BANGOR, Maine — Only one thing was on the minds of Ashley Higgins, Melissa Mower and their Bangor field hockey teammates during school Friday: Their Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinal match with Oxford Hills of South Paris.
“No one was focused in school today. We didn’t do anything, we were all just waiting for the game,” Higgins said.
Patience paid off for the third-seeded Rams in more ways than one, as Higgins scored a first-half goal and Mower played solidly in the cage as Bangor earned a 1-0 triumph at the high school field.
Bangor athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine believes the victory is the Rams’ first postseason win since the team won the Class A state championship in 1981.
Coach Sue Tyler’s club, now 10-5, awaits the winner of the Nos. 2-7 matchup of Messalonskee of Oakland and Edward Little of Auburn.
Oxford Hills, seeded sixth, finishes up 6-6-3.
Bangor came out of the gates with intensity, peppering the Vikings’ net with shot after shot and controlling possession.
The Rams finally struck at the 18:19 mark of the second half, as Higgins knocked in a rebound in front of the cage for the match’s only goal.
Bangor fired at least four shots during the sequence and Higgins, a senior left wing, took a swipe at the ball and fired it into the left side of the goal.
“They were shooting and shooting and shooting and the goalie kept kicking the rebound so I backed up a little bit and popped it in,” Higgins said.
Oxford Hills’ best chance for the equalizer came with 13:20 to play in regulation, as Ebony Mills was awarded a penalty stroke after a play in front of the cage during which she and Mower collided on a breakaway.
But Mower came up with the save, deflecting the ball away with her left blocker to preserve Bangor’s lead.
“I didn’t want to get too nervous about it, so confidence is key on that one,” said Mower, who had six saves on the afternoon.
“I didn’t want to let that one in because our offense and defense did a great job today and I didn’t want that one to come down on me.”
The Rams played hard, aggressive defense, and the Vikings had a tough time working the ball inside the circle.
“I thought the defense played really well in the second half. They were really solid, they wanted it. They were everywhere, covering each other’s backs,” Tyler said.
Fans came out in droves on Homecoming week at Bangor, as the boys soccer team and even a few football players came out before their practice and game, respectively.
“It really helps when the crowd is going wild for you,” Higgins said. “I’m on Cloud 9 right now, I think we all are.”
The win served notice to the rest of the EM Class A field hockey world that the Rams are no longer postseason doormats.
“I think its going to open a lot of people’s eyes [that] we’re not here to take it lightly on anybody anymore. We’re going to play everybody like its our last game,” said Mower.
Bangor, which outshot Oxford Hills 22-9 and had the better of the scoring chances, could have easily put a few more on the board, but the Vikes’ Mariah Kimball (13 saves) kept her team in the game with some quality stops.