NEWPORT — The storyline would have been wonderful for Nokomis. Coach Katie Thompson wins her 100th career game, and the Warriors advance to the Eastern B finals again despite losing two Division I field hockey players to graduation.

Instead, the storyline favored Foxcroft Academy. The underdog Ponies, who lost in the quarterfinals last fall, got two goals from junior Emily Higgins and earned a 2-1 victory Friday afternoon in an Eastern B semifinal.

It marked only the second time this season that No. 2 Nokomis (11-3-1) has allowed more than one goal in a game. In the Warriors’ other losses this fall, they out-shot their opponents, and they did so again on Friday.

In fact, the Warriors completely controlled the action in the first half. While No. 3 Foxcroft (14-2) couldn’t get into its offensive circle until the final minute of the half, Nokomis had 10 penalty corners in the first 22 minutes.

“I felt that it took us 20 minutes to get into our rhythm,” Foxcroft coach Stephanie Smith said. “The field is a lot bumpier than what we’re used to and to manage the ball was a little more difficult on our sticks. They did dominate the first half, but I knew that we could do better and that we were starting to get our momentum.”

The Ponies kept their heads above water by crowding the scoring area as much as possible. Not only did Foxcroft play fine defense on penalty corners, especially from Mackenzie Coiley, the Ponies also had all 11 players inside their own 20-yard line at times. Nokomis simply didn’t have the room to get shots through the mass of humanity and at goalie Avery Carroll.

“Certainly, their midfield support is very, very strong,” Smith said. “So we knew we had to pressure them, try not to let them get open shots on goal. Our forwards were pressuring as much as possible.”

So despite a 10-1 edge in corners, Nokomis had just a 3-0 advantage in shots and no advantage on the scoreboard. Then, when Foxcroft got three consecutive penalty corners to start the second half and Higgins scored with 25:18 left in the game, the Ponies had a 1-0 lead.

The second half overall was much more even and the Warriors twice nearly tied the score on deflections by Kelsey Kerstetter that went just wide. Nokomis did tie it up with 13:16 to go when Abbi Donaldson won the race to a loose ball and broke in 1-on-1 on Carroll before sending in the goal. It was the only shot of the game for the Warriors that wasn’t on a penalty corner.

Ultimately, Foxcroft’s execution on corners won the game for the Ponies. With a little over seven minutes to play, Monica Miles took the initial shot on a Foxcroft corner. The ball bounced in from of the cage and the Ponies had four players in front of one Nokomis defender and goalie Kendra Underhill. Fern Morrison fed Higgins and her reverse-sweep shot made it 2-1 with 7:07 to go.

“I think part of it was the amount of people they put up on their corners,” Thompson said. “They have nine kids right in the circle on their corners. That’s hard to defend for four people and a goalie.”

“They’re a lot better than the beginning of the year,” Higgins said of Foxcroft’s corners. “We’ve worked on them for at least 25 minutes each practice.”

Coiley ended the last chance for Nokomis when she broke up a penalty corner with about 30 seconds left. Even though the Warriors lost their two leading scorers from last year when Leah Edmondson and Marissa Shaw graduated, Nokomis outscored its opponents, 51-9, this fall.

“For me, this season has been a success,” said Thompson, breaking into tears. “When we started the season, we knew that we had lost a lot last year. We had a very skilled bunch of individuals, but how we were going to come together as a team was questionable at the beginning. I thought, second half of the season, the girls really did that. So from the beginning of the season, and what our expectations were initially, I think we were very successful.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

 

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