DEXTER — With a tradition of postseason success, late October and early November is usually when the Dexter field hockey team is roaring.
The defending Class C state champions took the first step in defending that title Wednesday, getting two goals from Shelbee Lancaster as coach Margaret Veazie’s club breezed to a 4-0 quarterfinal victory over eighth-ranked Hall-Dale of Farmingdale.
Top-seeded Dexter (14-1) takes on either Mattanawcook of Lincoln or Winthrop in a Saturday semifinal while Hall-Dale finishes the season 4-10-1.
It took a little while for the Tigers to get their attack going, but when Lancaster swept home a Libby Kain pass with 18:32 left in the first half, it was clear Dexter was on its game.
“Everyone just kind of had the first playoff-game jitters, but once we got going and got our flow together it was definitely better,” said Lancaster.
The experienced and more skilled Tigers controlled possession throughout the match and consistently attacked the cage. They were rewarded with 14 penalty corners to Hall-Dale’s two while outshooting the Bulldogs 26-1.
Just over three minutes after Lancaster’s first goal, Kirstie Mower recorded an unassisted tally from just inside the circle.
“All season I’ve been working on not swinging and missing the ball, so I put my stick on it and threw it in the goal,” Mower said.
Lancaster’s second goal came 1:31 into the second half, with Chelsea Lougee getting the assist. Lisa Conway blistered in a shot from the right corner at the 20:09 mark to conclude the scoring.
“I just kind of looked for an open spot and just cranked it because I saw that nobody was blocking me,” Conway said. “Mrs. Veazie is always yelling at us to go for the corner so I took the opportunity.”
Dexter’s struggles in the first few minutes were mainly attributed to the fact that the Tigers have had no game action since their regular-season finale on Oct. 9.
“Once they settled down they started passing like crazy,” Veazie said.
The Bulldogs are a young squad with six freshmen. The Tigers’ experience, particularly on defense with Lancaster, Devyn Bell, Chelsea Crane and goalkeeper Maicee Gustin, all seniors, helped keep the Hall-Dale attackers at bay.
“We’ve had a tough defense all season,” Lancaster said. “I think they have a relatively young team and our defense is full of seniors and we’re very experienced back there. We know how to handle this kind of intensity.”
Dexter’s passing and stick work also stood out, which is where the 11-day layoff sort of paid off.
“I thought our pushes were better, I thought that our passing was better, you could see that all of that worked from all the practicing that they’ve been doing,” said Veazie.
Bulldogs goalie Kayla Barton lived up to her school’s nickname in the cage, turning away 17 shots amidst relentless pressure, but the Dexter players were occasionally firing shots right into her pads.
“We just weren’t on our toes, we weren’t anticipating what the goalie was going to do,” said Lancaster. “We’d rather get that out of the way now than further down the road.”
But Veazie knows this is usually when her team shines, so she’s not too concerned.
“This is all or nothing, and they have to play, if they play good we’ll be fine, because they’re good and we’re deep,” Veazie said.