YARMOUTH, Maine — An almost full moon hadn’t yet begun to materialize in the overcast sky, but the Dexter Tigers endured plenty of frights and had to utilize a couple of tricks before earning a big treat on an usually balmy Halloween Saturday.
The Tigers were outshot 6-2 in the first half and 6-3 in the second, but still managed to score the only goal in a spine-tingling Class C state championship field hockey game and beat defending state champ North Yarmouth Academy 1-0 at the Yarmouth Community Athletic Complex.
The 15-3 Tigers wound up what head coach Margaret Veazie called a “turnaround season” with the program’s first state title since 2003 and sixth total.
“We had to work hard for this one,” Veazie said. “These kids didn’t know how to win because they didn’t win in middle school much.”
In an ironic way, Veazie has NYA to thank for the victory.
No, the Panthers didn’t make some colossal blunder like shooting at their own net, but they did inspire a solid strategy of play which Veazie employed all season, especially on artificial turf, with an eye toward a state-final rematch with the defending champs.
The Panthers’ proficiency with a short passing game on the synthetic turf, like that on the Yarmouth Community Complex field, impressed Veazie so much that she adopted it earlier this season and used it to control tempo and help the Tigers hold their own against the Panthers in the first half.
“I think they had a great short game going and we had the upper hand as far as skills and having it in their end most of the time, but it just wasn’t our day today,” said NYA coach Julia Sterling. “They took our game a little bit with their short passes. We weren’t beating them to the ball much, but they were quick off the ball and getting to it before us.”
The game became a chess match after Sterling called timeout with 20 minutes left in the first half, with each coach adjusting and readjusting to the other’s moves.
With about 2½ minutes left in the game, Dexter generated a three-shot flurry that produced Dexter’s only shots of the half, and the only goal of the game.
“They adjusted, so we went with our long passing game,” Veazie explained. “And that’s when we brought [center back Shelbee] Lancaster up into the short passing game again and that flurry resulted from it. For some reason, they have a hard time when they get thrown a different look and we noticed that last year.”
Callie Mountain started it with a shot from the left side.
“I hit it to the goalie and it bounced off,” said the senior captain. “Someone else hit it back in and it bounced to me.”
“Someone” was Lancaster. Mountain wasted no time and blasted a shot from directly in front into the net’s left corner.
Mountain’s offensive heroics would’ve been for naught if it hadn’t been for the defensive gems turned in by senior captain Kayla Libby and sophomore goalie Maicee Gustin.
With about five minutes to play, NYA unleashed a fusillade of shots inside Dexter’s 18, but didn’t score thanks to Gustin, who came out to deflect one shot, and Libby, who was the only red shirt between an NYA attacker and the empty net.
“My heart was in my throat the whole game, especially when it went right by me and Kayla saved it right at the post,” said Gustin, who finished with nine saves on 12 shots.
Sterling, whose Panthers finished 18-1, said Libby played fabulous and “really bailed them out a couple of times.”
“I was a little freaked out,” Libby said. “But this was my last game and I was not going to let them get one in.”
Mariah Farrell came up with four saves on five shots.