Rhyan Sawlivich of Winthrop High School runs through drills during field hockey practice Thursday at Kents Hill School. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

WINTHROP — Pitted in different regions, the Winthrop and Maine Central Institute field hockey teams don’t meet much — but the last time they did was an all-timer.

A year ago, Winthrop topped MCI in the Class C state championship game in a contest that saw a wild final few minutes. Three minutes after the Huskies scored to tie the game 2-2 with just four minutes to go, the Ramblers scored a late winner to claim their second title in three years.

“That game was super-intense,” recalled Winthrop goaltender Madison Weymouth. “We were ahead, and then they score late, and then we put one in right before the buzzer. It was definitely a game that could have gone either way.”

Fast-forward one year later, and Winthrop and MCI are once again meeting with the state title on the line. It’s a matchup of two teams that have fought through some intense playoff games to set up a rematch that has the chance to be every bit as good as the original.

Ever since a 4-3 loss to Spruce Mountain on Sept. 21, Winthrop has been on an utter tear in Class C South. Entering Wednesday’s Southern Maine final against Lisbon, the Ramblers had outscored opponents by an average of 5.5 goals per game over the course of an eight-game winning streak.

Although No. 1 Winthrop (15-2-0) was in a different position in overtime Wednesday against Lisbon, it wasn’t fazed. The veteran Ramblers simply waited for the right opportunity — and in the second overtime period, they got it as Brooke Belz scored to give Winthrop a 1-0 win.


“We’re fortunate to have nine returning starters back from last year’s team who have played in lots of different situations, and that’s been a good part of our success,” said Winthrop head coach Sharon Coulton. “We know what it’s like to be behind or tied in a game, and we know that we have the potential to come back, and that’s always reassuring.”

Winthrop has one of Maine’s most prolific players in Madeline Wagner, who leads the team in both goals (35) and assists (17) this season. Bella Littler (23 goals and eight assists) has also been a big source of offense for the Ramblers, who have been just as solid on the defensive end with no goals allowed in their last seven games.

Winthrop players know that MCI, the No. 2 seed in Class C North, will have revenge on its mind after last year’s loss. The Ramblers’ current seniors know the feeling of having to battle back from a state title game loss to earn another shot at that trophy, something they did in winning last year’s Class C crown after losing the state final as freshmen in 2019.

“We know how big it is to have that revenge factor,” senior Emma Shuman said. “Our freshman year, we made it to states and lost to Foxcroft, and then we had to wait until junior year because of COVID. We knew what it felt like to lose after coming that far, and we were able to come back after two years and win.”

Saturday’s state title game will be Coulton’s last as head coach. Coulton first served as the team’s head coach from 1981-2012 before taking an assistant role from 2013-19, but she returned to the post last year after Jessica Merrill left to take the head coaching job at Gray-New Gloucester.

“That’s definitely a motivating factor for us,” Shuman said. “She stepped up last year to be our head coach after taking JV for a while, and we won it last year, and here we are again this year. I think it would be great for her if we could go out with another bang.”


While Coulton prepares to end her coaching career, another is just getting underway in Pittsfield, where first-year mentor Terri-Jean Wilkinson succeeded longtime fixture Nancy Hughes — who coached Wilkinson in high school — and hasnt skipped a beat. After a 4-1-1 start to the season, MCI (13-3-1) reeled off six straight wins, starting with a 2-1 double-overtime win over Foxcroft that Wilkinson cited as a key moment.

That was when they knew their ability to play as a team and what that meant, she said.

MCI senior center forward Ella Bernier, left, and senior center midfielder Jenessa Foster congratulate senior Trinity Leavitt after Leavitt scored the Huskies’ second goal during the Class C North field hockey final against Dirigo on Wednesday at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

MCI opened the C North tournament with overtime squeakers over Mount View and Dexter/Central before defeating top-ranked Dirigo 2-0 on Wednesday to claim the regional title.

Senior Trinity Leavitt has been the Huskies catalyst on offense despite coming off major knee surgery in the summer that was originally thought to keep her out until midseason. She scored both goals in the 2-1 double-overtime win over Mount View and added another in the victory over Dirigo. Classmates Jenessa Foster and Ella Bernier — who scored the other goal against Dirigo — are always nearby to protect Leavitt.

“Her nickname is ‘Tippin’ Trin’ because she has this amazing ability with her stick where it looks like she could be 5 feet away, and then, all of a sudden, she’s there,” Wilkinson said. “She’s like a big Houdini. She’s only gotten stronger the last two and a half months.”

Wilkinson has coached many of her players since they were in middle school, but sophomore goalie Chi Chi Rivera didnt take up the sport until last year.  Despite the quick learning curve, Rivera has teamed with seniors Jerzi Thompson and Hannah Robinson to backstop a defense that has registered eight shutouts.


“The recognition that she has not gotten makes me sad for her,” Wilkinson said. “She’s only going to keep killing it.”

Wilkinson has preached a one-day-at-a-time mentality. Only after the Dirigo win did she allow her players to think about the team that ended last years title hopes.

“Our girls are familiar with Winthrop,” Wilkinson said, “and that’s what we’ll be focusing on (and) what they’re bringing.”

The Class A final pits South No. 1 Cheverus (17-0-0) against North No. 1 Skowhegan (17-0-0), two teams that have been on a collision course for the state title all season long. It’s a rematch of last year’s state championship game, which the Stags won 4-1.

In Class B, there will be a first-time state champ as North No. 1 Lawrence (17-0-0) takes on South No. 3 Freeport (13-3-1). The Bulldogs won their first-ever regional title Wednesday with a 4-3 victory over Belfast in the Northern Maine final.

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