HAMPDEN — It seems a foregone conclusion the Skowhegan field hockey team will play for the Class A state championship each fall. After all, the Indians have played in the last 15 title games, winning 13 of them.

They’ll play in their 16th straight Saturday following a 3-2 victory over Messalonskee in the Class A North championship game Wednesday afternoon.

Skowhegan (13-3-1) will face the Massabesic/Marshwood winner in the state title game at McMann Field in Bath. Messalonskee finished its season 14-3.

This game was no cakewalk for the Indians, nor was their regular season. The second-seeded Eagles dominated the game statistically, out-shooting Skowhegan 15-9 while holding a 14-3 advantage in penalty corners. But the Indians made the most of their opportunities, scoring on two of their corner attempts while the defense held fast.

“The feeling going into the game is don’t let yourself down because you always want to live up to the reputation of the people that left the year before you,” sophomore Maliea Kelso said.

Kelso scored a goal and assisted on another while freshmen Alexis Michonski and Breagh Kennedy each scored on tip-ins. Freshman Chloe Tilley and sophomore Kaitlyn Smith scored for the Eagles.

With a vocal following in the stands at Hampden Academy, Skowhegan got on the board 1:34 into the game. They stormed the Messalonskee end of the field and gained a penalty corner with Michonski tipping in a shot from Elizabeth York.

“Today wasn’t our best showing,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said “We started really slow and took a long time to get going.”

The Eagles shifted into gear about 10 minutes in and put pressure on the Skowhegan defense with three straight penalty corners.

“We knew this team was going to be very tough,” Skowhegan junior sweeper Haley Carter said. “So we just stayed low and took it out wide every time.”

Carter saved a goal when she deflected a shot from Eagle senior Ally Corbett with 17:50 left in the half but seconds later Messalonskee tied the game when Ally Turner crossed the ball to a wide open Tilley stationed to the left of goalie Leah Savage (10 saves).

The Indians would take the lead for good with 6:43 left in the half when Kelso shot through a screen of players from 20 feet out.

“Haley Thebarge pulled the defender and just ditched it to me and I scooped it,” Kelso said.

The Indians took a 3-1 lead, scoring on their second penalty corner with 27:44 left in the game. Julia Steeves put the ball in play and Kelso ripped a hard shot that Kennedy tipped past goalie Hannah Pinney (four saves).

“I wanted to keep it on the ground to get to the corner so it didn’t pop up,” Kelso said. “We really work on our corners.”

The onus for much of the second half was on the Skowhegan defense with Corbett, Lydia Dexter and Autumn Littlefield applying pressure for the Eagles.

“Tammie Veinotte and Kim Leo are our two defensive coaches and they’re amazing,” Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty said. “Kimmie played at Maine and Tammie’s been defensive coach here for 15 years. When you’ve got a team this young it really pays off.”

The Eagles drew within a goal with 9:53 left off a penalty corner. Smith entered the ball then was there at the left post to deflect a shot from Littlefield. Messalonskee had a great chance to tie the game in the closing seconds following a penalty corner, but the defense collapsed around Savage who made a kick save to preserve the win.

“I think there’s two reasons why we really came through in the tournament this year,” Doughty said. “One is we lost some games this year. Losing those games made me work harder and made them work harder. The other thing that really helped us is our tournament schedule. Going in No. 4 and playing two really good teams. Oxford Hills is no slouch and then to go in and play (No. 1) Mt. Blue we knew we were up against the wall.”


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