BATH — Even during its staggering run of dominance — one made up of 13 state championships in 15 years, and five in the last six — Skowhegan field hockey coach Paula Doughty never doubted the mental toughness of her team.

As is the case with most juggernauts, the Indians have ample experience blowing out the competition. But Doughty knew they had the resolve to win when the narrative was different, and victory was far less certain.

“That’s what my kids do,” she said. “And I don’t know how they do it.”

The Indians did it again Saturday. Skowhegan got a goal from Allyssa Salley with only 1:17 to play, breaking a tie and lifting it to a 2-1 victory over Massabesic in the Class A championship game at McMann Field.

That’s now 14 in 16, six in seven and 17 titles total for Skowhegan (14-3-1), but getting there wasn’t a work of art. Doughty even said as much, repeatedly saying that the team came out flat for the biggest game of the year.

“People that usually are brilliant weren’t today,” she said. “I don’t know what it was.”

Until the fifth-seeded Mustangs (13-4-1) scored with 6:27 to play, that is, tying the game and putting Skowhegan’s celebration on hold. Then Doughty saw the switch flip.

“When they scored on us, my kids came back,” she said. “And that’s what they do.”

Skowhegan wasn’t dominating, but was in control after a Maliea Kelso goal gave it a 1-0 lead at halftime. Then the Mustangs, sensing the time left in their season was dwindling away, rallied. Massabesic put six unanswered corners together, as it began to have success working into the Indians defense.

“We had a lot of good chances, we really did,” coach Michele Martin-Moore said. “I think it was an (example) of ‘We only have 30 minutes left, girls. Let’s leave it all out on the field.’ … One of the captains said ‘Girls, we don’t want to just compete with them. We want to beat them.’ ”

The sixth corner came with 6:33 to play, and the Mustangs finally converted. The ball went to Morgan Pike, who tapped a pass over to Jacklyn Bearse. The junior’s shot smacked against the back of the cage, tying the game with 6:27 to go.

The Mustangs went wild. The Indians refocused.

“For five minutes, everybody’s vulnerable,” Salley said. “We’ve practiced it a lot, coming back after somebody’s scored.”

The pressure paid off with a corner with 1:28 to go. Kelso rattled a shot off the insert, and the ball was swatted away by the Mustangs defense but over to where a group of Skowhegan players were gathered. Salley had the quick stick, firing a shot home for the lead with only 1:17 to play.

“It was do-or-die. There was not long left and we didn’t have a lot of opportunities,” Salley said. “It’s great. It’s definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

While the Skowhegan players mobbed the sophomore after her goal, Doughty wondered how she got there in the first place.

“I put her in as an extra back,” she said, laughing. “How she ended up there, I don’t know.”

It turned out that Salley and another player switched up their positions during a substitution, allowing Salley to go in at midfield.

“They knew what had to be done,” Doughty said.

Skowhegan used another corner to take the lead in the first half. Julia Steeves’ insert went over to Kelso, who drilled a shot that sailed into the cage with 16:13 to play in the first half. It was another big moment aced by the sophomore, who scored in each of the Indians’ playoff games.

“I just focus on scoring,” Kelso said about handling big games. “I try not to focus on the big things. I just focus on the cage.”

That focus applied to the rest of the team as well. Particularly when it most needed it.

“It feels way cooler than you’d expect,” Kelso said. “It’s amazing to show all the work we’ve put in since last January.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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