LITCHFIELD — After winning the Class C state championship last season, Winthrop is trying to find its groove in 2019.

On Monday, the Ramblers had to grind out 1-0 victory over Oak Hill in an MVC field hockey contest. Maddie Perkins deflected in an Abbie Ross shot with 3:35 remaining in the first half.

Head coach Jessica Merrill knows it’s still early in the season and players are still getting adjusted, especially players who may be playing a little more this season.

Oak Hill junior Makiya Culp deflects a pass from Winthrop’s Bella Littler during a Class C South field hockey game Monday in Wales. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

“We had to replace a lot (of players),” Merrill said. “A lot of the girls are still learning their spots and what their responsibilities are. I definitely saw that on Friday (against Lisbon) and again today. We aren’t there yet and we will get there. They are still a little unsure of going for it, but they did enough.”

Merrill hopes the junior class, who has been with the team for two seasons, will step up in the coming games.

One thing that will be on the docket for Winthrop this week in practice is penalty corners. In the first half the Ramblers (3-0) had eleven, and 15 for the entire game. Not much offense has been generated this season from those chances.

Oak Hill (1-1) had three corners in the game.

“Friday, we took 18 corners and didn’t get a shot off and today we looked better,” Merrill said. “We got a few more shots off, but it’s about getting comfortable with each other and a person stepping up (to take a shot).”

With 12 minutes remaining in the first half, a timeout was called and that’s when Merrill changed tactics on penalty corners. She let Perkins insert the ball into play and that gave the attack more scoring chances in the circle.

Perkins’ goal came right near the net off a corner. Ross’s initial shot went under legs and sticks before Perkins was able to change the ball’s direction past goalie Kiara Levesque.

“We changed up the formation we were in and we switched up some of the corners and started doing different corners,” Perkins said. “Getting (balls wide) was working better, we started doing that and then we started to execute.”

Oak Hill coach Betsy Gilbert knew it was only a matter of time before the Ramblers would finally convert on their chances.

“I think it was their (11th) in a row or whatever it was, I was ’Okay, they are bound to score now,’ and that’s the one they scored on,” Gilbert said. “I mean it was a good shot coming across. It went from both sides of the circle. It was a good executed plan they had.”

Gilbert was pleased with the way her team defended Winthrop overall on corners.

In the first half, the Raiders had a hard time moving the ball, especially with Desirae Dumais and Adelle Surette being doubled-teamed.

After a few halftime adjustments Oak Hill was able to even out the possession time in the second half. The game was mostly played between the 25-yard lines.

“We (stated) that we had to be closer together,” Gilbert said. “In the first half we were too far apart and we were relying on our frontline and forwards to carry that ball themselves down the field. We were lacking that support and we made shifts in placement where we had girls — we talked about how we needed to be closer in proximity to be able to pass that ball.”

Both teams had chances in the second half to pick up that crucial second goal of the game. Levesque made some key saves down the stretch for Oak Hill, along with solid defense by her teammates.

Oak Hill junior Makiya Culp, front, collides with Winthrop defender Bella Littler during a Class C South field hockey game Monday in Wales. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Levesque made 10 saves for Oak Hill, while Madison Weymouth made four saves for Winthrop.

The Raiders’ best chances came in the final five minutes. Winthrop had two penalty corners in the final two minutes that basically killed the clock and the Raiders’ chances to tie it up.

“We did well hanging with them, our defense was pretty solid. I have no idea how many corners they had, but we shut them down on all but one,” Gilbert said.

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