BELFAST — The sun was setting and darkness was slowly creeping in.
Third-seeded Belfast and sixth seed Foxcroft Academy battled on and on in their Eastern Maine Class B field hockey quarterfinal Tuesday trying desperately to find the back of the opposing cage.
Finally, in the 20th set of penalty corners following their regulation game (60 minutes) and two eight-minute sudden-death overtimes, sophomore Maddy Cummings fired home a Britt Mellor rebound to give Belfast a 1-0 triumph.
Belfast improved to 11-1-3 and will take on No. 2 John Bapst of Bangor, 13-2, in Saturday’s semifinals at the University of Maine’s field in Orono.
Foxcroft, playing in Class B for the first time in more than a decade after moving up from Class C, wound up 11-4 after an impressive performance.
Belfast’s defensive penalty corner unit of Katrina Lapham, Brooklyn Curry and Mellor and the Foxcroft trio of Mackenzie Coiley, Amber Anderson and Rachel Cody were superb as they pressured the opposing shooters and got their sticks in passing and shooting lanes to limit high-percentage scoring chances.
When there were scoring chances, Foxcroft senior goalkeeper Cassie Curtis and Belfast junior Julia Ward came up with clutch saves.
Belfast finally broke through when Mellor freed herself and was able to redirect a shot on goal that Curtis stopped with her pad.
“I was sitting (near) the goalie’s pads and I went to tip it in but (Curtis) got it. It went to Maddy and she swung it in,” said Mellor.
“Everyone was standing around waiting and I grabbed it and threw it in,” said Cummings.
“It went between my legs,” said Curtis.
Since Belfast went first on the penalty corners, Foxcroft had a chance to equalize but couldn’t do so and the game ended after 2 hours and 42 minutes.
Curtis made nine saves in the penalty-corner phase including back-to-back, rapid-fire gems off Mellor and Cummings in the 10th set of penalty corners.
Cummings said it was the most meaningful goal of her young career.
“I’ve never felt anything like it,” said Cummings.
Ward was forced to make just three saves in the penalty-corner stage as the Ponies had more difficulty settling the ball off the insertion pass, which would occasionally bounce over their sticks.
The Ponies’ Monica Miles had a couple of glorious previous chances in overtime.
Miles wristed a shot narrowly wide of the far corner in the waning seconds of the first overtime and was robbed in the second overtime by Belfast midfielder Emily Blood, who extended her stick and deflected Miles’ shot high after Miles stationed herself at the far post and swooped on a rebound in front of a half-empty net.
Neither team generated many chances in an evenly-played first half but the second half was more wide open and each team had its share of scoring opportunities.
Belfast’s Lexi Nelligan had the best chance as she was parked in front of the net but was handcuffed by Kristi Osgood’s cross and couldn’t deflect it into the open net.
The backs for both teams turned in exemplary performances.
Junior center back Lapham once found herself alone in the back with two Pony forwards breathing down her neck as they tried to chase down a long pass from Coiley. Lapham calmly stickhandled out of danger and cleared the ball. Curry also made timely interventions.
Coiley and Anderson were equally stout in the back for Foxcroft as they consistently stymied the Lions and either cleared the ball or stickhandled away from pressure.
“I was getting really tired at the end,” said a relieved Ward, who finished with six saves on 17 shots.
“I was very proud of what we did today,” said Curtis, who wound up with 10 saves on 24 shots. “We just came up short in the long run.”