HAMPDEN — A familiar opponent produced a familiar result for the Skowhegan field hockey team Tuesday, as the top-ranked Indians used first-half goals from Mikayla Fitzmaurice and Haley Holt to defeat No. 2 Messalonskee of Oakland 2-1 in the Eastern Maine Class A championship match at the Weatherbee Complex.
It marked the fourth straight year Skowhegan has defeated Messalonskee in the regional final, as well as the Indians’ fourth victory over the Eagles this season.
“It’s too many times,” said longtime Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty, “because in the back of your mind you’re always thinking, ‘Can we do it again?’, and that’s tough because that’s such a good team, the best Messalonskee team I’ve seen.
“To beat them four times in one season, we deserve to be where we are, I think.”
The win also was the 35th straight in regular-season and tournament play for Skowhgan, which earned its 11th consecutive regional crown and 14th in the last 15 years.
“I thought we played well,” said Doughty. “The first half I thought we played with a lot more intensity, but it’s hard to go into a second half against a team like that two goals up because even though they’re great athletes they’re just kids, and in the back of their minds we’re thinking we’ve just got to hold on, and you can’t just hold on against a team like Messalonskee. They’re an amazing, amazing team.”
Messalonskee, the only other team besides Skowhegan to win an Eastern A crown since 1995 — winning the state title in ‘96 and another regional crown in 2000 — finishes 13-3-1, with all of those defeats against Skowhegan along with an additional loss to the Indians in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A final.
“I think we played pretty strong, our passes were on and we worked together pretty well,” said Messalonskee coach Katie Gorham. “It was definitely a tough game, it always is against Skowhegan. I think if we had gotten our first goal a little sooner it would have pushed us forward even more.”
Skowhegan took a 1-0 lead off a penalty corner 11 minutes, 54 seconds into the match. Charlotte Johnstone passed the ball out to Nicole Sevey at the top of the circle. Sevey — one of three Miss Maine Field Hockey finalists playing in the contest along with Skowhegan teammate Jessie Skillings and Messalonskee’s Katie Bernatchez — took a step to her right, then passed the ball behind her to Fitzmaurice, who blasted a low shot to the left of Messalonskee goalkeeper Alexandra Cole and into the back of the cage.
“It was something new we’d been trying and when it worked the feeling was indescribable,” said Fitzmaurice.
Skowhegan doubled its lead on a redirection from close range by Holt with 1:59 left in the half.
“That was definitely a big thing to jump on top of them and keep the intensity the whole time,” said Fitzmaurice.
While Skowhegan controlled play early, Messalonskee rebounded after intermission, earning six penalty corners compared to just two for the Indians during the second half.
The Eagles finally scored with 8:32 remaining, as Nikki Collier hit a sharp-angled crossing pass from the left of the cage that teammate Lynnae Luettich tipped past Skowhegan goalkeeper Anne-Marie Provencal.
“They had a lot of opportunities in the second half,” said Doughty, “but our defense held up, which was good because the other day our defense was just horrible. We didn’t play well against Cony (a 5-2 semifinal win) but today we were ready to play.”
Skowhegan finished with a 20-5 shots advantage, with Provencal making four saves for the Indians while Cole had five stops for Messalonskee.