PORTLAND — A year ago it was a crushing end to what had been a promising season for the Oak Hill High School field hockey team.

A tough double overtime loss to Lisbon ended not only spoiled a chance at an unbeaten season but also the possibility of the Raiders’ first-ever appearance in a state field hockey championship.

“It was heartbreaking,” Oak Hill senior captain Kylee Veilleux said. “It was so sad to see … all the seniors so heartbroken because they couldn’t have another chance at it.”

Friday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Veilleux and the Raiders made sure not to let another opportunity slip away against the very same Greyhounds and, in the process, made school history.

Erika Hannigan scored with 3:50 remaining in the opening half and the third-seeded Raiders tacked on two more in the second to deal No. 8 Lisbon a 3-0 defeat in the Class C South championship. The win secured Oak Hill’s first-ever trip to a state field hockey championship, where it will face Maine Central Institute on Saturday in Orono.

“We all knew how we felt last year and we didn’t want to feel that way again, so we came out even stronger,” Hannigan, a junior, said. “Lisbon is a great team and it was definitely very evenly matched, but I’m so happy right now.”

After an even first 20 minutes, Hannigan appeared to give her team the lead with 5:50 remaining in the first half when she redirected a shot from Brooke Surette off a penalty corner into the cage. The officials whistle sounded moments before the thud of the ball hitting the back of the goal, though, disallowing the score for a high stick.

“That pushed me even more to get the next one,” Hannigan said.

That next one came exactly two minutes later and this time there would be no doubt. Hannigan used some nifty stick skills to make a one-on-one move against a Lisbon defender just inside the 15-yard line before firing a shot from left to right on the ground past Greyhound goalkeeper Mikaylia Harnden.

Not only did the goal give Oak Hill a 1-0 lead at halftime, it also seemed to lift the Raiders’ confidence for the remainder of the contest.

“Getting the first goal is always the hardest,” Oak Hill head coach Betsy Gilbert said. “Theses are kids and they just need to get over their little jitters and their worries out there on the field. Once they got that (goal) then they basically controlled the game from that point in time.

“They had 30 minutes of hardcore field hockey to play. They’ve had their sights set on this day for a long time so they weren’t going to let anything happen to not get it.”

The Raiders dominated possession in the second half. They held an 8-2 advantage in shots on goal and 11-1 edge in penalty corners after intermission, with the few Lisbon tries coming in the closing minutes of the game.

Despite the constant pressure, it was not until there was just 12:38 remaining that Oak Hill finally got some breathing room when Zoe Buteau found Lexi Fuller alone along the back post off a penalty corner.

“I was very excited. I had been working very hard in practices on my tipping because I play defense but I have I have to come up on corners,” Fuller said. “Just working on that tipping has helped a lot and it was exciting to know that hard work paid off.”

The Greyhounds managed to mount a late comeback effort but a couple of nice saves from goalkeeper Abby Fuller made sure Lisbon — who knocked off No. 1 Dirigo and No. 5 North Yarmouth Academy on its was to the regional final — did not keep its improbable run alive.

Hayden Spencer added a goal with 4:55 remaining off an assist from Veilleux to add the exclamation point to the Raiders’ first trip to a state title tilt.

“This is it. This has been one team, one dream for many years in the making to get there,” Gilbert said. “Last year was our first time making it to regionals and we lost in double overtime, right here (in this round) to Lisbon and this year it was redemption.”

 

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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