OAKLAND — Sometimes the final score and the way the game played out just don’t jibe. Lawrence spent most of Tuesday afternoon’s field hockey game with Messalonskee playing defense, and maybe the explanation is simply that Lawrence has a lot of experience doing that.

“My defense, I think, plays against one of the best offenses in the state (in practice),” Lawrence coach Shawna Robinson said. “And I think that helps my defense.”

Whatever the reason, Messalonskee had a 29-7 advantage in shots and a 17-2 edge in penalty corners, but Lawrence came away on the right end of the 2-1 final score.

“That was probably one of the most frustrating games,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “As far as game strategy, game effort, everything, I wouldn’t change anything we did. We absolutely could not get it in the goal day. We were taking the right shots. We were going in the right spots. Their goalie did an excellent job (and) their defense is always very strong, but it’s really, really tough when that happens.”

The Bulldogs had defeated Messalonskee, 2-1, in double overtime, earlier this season, and on that day, the teams looked pretty close to even. On Tuesday, Lawrence goalie Emily Tozier made 16 saves, including one on a penalty stroke, while Chelsea Ballard, Lauren Lambert, and Alexis Chamberlain all made defensive saves.

Things looked even again in the opening minutes. Messalonskee’s Brooke Quirion found herself with a mini-breakaway, and fired a nice shot past Tozier’s dive and inside the far post just 2:29 into the game. But 49 seconds later, Lawrence (11-1) tied the score on an unassisted goal by Lauren Watson.

“I think the big difference today was, they scored on us first, and we came right back and scored on them,” Robinson said. “I think that was key to their confidence. They never played intimidated today. Every time (Messalonskee) came at us, we fought back, and Emily played awesome.”

Quality defense by Messalonskee’s Kirsten Pelletier in front of the goal kept Lawrence from taking the lead, and the Eagles had a chance on a penalty stroke with 6:10 to go in the half. Tozier batted away the attempt by Ally Leighton, and the game was tied 1-1 at the break.

Barely three minutes into the second half, Messalonskee (10-2) already had six more shots. Robinson called timeout to stop the bleeding, unaware that the rest of the half would play out the same way.

But first, the Bulldogs took the lead with 24:14 remaining. Hallee Parlin’s initial shot was stopped, but Dominique Lewis was there for the rebound, and sent it in for the 2-1 lead.

“It was amazing,” said Lewis, still a bit breathless over the win. “Good work up the field. It was incredible. It just came right to me.”

“We talk about it all the time,” Robinson said. “You’re not going to get many shots against a quality team like this, so the ones that you have, you have to take advantage of.”

Right at the 20 minute mark, Messalonskee’s Emily Hogan unleashed a rocket that got through nearly everyone but was somehow stopped by Ballard on the goal line. Less than six minutes later, Messalonskee’s Saige Knight sent a great pass to Quirion on a penalty corner, and Quirion deftly re-directed the ball toward the cage, only to have Tozier move over quickly for the tough save.

For the Lawrence players, it was reminiscent of last week’s game against Skowhegan. The Bulldogs led that game by a goal for most of the second half, only to have Skowhegan tie the score in the final minutes and win in overtime.

“We all knew that that’s not what we wanted again,” said Lawrence back Emily McLean. “And I think we kind of fixed our mistakes from that Skowhegan game. We really picked up the intensity on defense and offense. Our motto is kind of, ‘Defense wins games, and everyone plays defense.'”

“I didn’t want to go into overtime, I knew that,” Robinson said. “I had enough of that stuff.”

Chamberlain played superbly after re-entering the game in the final minutes, and made her defensive save with less than four minutes on the clock. The Bulldogs ran off a good chunk of the remaining time when they earned their second penalty corner down the stretch, and the game ended with Messalonskee desperately trying to get the ball into the circle for one last shot.

“It’s scary to have them on our goal so much,” Lewis said. “But our defense has improved so much since the beginning of the season, that I completely trust them. I trust everything they do. They’re an amazing defensive team.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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