TURNER, Maine — If the Leavitt Area High School field hockey team is going to defend its Class B state title, the Hornets are going to do so with at least one blemish on their record, courtesy of the Nokomis Warriors.
Freshman Olivia Brown netted a pair of goals, including the game-winner late in the first half, to lead Nokomis to a 4-1 victory over Leavitt on Wednesday in Turner.
“We knew this would be one of our toughest games, so the girls came with that in mind,” Nokomis coach Katie Thompson said. “We knew we had to play intensely, we knew we had to score, we had to make sure we were keeping the ball out of the defensive end, and when we didn’t, make sure we were prepared to defend and defend and defend.”
Leavitt, which lost three times in the regular season a year ago en route to its fourth state crown, clanged home the first goal in the soupy, late-summer sun, but wilted thereafter as the Warriors continued to pressure the ball and force turnovers inside the Leavitt circle.
“They’re a good team, but we made a lot of mental mistakes today,” Leavitt coach Wanda Ward-MacLean said. “We crossed the ball into the circle defensively, we stood and watched the ball instead of going to it offensively. Mentally, we made our own mistakes. They’re a good team, but they’re not three goals better than us.”
Nokomis (3-0) was coming off a tough win over Gardiner. With a smaller team, the Warriors were looking to get out in front early and stay there. But the Warriors earned eight corners in a furious opening 10 minutes of play, but had just one shot on goal and nothing in the back of the cage to show for it.
“You always want to make the most of your corners and your opportunities,” Thompson said.
The Hornets, meanwhile, used their first chance at a penalty corner — and their first shot — wisely, beating Nokomis keeper Kendra Underhill with a tip at the left post.
After the early Leavitt tally, Nokomis righted the ship in a big way. Drew Graves evened things up with 13:01 to play in the first half with a tip-in on a set play off a penalty corner. Brown made it 2-1 and put the visitors ahead to stay less than seven minutes later.
“We had a game against Gardiner that we came back after a deficit,” Thompson said. “The girls didn’t get too down on themselves. We’ve talked about that. You can still get pumped up after the other team scores and take the lead. They did a great job of rallying after that goal.”
It took more than 15 minutes in the second half for either team to once again rattle the cage.
Nokomis padded its lead with 14:50 to play when Meghan Lovely capped a corner with a drive from five yards away.
“It’s great when they start producing on those, but it can take a while,” Thompson said. “They’re starting to click, so that’s perfect.”
That third Nokomis tally appeared to awaken the Hornets (2-1). In the final 10 minutes of the game, Leavitt unleashed no fewer than 10 shots and earned six penalty corners, but couldn’t get one past Underhill.
“We had a lot of shots right there, and [Underhill] did a good job,” Ward-MacLean said. “We had a couple I thought were in, and they went just wide.”
“[Underhill] is a senior, and I told her that’s the best game I’ve seen her play in her career,” Thompson said. “It’s something to be proud of, for sure.”
Brown capped the scoring in the final seconds of the game with a redirect at the right post.
“Every once in a while you have one of those days,” Ward-MacLean said. “Some days, you just don’t play well. Hopefully, this is our one day … Last year, we went up to Belfast and played horrible. Then we came back and faced them in the state game. You never know what’s going to happen. We might see them again.”