ORONO, Maine — Success from an unexpected facet of their game, penalty corners, powered the Skowhegan Indians to a 3-0 victory over Scarborough on Saturday in the Class A field hockey state championship game at the University of Maine’s Alfond Stadium.
Senior midfielder Sarah Finnemore scored two goals and senior forward Makaela Michonski one, all within 2½ minutes on second-half penalty corners, as the Eastern Maine titlists claimed their third straight state title and 11th in the past 12 years.
Finnemore was quick to point out that penalty corners have not been the Indians’ strong suit, even though they have scored 147 goals in 18 games, regular season and tournament.
“We’ve kind of struggled with our corners this year, actually, so it was really nice to finally get them so we could actually score,” said Finnemore, one of the Indians’ three captains.
“It’s kinda funny,” said Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty. “In our last game [a 2-1 win over Messalonskee of Oakland in the EM final], we had 11 penalty corners and we didn’t score on them. One of our goals tonight was to get off some good penalty corners, and we did.”
It took awhile, though.
Skowhegan (18-0) had the edge in offensive possession Saturday and kept constant pressure on the Red Storm defense, including seven penalty corners, but the first half finished 0-0.
“Our defense was strong,” said Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello, “and we were hopefully going to give them their turn and see how their defense held up. Unfortunately, [we] couldn’t get that break.”
Finnemore broke the scoreless duel when she converted off the first penalty corner 3:15 into the 30-minute second half with assists from juniors Mikayla Toth and Allison Lancaster.
It was the first goal allowed by Scarborough (17-1) in Maine Principals’ Association play all year.
“It was a hard spot for Scarborough to be in, not being scored on,” said Doughty, whose team gave up two all year. “I don’t know if I’d want to be in that spot because that’s a lot of pressure.”
With 24:57 left, Finnemore scored off another penalty corner with assists by Lancaster and Michonski.
“Usually after we score our first goal, we really start feeling more confident in ourselves,” said Finnemore. “We just really tried to keep the intensity up because we don’t want to let down after the goal.”
Michonski then tallied for Skowhegan at 24:25 with assists from Finnemore and Toth.
“They would have scored on [NCAA Division I] goalies, that’s how beautifully executed those were,” said Mariello.
The Red Storm tried to generate offense behind senior forwards Ellie Walker, Grace Whelan and Emily Bunting and sophomore forward Abby Walker, but their attempts to close on Skowhegan goalie Anne-Marie Provencal were usually thwarted by the Skowhegan defense led by senior co-captain Adriana Martineau, fellow seniors Mikayla Bolduc and Emily Blake, and Toth.
Scarborough got off only two shots, both in the first half, and wasn’t awarded a single penalty corner, the sport’s best chance at scoring. Provencal didn’t have to make any saves.
Scarborough goalie Shannon Hicks made four saves and her defenders cleared out three, including a spectacular second-half one by Rachael Wallace. Skowhegan took 21 shots and was awarded 13 penalty corners.
The Indians also earned a measure of revenge as the West champion Red Storm are the only team to beat Skowhegan in the previous 11 state games, a 2-1 effort in 2009.
“They were incredible goals, they’re an incredible team and they deserved that win, no doubt,” said Mariello.