August 22, 2019
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MCI shuts out Gardiner for ‘B’ North field hockey title

HAMPDEN, Maine — No matter the class, the Maine Central Institute field hockey team is at the top of it these days.

Senior Addi Williams scored two second-half goals as the Huskies pulled away from Gardiner 3-0 at the Weatherbee School Complex late Tuesday afternoon to capture the Class B North championship.

The victory produced the Pittsfield school’s third consecutive regional title but first of the streak in Class B. MCI won the Class C state championship in 2015 and a second straight C North crown last fall before being reclassified by enrollment to Class B this year.

“My sophomore year was the first year we made it here and everyone thought it was a mistake, that it was unheard of that a small school from Pittsfield could win states that year,” said Williams, MCI’s career goal-scoring leader with 90. “We wanted to make it evident that it wasn’t a mistake and we’ve been pushing through ever since.”

MCI (13-3-1) faces three-time defending state champion York in Saturday’s Class B state championship match at Falmouth High School. York (14-2-1) defeated Poland 3-1 in Tuesday’s South final.

Gardiner, the No. 4 seed in B North, concluded its season with a 14-3 record.

Third-seeded MCI controlled much of the match with its offense while not allowing Gardiner to establish a consistent presence in its own offensive end.

The Huskies finished with an 11-5 advantage in shots.

“We know that they like to have those long drives,” said MCI coach Nancy Hughes. “They don’t necessarily get them in the circle but they force us to do a lot of 25-to-25 (midfield) running, so we wanted to really push up and keep the ball in our offensive end.”

That territorial intensity paid off barely two minutes into the match off a penalty corner when senior defender Eva Bickford scored off the initiating pass from senior midfielder Allison Hughes.

“We’ve really been working on push passes in practice rather than driving it in, so it just came toward me and I just pushed it into the corner,” said Bickford of her third goal of the season.

MCI’s defense did not allow a shot against senior goalie Elspeth Taylor before intermission, but the Tigers got their chances to score the equalizer early in the second half.

Gardiner, which lost to MCI 1-0 on Oct. 10 in their only regular-season meeting, made its best scoring bid nine minutes into the final half when sophomore forward Margaret Bell got off a solid shot from the middle of a congested circle.

Taylor went to the turf and deflected the shot to her right, then blocked a follow-up shot while still prone on the ground.

“She’s very skilled, a very good technical goalie and a very good turf goalie, and that was to our advantage,” said Hughes of Taylor, who preserved the shutout with five saves.

Williams put the match away by scoring twice — her 32nd and 33rd goals of the season — within a 3-minute, 56-second span.

Her first goal came on a counterattack after some Gardiner offensive pressure. MCI worked the ball to its offensive end before junior forward Allysah Green drove it toward the goal where Williams gathered, pivoted and quickly shot it past Gardiner senior goalie Avery Backus to make it 2-0 with 15:44 left.

Williams scored again on a breakaway down the right side of the field with 11:48 remaining. She used her stickwork first to draw Backus toward the center of the goal and then to pull her out of position before tucking the ball into the left corner of the cage.

“I thought we played really well,” said Bickford, whose team had rallied from a 2-0 deficit to outlast Belfast 3-2 in the semifinals. “We’ve definitely clicked during the playoffs. We see each other better, we pass the ball better, we’re passing in the circle a lot better. Everything’s just clicking right now.”

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