Opening week of the 2015 field hockey season included a few surprises, a couple of upsets and a preview of what should be a number of competitive division races.

Lawrence, Winthrop, Oak Hill and Skowhegan — teams expected to reach the postseason once again — each suffered opening-week losses.

Skowhegan’s 3-0 loss to Messalonskee on the turf at Thomas College was a surprise in the sense that the Indians have maintained a stranglehold on the Northern Maine Class A title for 14 years in a row.

Could this be the year the Eagles break through and knock off Skowhegan? It looked that way last Friday night as they outshot the Indians 27-10 and controlled much of the play.

The teams have been rivals for the last few seasons, but the Indians have always held the upper hand. That changed some last season when the Eagles won both regular season meetings, although Skowhegan bounced back to win the division title.

“All day we were really hyped for it and we pump each other up at school,” Messalonskee senior Emily Hogan said. “It’s just really an exciting game.”

Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty conceded her team was up against a bigger, stronger and more experienced opponent, but she was happy with her team’s effort.

“We are really young,” Doughty said. “Considering how young we are and how good Messalonskee is I think we’re going to learn from this and grow from this. I think the kids know what they have to do to get better.”

The Indians matched the Eagles’ intensity if not their overall skill and got a standout performance from senior goalie Leah Kruse, who missed eight games last season with appendicitis. She finished with 13 saves, including several on diving acrobatic stops.

Skowhegan also played without senior forward Brooke Michonski, who is recovering from a concussion. Michonski finished with 23 goals and 16 assists last season and stands sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list.

There is no timetable for her return.

• • •

Autumn Littelfield scored two of Messalonskee’s goals in the victory over Skowhegan, both on hard shots off penalty corners. Littlefield was just one of several freshmen who stood out during the opening week. She admitted to a few pregame butterflies, but settled down quickly after the opening whistle. And she already felt comfortable with many of her teammates.

“We’ve played on a lot of teams together before,” Littlefield said, “and everybody’s really skilled on this steam. I think that helps and once you’re on the field everything just clicks.”

• • •

Gardiner opened its season with a pair of 1-0 victories and each of the goals was scored by freshman Madelin Walker.

“We don’t have the numbers we’ve had in the past few years,” Gardiner coach Sharon Gallant said. “We only had seven come in the year.”

The Tigers graduated 10 players, including four key starters from last year’s Class B regional championship team.

• • •

A pair of freshmen played a pivotal role in Maine Central Institute’s victory over Winslow, the first by the Huskies over the Raiders in recent memory. Victoria Friend scored the first goal in MCI’s 2-1 win while forward Madisyn Hartley made several quick runs in the offensive end, putting a lot of pressure on the Winslow defense.

• • •

Mount View got nice games from freshmen midfielder Rachelle Ravin and back Alyvia Ripley in its 3-2 upset over Lawrence. The Mustangs were coming off an opening day loss to Leavitt and facing a Lawrence team that returned seven starters from a club that went 14-3 in Class A a year ago. This year the Bulldogs dropped to Class B and are considered among the favorites in a competitive northern division.

“I have a real mixed team,” Mount View coach Gloria Hewett said. “Because I have low numbers I don’t have a lot of choices. Some are playing before they’re ready.”

Everyone appeared ready versus Lawrence and Hewett has always emphasized effort and intensity to her team.

“We talked about how hard you have to work against a team that has more skilled,” she said. “Sometimes hard work beats skill.”

The Mustangs also drew a strong game from sophomore goalie Alexis Bowman, who made 10 saves.

• • •

A long bus ride on a humid day can sap the enthusiasm out of even the best teams. That’s part of what happened to Winthrop in its 1-0 season-opening loss to Dirigo.

The Ramblers endured the hour-and-a-half bus ride to Dixfield, made longer by construction along the way, and got off the bus a little drained.

“We had a hard time adjusting,” Winthrop coach Jess Merrill said. “We just couldn’t match their intensity.”

Merrill also said first-game jitters may have been a factor, although they didn’t appear to affect junior goalie Corinna Coulton, who made 24 saves.

“She cuts down the angles extremely well,” Merrill said.

Merrill returns most of her defense but has made a couple of formation changes already in an effort to generate more offense.

“Our biggest concern is getting it into the goal right now,” she said.

• • •

Cony held high-scoring Messalonskee to a goal in dropping its opener 1-0, then bounced back to take a 1-0 decision against Mt. Blue.

“I was really impressed with our defense,” Cony coach Holly Daigle said. “A lot of these girls played together last season and they communicate well.”

Daigle was impressed with the play of junior goalie Jessica Lee who played on the JVs last season. Like many teams, the Rams need to score a few more goals, but otherwise are pleased with their start.

“We’re happy with what we’ve been able to do,” Daigle said. “But I know we’ve got a lot of improving to do.”

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