Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield won back-to-back Class C North field hockey titles in 2015 and 2016.
This fall, the Huskies look to pull off a rare feat: Winning a regional title in their first season after being elevated a class by enrollment.
Third-seeded MCI (12-3-1) plays No. 4 Gardiner (14-2) in Tuesday’s 3 p.m. Class B North championship game at Hampden Academy.
It is the first of three regional title games in Hampden.
Second-seeded Dexter (14-2) takes on top seed Winthrop (14-1-1) in the Class C final at 5 p.m. and the seemingly annual Skowhegan-Messalonskee Class A battle starts at 7.
No. 1 Skowhegan (15-1) and No. 2 Messalonskee of Oakland (14-2) square off in the “A” final for the eighth time in nine years. Skowhegan has won all of them among 16 consecutive regional championships.
Skowhegan has won 14 state titles in 16 years.
MCI head coach Nancy Hughes has been pleased with her team’s performance as a newcomer in Class B.
“It feels pretty good to transition up to B and still have this success,” said Hughes, who is in her 10th season at MCI. “The schedule hasn’t been very different. We’ve always played a B schedule.”
The Huskies, the state C champs in 2015 and runners-up a year ago, play a Gardiner team they beat 1-0 on Oct. 10 at Pittsfield.
“It should be an interesting game. We’re two very skilled, disciplined teams,” said Hughes. “They don’t score a lot of goals but they don’t give up a lot of goals. They’re a very good defensive team.”
Gardiner has surrendered only three goals and has 14 shutouts.
Junior Madisyn Hartley and senior Addi Williams are MCI’s offensive catalysts. Hartley has “exceptional stick skills” according to Hughes and is “very tough to defend.”
Seniors April McAlpine and Allison Hughes, Nancy’s daughter, have been influential midfielders and senior Eva Bickford anchors the back line in front of goalkeeper Elspeth Taylor.
Gardiner has received playoff goals from Maggie Bell, Madelin Walker and Aimee Adams and 12 saves from Avery Backus in its two playoff wins.
In Class C, Dexter coach Margaret Veazie said the Tigers haven’t forgotten last year’s semifinal loss to Winthrop on penalty corners.
Veazie believes her team has overachieved this season after losing 14 players to graduation the last two years.
“The seniors have led the team but we’ve had to rely on young kids and they’ve been amazing,” said Veazie. “This team can score goals. We can outscore teams. We didn’t score as easily last year.”
Senior forward Hayley Rossman has scored 40 goals and has been complemented up front by senior Kaitlyn Webber and freshman Cheyenne Beem. The Tigers’ exceptional midfield is made up of Aubrey Godin, Becca Batron and Victoria Asbury.
Kinli DiBiase had a goal and assisted on Nora Conrad’s goal in Winthrop’s 2-1 semifinal win over Stearns-Schenck and Aiva Agri made four saves. DiBiase had a hat trick in the 5-0 quarterfinal win over Central of Corinth and Moria Hajduk scored two goals.
Skowhegan and Messalonskee split during the regular season and Indians coach Paul Doughty expects another classic duel like last year’s 3-2 triumph and the 2-1 overtime victory in 2015.
“Messalonskee is awfully good,” said Maine Sports Hall of Fame coach Doughty. “They are older, bigger and stronger than we are but we’re really well-balanced. You can’t key on one player with us.
“When you get this far, it will come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes,” said Doughty.
Dynamic junior Maliea Kelso is a constant scoring threat and omnipresent Haley Carter headlines the defense corps.
Katie McLaughlin’s Eagles have one of the state’s best players in junior Autumn Littlefield, who has four playoff goals. Rylee Poulin and Haley Lowell have also scored in both playoff wins.