WATERVILLE — On turf, a field hockey game can turn in an instant.

After nearly scoring a game-tying goal early in the second half, Mt. Blue High School found the ball in its own cage just 45 seconds later as top-seeded Messalonskee High School went on to deal the fourth-seeded Cougars a 6-0 defeat in a Class A North semifinal contest Saturday morning at Thomas College’s Bernatchez Field. The Eagles will now play Skowhegan for the regional title Tuesday at Thomas.

“Our running game is our strongest, for sure,” Messalonskee head coach Katie McLaughlin said. “That second goal really kind of pumped us up and got us rolling on our streak.

“We had some great saves down there in that defensive circle too and they came close a few times.”

As the game clock ticked under 28 minutes in the second half, Mt. Blue’s Hannah LeClair sent a shot toward the cage that was popped up by Hannah Minns and toward the goal. Messalonskee goalkeeper Hannah Pinney did well to shoulder the ball away from the cage and moments later the Eagles were on the attack.

Sophomore Haley Lowell got the ball just on the Cougars’ side of center and dribbled up the field, where she found an open Emily Hogan 15 feet in front of the right post for the goal with 27:04 to go in the contest. The score gave Messalonskee a 2-0 advantage and seemingly opened the flood gates for the Eagles.

“It’s so important to have that weak side and be ready for that transition,” Mt. Blue head coach Jody Harmon said. “You’ve got to be attacking and be aggressive when you’re in to score, but you have to be ready for that shift.

“Their execution in getting the ball out and getting it in down on the field is just awesome.”

A little over seven minutes later, Lowell weaved her way around defenders from left to right along the circle until she found an opening and ripped a shot from straightaway that found the back of the cage with a thud. Saige Knight and Lowell added another goal each within the next 3:20 to open things up, while Autumn Littlefield rounded out the scoring with goal with 1:59 to play.

The Eagles, who play their home games on natural grass, flashed just how dangerous they can be on turf in the second half with their team speed.

“I definitely think we’re a better turf team and we have more experience on turf, too,” said Lowell, who finished with two goals and two assists. “We’re all really quick, so that really helps with our game and our moves.”

Despite the final score, Mt. Blue kept it close throughout the first half. Each team had their opportunities early on before Nathalie St. Pierre gave Messalonskee a 1-0 lead with 17:26 remaining in the opening half off an assist from Lowell.

The Cougars managed to keep the Eagles in check for the remainder of the half, but ultimately Messalonskee and an injury to defender Emilee Eustis, a senior captain, proved to be too much to overcome. Eustis left early in the first half with a finger injury and did not return.

“Emilee Eustis was playing the game of her life and she is a big part of our defense,” Harmon said. “She’s our leader on the team and her not being out there (hurt). There’s 11 players out there on the field but it really changed the dynamics.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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