There were no playoffs in field hockey this season. So across the state, the goal became about something else.

For players, the goal became a perfect season. Or helping the program continue an upward trend. And sometimes, it was as simple as just appreciating the chance to play that they did have.

“At the beginning of the year, we really just wanted a chance,” Gardiner senior Kassidy Collins said. “At first, we were just really grateful for the opportunity to get to play, and I know that meant a lot to us in general. We kind of were just like ‘We got the chance, so we’re going to make the most of it.’ ”

The decision to hold the season without playoffs, and therefore without championships, hurt, especially for players on teams that are routinely in the title hunt.

“Going into it, I was super excited, but then when we found out that playoffs were a no-go, that was a super big turn for us,” said Winslow senior Karlie Ramsdell, whose team won the Class B title last year. “It was kind of disappointing.”

“I think any way you look at it, that’s going to be a letdown. Because that’s what you look forward to,” Collins said. “Especially for my team, since we won it two years ago, we were kind of like ‘We want another chance.’ And this could have been that year. Any year could have been that year.”

Cony’s Mallory Audette, left, and Messalonskee’s Shea Cassini go after a ball during an Oct. 23 game in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo Buy this Photo

It was disappointing, but not a deal-breaker. After a summer in which there were real questions as to whether or not there would be a season at all, players understood the value of getting whatever they could.

“We took every opportunity we had to play,” Ramsdell said. “I think it was enough. At least we got to play at all, so it’s better than not playing. Not playing would have really been sad.”

“I think we were all kind of upset that we couldn’t go to playoffs, but the fact that we could actually play a couple of games, I think that brought our spirits up a little bit,” said Winthrop junior Maddie Perkins, who won a Class C championship as a freshman and was a Class C finalist as a sophomore. “I think we were all just happy that we could get a couple of games in and actually get a little bit of a normal season.”

Players also had coaches helping them maintain perspective.

“For the most point, (the thought) was being grateful right from the beginning,” Winslow coach Mary Beth Bourgoin said. “We knew there were teams in the southern part of the state that were not getting the opportunity to play. They weren’t going to get a season. They weren’t even going to get one game. We took it with the attitude of we’re playing, we’re going to do the best we can, we’re going to play the best we can every game.”

There were other challenges too. With COVID cases popping up throughout the area, players went through the season knowing that at any point they could see games or practices called off or postponed, or their teams shut down entirely for a period of time.

“I think it was the uncertainty that really challenged us,” Perkins said. “It was definitely hard to get excited for a game, because we never knew (if it would happen). We didn’t want to get our hopes up, and then not have it.”

With playoffs off the table, and the normal measuring stick for a successful season not in effect, teams found a way to do the most they could with the season they had. At Winthrop, for instance, the big goal was leaving a strong program in good position going into 2021.

“I think (the goal was) building everybody up for next year,” Perkins said. “Even the seniors, they helped the younger players. Everybody worked together, even under the circumstances.”

Winslow set its sights on an undefeated season. When that was denied, the Black Raiders focused on making whatever strides they could in the games that were left.

“When that didn’t happen, our goal was just to get better and better for next season, for the underclassmen,” Ramsdell said. “We definitely took the most of this opportunity.”

It beats the alternative of not playing. Players got the chance to take the field, and after a trying summer and early fall, that was enough.

“There was kind of (a thought of) ‘What are we focusing on? What are we playing for?’ at the beginning of the season,” Bourgoin said. “But as we got going through it, it was basically looking at every game and celebrating the wins and taking on the challenges of each game. … It was definitely a change in mindset.”

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