GARDINER – Gardiner Area High School field hockey coach Sharon Gallant realizes this year’s team may experience a few more bumps in the road than the one that won a regional championship last fall.

Graduation left four or five significant holes to fill in the lineup and each team has to develop its own personality.

Still, Gallant and the Tigers were pretty pleased with their effort against Oceanside in the Class B season opener for both teams Thursday at Somerville Field.

Freshman forward Madelin Walker scored the game’s only goal 4 minutes and 23 seconds into the second half, one dominated by the Tigers in the 1-0 victory.

“There’s some good spots and some things we need to work on,” Gallant said. “We’ve been working pretty hard this week on rotating our defense back and I thought that was better today. We missed three or four good (scoring opportunities). Those are hard to swallow.”

The Tigers held a territorial advantage in the first half when they had their best scoring chances. Senior and leading returning scorer Nickyia Lovely missed a good chance right in front and another when she fanned on a crossing pass on a penalty corner. The Mariners double-teamed Lovely for most of the game, but it did free up a couple of her teammates.

Playing her first varsity game, Walker converted a crossing pass from another first-year player, senior Bri Brochu, and tapped the ball past goalie Lauren Hoppe (six saves) at the left post.

“I was a little anxious playing my first high school varsity game,” Walker said. “I was built up with nerves in the beginning but my teammates always have my back.”

Brochu threaded a pass through a couple of defenders to Walker stationed on the far post.

“It was a perfect pass,” Walker said. “I just turned my stick and tipped it in.”

The Mariners sustained some graduation losses of their own, prompting coach Joanna Hall to move a few of her veterans around.

“I have a young defense and a new goalie,” said Hall, who moved last year’s leading scorer, Mary Allen, back to midfield. Allen and Alexis Mazaurek paid close attention to Lovely and limited her scoring chances.

“I think she’s going to see a lot of that this season,’ Gallant said.

The Tigers dominated field position in the second half and held the Mariners without a shot on goal. Senior goalie Kaylin Mansir made just one save, that coming with 37 seconds left in the first half.

“We’re a second-half team,” senior Bryce Smith said. “We were using each other and our passing was just spot on.”

Smith, who moved from center back to center mid this season, played a key role in the outcome, stifling many Oceanside chances before they even got started. Gallant made the decision to move Smith up in part because her linemates, Maddy Beaulieu and Sarah Morgan, play so well on the outside.

“She’s playing really, really well.” Gallant said. “She’s also incredibly bright. She forces things and sees the field really well.”

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