster’s dribbling and defense, coupled with the defensive presence of Mikayla Toth and Heather Lupo, kept the Eagles off the board.
Messalonskee also had to start from scratch this season, yet finished 14-3-0 after graduating most of its offensive firepower.
“Messalonskee, you gotta give them credit,” Doughty said. “They played with everything in them, and they’re great players. They really make central Maine proud. They’re a wonderful team.”
“I think there were a lot of doubts throughout the state as to how good of a team we’d be this year,” McLaughlin said. “I think we proved ourselves this year as a strong team. Next year, we’re going to come out and work on it again.”