FARMINGTON — It took the Mt. Blue High School field hockey team almost 40 minutes to find their footing in Thursday’s game against Messalonskee, finally popping in the first goal of the season midway through the second half.

But by then the Eagles had delivered far too much junior forward Kaitlyn Smith, who’d already potted a hat trick as Messalonskee scored a 3-1 win at Caldwell Field in an anticipated season opener between the top two teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference last season.

Smith scored twice in the first half, both off penalty corners, and added her third on the counterattack just 12 minutes after halftime.

The Eagles (1-0) graduated top-level talent a year ago, and coach Kate McLaughlin had no idea it would be Smith who would step into the void left by the departure of Lydia Dexter, who is now playing at the University of Maine.

“She’s grown into that this summer,” McLaughlin said. “She stole that spot this summer and took it as hers. … It was kind of open tryouts throughout the summer and preseason, and she took it and owned it.”

For her part, Smith — a defender and a midfielder during the first three years of her career — wouldn’t entertain comparisons to last year’s Messalonskee team that advanced to the regional finals.

“We don’t compare ourselves to last year’s team, because every team is different. We’re all just trying to do one thing for ourselves and doing what we can put into the team. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

The devil is often found in the details, which Mt. Blue (0-1) coach Jody Harmon lamented in the aftermath. Too many simple things — marking, positioning, stickwork — compounded the Cougars’ slow start and the team never really recovered.

By the time senior Samantha Ellis finally put Mt. Blue on the board with 16:07 remaining, it was too little too late.

Messalonskee finished the one-sided afternoon with a 17-4 shots advantage, a 10-4 count in penalty corners and a time of possession that easily crossed over the 65 percent mark.

“We’ve got a long ways to go,” said Harmon, who had to turn to freshmen with three injured starters, including a central midfielder and a sweeper back. “We just were not doing the little things. They dug deep in the second half and didn’t give up, so I’m proud of that… but it’s a couple of inches that makes a big difference between a goal and not a goal.”

Julia Vigue made two saves to earn the win in the cage for Messalonskee, while Cougar counterpart Erica McArthur finished with nine stops.

“We focus a lot on being very aggressive,” Smith said. “That’s our main game plan. ‘Take no prisoners’ is what we always say as a team.”

Travis Barrett — 621-561

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC