The photo was taken Saturday evening by Gabe Souza of the Portland Press Herald. The Nokomis players are celebrating after winning the Class B state field hockey championship. Kelsey Kerstetter, No. 16, has a reaction more expressive than all of her teammates. Kerstetter is leaning back, joyously screaming at the sky, like nothing is or ever will be wrong in her world.
“My mom was like, âThat just describes your whole four years of field hockey,’ ” Kerstetter said. “It looks like a picture out of a magazine. It’s pretty sweet.”
Monday continued the celebration for Skowhegan and Nokomis. Skowhegan defeated Scarborough, 4-1 on Saturday, to win its fourth consecutive state title, and 12th in 13 years. It capped a run for the Indians in which they won all 76 games over four seasons, and outscored their opponents 483-18 in the process.
“It was one of the most exciting things of our life,” Skowhegan senior Alanna Wacome said. “Being the first senior class to go all four years undefeated was one of the best things we’ve ever done.”
Nokomis, on the other hand, had to fight through a very competitive Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B to go undefeated. Eighth-seeded Camden Hills took the Warriors to overtime in the quarterfinals, and Nokomis won 1-0 games in both the regional and state finals.
“I thought this year, every team came out really strong,” Kerstetter said. “Everybody had very skilled players.”
The Nokomis players all talk about how the Warriors had such great chemistry this fall. There were no fights, no drama. The word “family” comes up a lot when they talk about each other.
“I think this year, we definitely had a lot more teamwork,” senior Drew Graves said. “Our team had a lot more chemistry. On the field, it definitely shows if you’re not getting along. We were all there to help each other out, and be supportive when we needed it.”
Skowhegan won 10-0 in its quarterfinal game, but the Indians also played well when they were tested. They knew they had come so far since indoor play in the spring.
“We basically forgot a lot of fundamentals in the spring,” Wacome said, “and we picked them up again when we got back together.”
“We all really worked our butts off during this winter, and did all the extra drills we could,” Skowhegan senior Mikayla Toth said. “The coaches really brought it all together.”
Toth said the reason Skowhegan was so good in 2012 — outscoring its opponents 147-2 — was because they had developed a connection after playing together for so long. She said the Indians didn’t have that coming into this season, but began to show it before their first season.
Toth, a captain this season, also credited former Skowhegan stars like Nicole Sevey and Sarah Finnemore for establishing standards and carrying on the legacy of the program.
“Playing with them, you learn how to grow as people,” Toth said. “Growing up with them as role models, I think that’s helped me become the captain I am.”
The Indians won Saturday because they didn’t believe in superstition. The last time they lost a game was against Scarborough in the 2009 state final at Yarmouth High School. Playing the same team at the same place didn’t bother the Indians, and they cruised to a 4-1 victory.
Nokomis, meanwhile, believed in the power of superstition. On the way to the 2010 state final, the Warriors played a Katy Perry song and ended up beating York that day. On Saturday, the bus was again playing Katy Perry, and the Warriors beat York again. There were about 50 students and family members waiting for a reception at the high school after the game, and no shortage of congratulations on Monday, when the state champions were back in the classroom.
“We were all so excited to go back to school (Monday),” Graves said. “Everybody was like, âCongratulations! Great job!’ We’re very lucky to have such a supportive school.”
Both teams are reflections of their coach’s personalities. Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty can be a perfectionist, always letting her team know when they’re not playing their best, and able to encourage them to play at a higher level.
Nokomis coach Katie Thompson is also a brilliant coach, yet is younger and more prone to emotion than Doughty. Thompson will often cry when talking about how much her players mean to her and the program. That kind of emotion was evident Monday, when the Warriors had one more practice for the seniors.
“I’m always an emotional wreck,” Kerstetter said. “Coach always says she passed the crying gene down to me. Today, it was just hitting me: This is the last time stepping on the field, the last time holding a stick. It’s just sad.”
The end of the season was bittersweet for Skowhegan, too.
“It hit (me) on the way home,” Wacome said. “I was like, âWow. This is the last time I’m ever going to play with this team.’ I’ve known them my whole life. They’re a part of me.”
Many of the seniors on both teams are planning to play field hockey in college, or at least considering it. One quote that resonated with a lot of players came from Skowhegan junior Rylie Blanchet, who Tweeted Monday afternoon, “Seems weird not to be practicing right now.”
“I’ve played since I was as little as I can remember,” Toth said. “Growing up with everybody and playing field hockey has just been a part of my life, and I want to continue it right through. It really is like a lifestyle for us.”