Hall of Fame field hockey coach Paula Doughty referred to it as the “perfect storm.”
Her Skowhegan High School field hockey team came up on the short end of a 4-3 decision against Biddeford in the 2018 Class A state final. The Indians went into the game as the winners of three straight state championships and 15 of the previous 17.
Skowhegan, making its 23rd state championship game appearance, had never allowed more than three goals in a title game.
“It was a horrible day,” said Doughty, who has begun her 39th season directing the juggernaut program.
“I made some coaching mistakes, our bus got sideswiped [after getting to Memorial Field in Portland], the wind was blowing so hard you couldn’t coach and we didn’t play [well] in the first half,” Doughty recalled. “They had pushed the game back a week and it rained all that week so we didn’t have a place to practice [outdoors].”
The scenario was simply a reminder of what can happen for Skowhegan as it pursues a 19th state championship. It has won 18 straight Class A North crowns.
One difference for Skowhegan this season is that it doesn’t have a nickname or mascot. In May it became the last Maine school to cease the use of its Native American nickname.
Doughty, the 2017 national coach of the year, has welcomed back one of the biggest senior classes she has ever had, with 10 players.
“They’re all good kids and good leaders,” Doughty said.
“This team is pretty solid and pretty balanced,” Doughty added, praising their attitude.
There is no shortage of talent and Doughty remains enthusiastic about coaching another season.
“I’m just as excited now as I was 40 years ago,” Doughty said. “It’s a new team with some new kids.”
She has to replace All-America midfielder and Miss Maine Field Hockey winner Maliea Kelso, who is playing at Northeastern University, and all-state center back Lizzie York, who was a Miss Maine Field Hockey finalist and is at Hofstra University.
But seniors such as forwards Alexis Michonski, Brooklyn Hubbard and Emily Reichebnbach, and backs Bhreagh Kennedy and Olivia Hatch, are among the best in the state at their respective positions as is junior midfielder Hannah McKenney.
Skowhegan has some promising freshmen headed up by Samantha Thebarge, daughter of former UMaine football player Jarrod Thebarge and his wife, Andrea, who was an assistant coach and interim head coach at UMaine.
Doughty, who has more than 500 career victories, said she expects a stiff challenge from Mt. Blue High School of Farmington.
“They have their whole team back and their goalie is excellent,” said Doughty, referring to Merrimack College-bound Brooke Bolduc.
Rival Messalonskee of Oakland is another title contender.
One thing is for sure, Doughty doesn’t anticipate one of her teams ever giving up four goals in a state title game again.
“I doubt it. That was a fluke,” Doughty said.