ORONO, Maine — It was a matter of too little, too late.
The University of Maine field hockey team spotted the University of Massachusetts two goals before pulling within one with 14:03 remaining.
The Black Bears stormed the UMass net seeking the equalizer, but sophomore goalie Sam Carlino made a key save off a Sydney Veljacic blast and saw a Holly Stewart deflection roll just wide of her far post a few minutes later as UMass emerged with a 2-1 triumph in a mutual season opener.
UMass, the nation’s 14th-ranked team and the defending Atlantic 10 tournament champion, takes on No. 9 Michigan at 1 p.m. Saturday in Orono before Maine plays Michigan at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Niki Miller’s first-half goal and Izzie Delario’s goal 9:58 into the second half gave UMass the lead as they had the better of the play for the first 55 minutes and limited Maine to just a handful of forays into the circle.
Miller and Delario are freshman forwards.
But junior midfielder Annabelle Hamilton scored off Maine’s first penalty corner and that gave the Bears a spark.
Maine generated three more penalty corners. On one of them, Veljacic ripped a low shot from the left side of the circle but Carlino made the save by laying across across the goal mouth and stacking her pads. Standout center back Lauren Allymohamed alertly cleared the rebound as the Bears swarmed the circle.
“I pretty much dropped and hoped they didn’t put it to the far post because I can’t take up the whole goal,” said Carlino, who finished with six saves on 14 shots. “And then Lauren cleared out the rebound.”
Just a few moments later, Cassidy Svetek took a low shot from the top of the circle and Stewart redirected it narrowly wide of the post to Carlino’s right.
“I’d like to have that one back. It was close,” said Stewart.
“I wish we could have responded a little sooner in the second half. We didn’t execute our best,” said Maine coach Josette Babineau. “It wasn’t a bad start to the season. We finished well. We made it hard for them to get the ball out of their end. We peppered them for awhile. It was disappointing we couldn’t send it to overtime. But the girls left everything on the field.”
Miller staked UMass to a 1-0 lead 14:35 into the game when she fired a hard, low shot from the top of the circle to the left of Maine goalie Natasha Ford that made its way through a maze of players and nestled inside the short-side post.
“I’ve been practicing my hits all summer and I saw it open. So I tried it and I heard it hit the backboard. I started jumping up and down,” said Miller.
“It came out of a bit of a crowd. It was a very good goal,” said Ford, who made four saves on eight shots in the first half to help keep the Black Bears within striking distance.
“We were a little fortunate to be down just 1-0 at the half,” said Babineau.
Delario expanded the lead in the second half off a wild flurry.
Gorham’s Hannah Prince had the initial shot but Sydney Kolysher made the save. The rebound spilled into the goal mouth and Delario converted.
“Hannah took the drag [flick], the goalie bobbled it and I put it in,” said Delario.
“I made the first save but we couldn’t clear the circle,” said Kolysher, who made one save on four shots in the second half. “Then it was passed across. Annabelle [Hamilton] tried to save it and put in a really good effort but, unfortunately, it went into the net.”
Maine had 14 shots to UMass’s 12 and had a 4-2 edge in penalty corners, including a 4-1 advantage in the second half.
UMass coach Carla Tagliente said considering the fact it was the opener, her team’s performance wasn’t bad.
“We had control of the game but Maine did a nice job changing the pace of the game on us. We’re young and we did well to handle the situation. We need to get better. We need to control the game for 70 minutes,” said Tagliente, who said she thought goalkeeper Carlino turned in an outstanding game.