By her own admission, first-year coach Katie Flaherty said the first half of the Husson University field hockey schedule was dedicated to teaching “new strategies and techniques” and trying to find the right combination of players.
But the Eagles finally clicked and the result is a five-game winning streak entering this afternoon’s North Atlantic Conference semifinal against Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
Husson, 7-7 overall and 4-3 in the league, is the fourth seed while Saint Joseph’s (14-3, 7-0 NAC) won the regular-season title.
In the other 2 p.m. semifinal, No. 2 Castleton State (9-9, 6-1 NAC) hosts No. 3 University of Maine-Farmington (9-7, 5-2).
The winners meet in the championship game Saturday at the home of the higher-seeded team.
Husson has outscored its opponents 19-6 in its five-game streak. The Eagles have just two seniors and one of them, Lindsay Barnes, has another year of eligibility.
“We’re bringing it together at the right time,” said the 25-year-old Flaherty, a former University of Maine star.
The Eagles have been led by five All-NAC players: first-team fullback Helen Berry of Belfast and second-teamers Jenika Kelley of Livermore Falls, Courtney Allen of Gardiner, Lorri Hiltz of Norridgewock and Jillian Morin of Manchester.
Kelley, the only player who will graduate, has made the transition from back to midfielder and, according to Flaherty, has been “one of the reasons we’re peaking right now.”
“She has gotten used to that position and is playing it very, very well,” said Flaherty.
The Husson coach has also been surprised at how influential Berry has been in the back.
“It’s amazing how much a defender such as Helen can take over a game and control the play. That doesn’t usually happen,” said Flaherty, who inherited a team that graduated “seven or eight starters” after last season.
The Eagles have a balanced scoring attack with five players scoring at least four goals.
Morin leads the team with six goals and four assists, Allen has 6 & 3 and Burnham’s Emily Woodbury has 6 & 0. Berry has 4 & 1 and Hiltz has 4 & 0.
Berry and Hiltz have each scored at least a goal in four of their last five games and Woodbury has a goal in three of the last five. Morin has scored three goals over the last five games.
The Monks have been led by NAC Player of the Year Julia Ostrowski (17 & 7) and fellow first-team selections Kayla Nowell (15 & 9) and Jillian Kimball (2 & 4).
Kimberly Glynn was a second-team pick.
Saint Joseph’s beat Husson 3-2 in double overtime Sept. 26 in Standish.
“To beat them, we’ve got to focus on our own game plan,” said Flaherty. “They play a different game than we do. We play more of a passing game while they like to hit the ball long and have their forwards run on to it.”
Leeds’ Kristen Capen has been tending the cage for the Eagles and has a 2.15 goals-against average and a .732 save percentage.
She will be opposed by Meaghan Johnson (1.34, .775).
Flaherty said it has been a rewarding season and said her players have been very coachable.
UMF has been sparked by Alyssa St. Pierre (10 & 5), Ashley Wentworth (6 & 5), Hattie Agnew (5 & 6) and Emma Deans (5 & 3) while Castleton State features Marie Amaral (19 & 3), Kealy Chipman (10 & 1), Molly Fraher (9 & 2) and Courtney Nolan (8 & 8).