READFIELD — It may take a while before the Gardiner field hockey team receives a serious test this season.

After a successful preseason that included wins against Class A Messalonskee and Cony, the Tigers jumped into the regular season Thursday with a 9-0 win against Maranacook.

The host Black Bears, who compete in Class C, were no match for the Tigers, who are expected to compete for the Class B North title this season.

“I’ve got a lot of girls who are just now beginning,” said Maranacook coach Ashley Work, who played high school field hockey for Gardiner. “Playing a team like this is good for us. We’re learning the basic skills. We’re taking a lot more out of games like this.”

The Tigers starting lineup played about 10 minutes of each half before coach Sharon Gallant went to her bench, and they inflicted some serious damage.

“We’ve been trying to strengthen up our forward line,” senior midfielder Jillian Bisson said. “The backfield is filled up but our main problem this year was finding forwards that are aggressive and go to the ball and score.”

Aggressive play and scoring were not a problem Thursday. Junior Maggie Bell scored three goals, including two in the first five minutes, by attacking the cage from the left wing. Bell started up front a year ago but spent the off-season perfecting her skills at a Futures camp among other things.

“In the beginning of the season, we really weren’t sure what we were going to do for positioning but I feel like we’ve found it, and we’ve definitely become stronger,” Bell said.

Bell has been one of the preseason surprises for her coach.

“Her skill level has changed drastically,” Gallant said. “She’s really made the commitment to be a better player.”

Bell had plenty of help from her teammates. Sada Chaisson scored a pair of goals while Sarah Faust, Haley Brann and Kristen Ladner all scored.

Gardiner goalie Alyssa Gould was the loneliest player on the field as the Black Bears didn’t register a shot and penetrated the 25-yard line just once.

Maranacook goalie Alyssa Pratt faced constant pressure and responded well with 22 saves on 31 shots.

“For being pounded as hard as she did, she saved a lot of (shots),” Work said. “I can’t ask any more of her.”

Gallant was able to play her reserves for most of the first and second halves and they responded well.

“First game it’s always good to get all of your people in and spread the wealth,” she said. “It’s different than when you practice against each other.”

The Tigers host Leavitt on Tuesday but don’t face the predicted top teams in Class B North until the end of the season. Maranacook hosts Erskine on Tuesday.

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