Winthrop field hockey captains Izzy Folsom (3), Madeline Wagner (25), Lauren Miller (26) and Caroline Corgan (16) head to the stands with some championship hardware after they beat Dexter in the Class final on Saturday in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — For two central Maine field hockey teams and their fans, the 2023 state championship game experience wasn’t as they’d hoped; for another, it was a jubilant ending — perhaps even one that could have been considered far-fetched when practices began two and a half months ago.

You’re left in awe of the culture and perseverance of the Winthrop Ramblers, who prevailed 2-1 over Dexter in the Class C final despite fielding a team that looks almost nothing like the ones that won state titles in 2021 and 2022. At the same time, it’s hard for this neutral observer not to feel for the Skowhegan River Hawks and Cony Rams, whose respective 2-1 and 2-0 losses to Cheverus and Freeport in the Class A and Class B title games weren’t the products of inferiority or lack of will.

It’s hard for any reasonable person, though, to entertain the idea that a region that accounted for half of the teams participating in a set of state championship games did anything but succeed. They especially succeeded in the way they performed Saturday, even if the results of Saturday’s game at Lewiston High School weren’t as two of the three teams hoped.

Let’s start with Winthrop, which had the deck stacked against it this year. The Ramblers had a new head coach in Melissa Perkins after Sharon Coulton, who came out of retirement to guide the program to state titles in 2021 and 2022, stepped down again following last season. After graduating eight seniors from last year’s team and with no seniors on this year’s squad, the conventional wisdom would have been to look elsewhere when pondering who might top Class C this fall.

Instead, it’s the Ramblers who reign atop Maine field hockey’s smallest class again. Free of pressure, something Perkins stressed for a team that’s returning its entire roster next season, Winthrop just focused on playing field hockey — something a program that’s now won six straight regional championships and four of the past six state titles does exceptionally well.

“We have a resilient team with great coaches,” said junior phenom Madeline Wagner, who scored both goals for Winthrop in the victory. “Our coaches are new this year, but they really stepped up to the plate and coached us really well. The rest of the players — the sophomores and the freshmen — they stepped up this year to fill those gaps, and they did an amazing job.”


The heart of it all has been Wagner, who is unequivocally one of the state’s top-five players and will easily be in the top three in 2024. After Dexter got on the board with eight minutes remaining, the junior was determined not to let the game go to overtime. With under three minutes left, she gained possession just outside her team’s own 25, maneuvered through the entire Dexter defense and completed her move by finding the cage and producing audible gasps from those of us in the press box.

“I just tried to stay calm; we’ve been working on our stickwork a lot in practice, and I just tried to translate that over,” Wagner said. “It was totally a team effort; everyone on the team was doing their job, we were creating space, we were using the space, and my teammates being in their spots really opened the field up for me to get in there and score.

For Cony, there’s not much you can say today other than that it wasn’t meant to be. After a brilliant performance in the Class B North championship game over previously undefeated Belfast gave Cony its first regional title since 1995, the Rams simply weren’t as clinical as a Freeport team that took full advantage of a pair of clear-cut scoring chances. It’s tough to say there looked like much of a skill or talent disparity between either team, but one found the cage as the other didn’t. That’s just sports.

What’s also just sports are those unusual anomalies that deny you from time to time. Cony was relentless with its pressure and was able to generate plenty of chances to the tune of 18 penalty corners in the second half alone. None of those corners producing a goal is akin to the Houston Rockets missing 27 consecutive 3-points in the 2018 NBA Western Conference finals or Saudi Arabia beating eventual champ Argentina in last year’s World Cup despite having just two shots on goal — play out the same scenario 1,000 times, and you likely wouldn’t see it again.

Freeport defenders guard the net on a penalty corner. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Although that might be tough for the Ram faithful to take solace in this right now, they can rest assured that the state of this Cony is just as strong as it was when the day began. With just three seniors, the Rams could very well be back in this position in 2024. Caroline Hendrickson and Abby Morrill, two of Cony’s top players throughout these playoffs, will return to lead the Rams next year. Helen Dineen and Natalie Dube aren’t going anywhere, either, nor is goaltender Avery Maxim.

“I’m really proud of them,” said an emotional Holly Daigle, Cony’s 14th-year head coach, following the game. “They achieved the goal they set at the beginning of the season, making it to states. It obviously didn’t end the way we wanted to, but I’m incredibly proud of this group.”


As for Skowhegan, the River Hawks have been the standard in Maine high school field hockey for as long as Paula Doughty has been at the helm of the program. They extended their streak of regional championships to 22 this year with a dominant playoff run before it took a goal with just 58 seconds remaining for a powerhouse Cheverus team to deny them.

When the annals of Maine high school field hockey are complete, this Cheverus team of the post-COVID era will stand among the best to ever play the game. The Stags are an astonishing 53-1 over the past two seasons and have turned the state’s strongest programs into mincemeat on a regular basis en route to winning two of the past three Class A state titles.

Although Skowhegan isn’t a program that settles for anything less than state championships, perhaps some of the best proof of the program’s staying power has been its ability to go toe to toe with that Cheverus team. After a bitter 4-1 to the Stags in the state final two years ago, the River Hawks provided the only blip on their otherwise-sterling résumé of the past three seasons by beating them 3-2 in last year’s rematch. This year, all that separated the two teams was a goal in the final minute. That’s a program that, champions this year or not, is on as solid footing as ever.

“These battles with them are a lot of fun; they’re a great team, and they play great defense,” Cheverus head coach Theresa Arsenault said of Skowhegan. “They have a lot of strong girls, and they stay really low and keep moving. You get by one of them, and they’ll have somebody else right there. … We knew they were going to push us today; it wasn’t going to take anything less than the full 60 minutes.”

“It sucks — nobody likes to lose — but we worked hard,” added Skowhegan senior Masyn Atwood. “We’re Skowhegan field hockey, and that’s not going to change.”

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