Winslow field hockey players celebrate after they defeated Gorham 1-0 in a the 1998 Class B state championship game in Gorham. Portland Press Herald file photo

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of our series, “Remember When,” in which we revisit some of the memorable games, events, streaks and runs in high school spring sports we’ve covered over the last few decades.

Emily Roy liked to kayak, and one day in the summer 1998, the Winslow High School field hockey goalie paddled her kayak to the Oakland home of Brenda Beckwith, her field hockey coach.

The player and coach talked about the upcoming season. The previous season, Roy allowed just four goals in helping the Black Raiders win the 1997 Class B state championship.

What could she do to improve this season?

“I said, ‘Emily, why don’t you not let anybody score on you,'” Beckwith recalled. “She said ‘Yeah, that’s a good goal.'”

It wasn’t all Roy that season. Winslow was loaded from the cage to the attacking line, and the Black Raiders all did their part to make that improbable goal a reality. All fall, the Black Raiders dominated competition in eastern Maine. When Kristy Ferran (now McNaughton) scored in overtime to beat Gorham 1-0 in the Class B state championship game, the 1998 Winslow field hockey team was undefeated and unscored upon.

“I just remember how much I enjoyed having a team from goalie to the front line that was so much fun to play with,” said Ashley Sennett, a sophomore on the ’98 Black Raiders. “They were the most challenging team I faced. Our defense was just as good as our forwards. Coach (Beckwith) was so good about utilizing that in practice. How do you make players better if you don’t compete?”

Coming off a state championship the previous season, Beckwith and the Black Raiders expected to be good. They had no idea just how good, how dominant, they would be.

“The thing I remember most about is how close we all were,” Beckwith said. “They were so much fun to coach.”

That closeness extended to the players’ families. Beckwith recalled caravans of parents going to road games, standing together behind the Winslow bench at games, cheering on their team and cracking jokes.

The talent Winslow put on the field in ’98 was unmistakable. The team featured three players who would win the Miss Maine Field Hockey award as the state’s top high school player: McNaughton, who won the inaugural award that season; Sennett, who won in 2000; and Katie Flaherty (now McCabe) in 2001.

“That was not even on my radar,” said McNaughton, now a personal finance teacher at Gardiner Area High School and a fitness instructor. “I don’t think I really understood what a big accomplishment that was at the time.”

“It’s pretty remarkable now to think about as an adult, to think of three (Miss Maine winners) on one team, it’s pretty amazing,” added McCabe, who now works in real estate and coaches girls lacrosse at Winslow and field hockey at Messalonskee. “We were always competitive with each other, but we had a goal in mind. Brenda brings out your fighting instincts. Competitive, but trying to make you better.”

McCabe was a freshman on the ’98 team. As long as she matched her teammates work ethic, she wasn’t thought of as a rookie. Beckwith inserted her into the starting lineup at left back immediately, and McCabe credits Jess Smiley, a senior midfielder, for helping her grow into the position.

That’s what Beckwith did so well, Sennett said. The coach made every member of the team feel important, from the starters to the players who might only get on the field sparingly. Beckwith made sure everyone knew that everyone contributed to the team’s success.

“She gave everyone a role. She made everyone important. Brenda Beckwith’s real talent was to make the team complete,” Sennett, who went on to play field hockey at Princeton, said. “I didn’t have time to feel like a star because I was always thinking about the team. I’d never experienced that sort of thing before. I don’t think a lot of athletes get that opportunity.”

The team bonded so much, Beckwith said, the post practice contests organized by assistant coach Lori Loftus were popular among the Black Raiders eager to try whatever skill challenge Loftus cooked up. Who could hit the ball the farthest, for example.

As Winslow rolled through the regular season, chalking up shutout after shutout, it didn’t occur to them they had yet to give up a goal.

“I don’t remember it being a stressful thing. It was about winning the state championship. It was about performing the best you can perform,” McNaughton said.

There were times Beckwith would juggle the lineup, wondering if it would be better if her team gave up a goal, just to know that brief sting of failure and learn from it. It never happened.

With the start of the playoffs, Beckwith knew each team the Black Raiders faced would up its intensity to match Winslow’s.

“Playoffs, as coaches know, it’s a totally different ballgame,” said Beckwith, who is the girls basketball coach at Winslow.

Winslow forward Kristy Ferran fires a shot past Gorham goalie Adriene Whitaker in overtime of the 1998 Class B state championship game in Gorham. Portland Press Herald file photo

At the start of the Black Raiders first playoff game, a 1-0 double overtime win over Camden, Smiley turned to McCabe and made sure the young defender was focused.

“She said ‘You’re about to play the biggest game of your high school career. Are you ready?'” McCabe said.

The Windjammers came closer than any opponent to scoring on Winslow, when a shot hit the post. A win at Foxcroft Academy in the regional final set up a game against Gorham at Gorham High School in the state game.

McCabe remembers light snow falling during the state game, and the lights on illuminating the field. McCabe was behind McNaughton when she scored the winning goal.

“It was a push shot from the top of the circle,” McCabe said.

That’s more than McNaughton remembered.

“I remember the ball hitting the backstop and us celebrating,” she said.

A number of members of that Winslow team went on to play Division I field hockey in college. McNaughton and McCabe played at the University of Maine, along with their high school teammates Amie Dubois and Jamie Morin, who backed up Roy in goal in 1998. Roy went on to play at Northeastern, and Sennett at Princeton.

In 2001, Sennett and Roy met as opponents in the NCAA field hockey tournament. Sennett scored a goal on Roy in Princeton’s 4-1 win over Northeastern, remembering how she scored on her goalie in those competitive practices in ’98.

“It felt like we were practicing again,” Sennett said.

Beckwith was at the game, loving every second of watching her former players square off.

“We have those moments where you go ‘holy (crap), this is cool. That was one of those moments,” Beckwith said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 

 

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