Mt. Blue’s field hockey season started with what looked like a fluke at the time — a 2-1 victory over Lawrence in Fairfield. Looking back, it was really a sign that the Cougars were ready to make a move this fall.

Mt. Blue sits at 11-3 and third in the Eastern A standings. The Cougars will host No. 6 Cony at 3 p.m., Wednesday in a quarterfinal. Pretty impressive stuff, considering Mt. Blue coach Jody Harmon’s goal in August was simply to make the playoffs.

“That was our No. 1 goal, is to have postseason play,” Harmon said. “I definitely didn’t know that it was going to get to this point. We just fought every game and here we are.
“They’re very competitive and they don’t give up, so that’s brought us a long way.”

If you look around the field, it becomes less surprising that the Cougars are where they are. Rileigh Blanchet is a standout in goal. In 10 of her 14 games, she’s allowed one goal or posted a shutout. Sweeper Hanna Deon has been consistently strong all season.

“She seems to always stop that ball when you really need her to,” Harmon said.

In the midfield, Jenna Bullen and Taylor Hollingdale have been standouts. So have forwards Sarita Crandall and Victoria Newbill.

Harmon has kept things relatively simple with this team. She stresses getting to the ball first, stopping it and controlling it.

“The No. 1 thing in the game is you beat the other team to the ball,” she said. “It’s the little things that add up to make the big plays.”

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Alphabetically, the six seniors on the Nokomis roster are Kayla Braley, Drew Graves, Kelsey Kerstetter, Taylor Shaw, Kendra Underhill and Lindsay Whitney. That half-dozen has been the backbone of the team this year. Nokomis ended the regular season unbeaten and untied in 14 games.

“Coming into the season, I knew I had a pretty strong group of senior leaders,” Nokomis coach Katie Thompson said. “I did know, depending on their leadership, the team could have great success. So I think they’ve really stepped up to the plate and taken on the challenge.”

Asked which ones in particular were strong leaders, Thompson said, simply, “All six of them.”
“That’s what I was so enthusiastic about at the beginning of the season,” Thompson said. “They’ve all started since sophomore year. They’re really smart kids, they’re great students, they’re great leaders, and they’re great athletes.”

Nokomis hosts Camden Hills next Thursday in an Eastern B quarterfinal. Before that the Warriors have a scrimmage against Foxcroft, the team that knocked them out of the Eastern B playoffs last fall. Foxcroft is the No. 1 seed in Eastern C this season and has not allowed a goal this year.

One key component to the success Nokomis has had this season is Braley. After playing as a center back in the past, Braley moved into the open center midfielder position, and has played so well there that she has held that role all season.

“Part of the thing that I really like about Kayla is she’s really defensive-minded,” Thompson said. “She also can offer us the offensive pressure when we need that, too.”

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There have been two distinct parts to Lawrence’s season. The Bulldogs lost on opening day to Mt. Blue, then ripped off eight wins in a row. A heart-breaking 3-2 overtime loss to Messalonskee on Oct. 1 started a down stretch, and the Bulldogs are 0-4-1 over their last five games.

The good news for the Bulldogs is that none of that matters. Lawrence still secured a first-round home playoff game, and hosts Oxford Hills next Thursday in the Eastern A quarterfinals. Lawrence defeated the Vikings 1-0 on Sept. 21 at Thomas College.

“We had a down stretch, and we didn’t bounce back, so what we’re doing different is — it’s a whole season,” Lawrence coach Lisa Larrabee said. “We’re approaching it as a fresh start.”

The Bulldogs have scored a total of two goals over their last four games. Even considering that the first two of those games were against superb defensive teams in Skowhegan and Messalonskee, you still have to score to win. Larrabee said the Bulldogs have tweaked their formation in preparation for the playoffs.

“We need to score and we need to score more than one goal,” Larrabee said. “We need to have a sustained attack and have more of a presence on attack.”