OAKLAND – Teams that win as often as the Skowhegan field hockey team does don’t usually get opportunities for payback.

Skowhegan had one Saturday, however. And the state’s most prestigious program didn’t waste it.

Kayla Furbush, Emily Reichenbach and Alexis Michonski scored second-half goals, a defense led by Mariah Whittemore and Mackenzie McConnell was superb again, and Skowhegan defeated Biddeford 3-0 to win the Class A championship at Messalonskee High School.

Skowhegan senior Emily Reichenbach, facing, celebrates a second half goal against Biddeford with teammate Alexis Michonski (14) during the Class A state championship game Saturday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Skowhegan finished 18-0. Biddeford fell to 17-1.

“We worked really hard. I’ve never practiced so hard, we practice like we play every single day,” Reichenbach said. “I think that’s what helped us. We were just so pumped and so ready, taking it one game at a time to get us here.”

Skowhegan has played in the last 19 state championship games and won 16 of them, but one of those losses came last year, 4-3, to the same Biddeford team it was going to play Saturday.

Suddenly, the team that wins every year had a chip on its shoulder to boot.

“It was huge,” Furbush said. “We were like ‘We’re not going to lose again. We’re not going to lose two years in a row. We’re going to win this thing.’

“Everyone was all-in. No one had any doubts. We knew we were going to win it.”

That resolve didn’t show itself at first. Skowhegan was controlling play but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard as the teams went into halftime knotted at zero.

Coach Paula Doughty went to work finding a spark for her team.

“I made a couple of switches. I had (Michonski) on the wing and she was swinging at the ball, and she was wound up,” she said. “I said ‘Let’s calm you down, let’s put you in the middle.’ She’s fast as heck.”

Doughty tabbed Reichenbach to take Michonski’s place.

“Emily’s a lot different, they have different personalities,” Doughty said. “Emily’s a lot more composed. We switched it over and it made all the difference.”

And it did so right away. Only 33 seconds into the half, Michonski brought the ball up to Reichenbach, who found Furbush for a goal and a 1-0 lead.

“It was just going everywhere,” Furbush said. “It went over to me, and my first reaction was ‘Hit it in the goal, hit it in the goal.’ … As soon as it went in, I was like ‘Oh my word, we just scored. We’re up.’ ”

Skowhegan’s next goal came off a corner with 19:03 to go. Logan Wing had a shot, the ball deflected into the air, and Reichenbach was in position to bat it down into the cage.

“I saw the ball go up, and I just knew I had to get it into the cage,” she said. “I knew there were no other options.”

Skowhegan put the game out of reach with 7:11 to go when Michonski scored a goal set up by Furbush and Meredith Mitchell.

“I don’t really remember it that much,” Michonski said. “It came across, and I just was right there and no one was on me.”

While it took the offense time to heat up, Skowhegan’s defense was once again there for all 60 minutes. Doughty’s team only allowed one goal all postseason, and once again, the defense held firm in its biggest test of the season.

“I always tell the kids, if they don’t score, they’re not going to win,” Doughty said. “And sooner or later, we’re going to score.”

Perhaps no play on defense was bigger than one Whittemore made with 20:50 to play. Skowhegan was up 1-0, but Biddeford was threatening, and a shot appeared headed for the back of the cage…only for Whittemore to keep it out on a defensive save.

The rest of the game, McConnell (three saves) was poised and collected in front of the Biddeford offense and high-scoring midfielder Abby Allen.

Skowhegan senior Emily Reichenbach, facing, celebrates her second half goal against Biddeford with teammate Alexis Michonski (14) during the Class A state championship game Saturday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“It’s the same goalie as last year, except her head was in a whole different place,” Doughty said. “They threw three or four of those reverse shots on her, and she stopped every single one of them. I think that was the biggest difference.”

Doughty praised the work of the defensive unit, from the players to the staff of Kim Leo, Tammie Veinotte and Fawn Haynie that coaches them.

“My coaching staff is amazing, and I could not do this alone,” Doughty said. “Last year we scored some goals, but we didn’t keep enough out. This year we didn’t allow a goal (in the playoffs). … It’s the defense that really counts, and that’s what got us through today.”

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