Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Matt DiFilippo email@example.com
WATERVILLE — As much as any field hockey team, Skowhegan takes it as a personal affront when another team plays them evenly in the first half. Lawrence did that Saturday night, and the Indians were determined to make their opponents pay for that.
Skowhegan was indeed stronger in the second half, and finally wore down the Bulldogs. Rylie Blanchet finished with two goals and Allison Lancaster had one as the Indians defeated Lawrence 3-0 in an Eastern A semifinal Saturday evening at Thomas College.
“Our coach was a little bit upset (at halftime), but we got it together,” Lancaster said. “I think that’s what matters in the end. We play as a team. We play cleanly. That’s how we came out on top.”
Top-ranked Skowhegan (16-0-0) faces No. 2 Messalonskee in the Eastern A final Tuesday at the Weatherbee Complex in Hampden. The rotation for the regional title games will be announced Monday.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs (9-6-1) were sky-high for the game, so much so that Lawrence coach Lisa Larrabee reminded her bench players in the opening minutes to save some of their energy for when they got in the game.
Skowhegan took a 1-0 lead with 20:26 left in the half when Blanchet tipped in a long drive by Lancaster. That didn’t break Lawrence’s spirit, and the Bulldogs held Skowhegan to two penalty corners and seven shots in the first half. The score was still 1-0 at halftime, and considering Skowhegan has outscored its opponents, 123-2 this year, being behind 1-0 after 30 minutes isn’t too shabby.
“We were excited about the first half,” Larrabee said. “A 1-0 half is fine. You’re one goal away from being in it. We knew if we didn’t give them corners, we’d be in it.”
Less than three minutes into the second half, Lawrence got behind Skowhegan goalie Leah Kruse (five saves), but the Bulldogs were called for a foul. Skowhegan struck a few minutes later.
The Indians got three consecutive penalty corners. On the first two, Brooke Michonski inserted the ball from the left side. Before the third corner, Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty saw something, and told Blanchet to insert the ball from the right side. Blanchet did, getting the ball to Mikayla Toth, who slid a pass over to Lancaster. One blast by Lancaster later, it was 2-0. Larrabee said the Bulldogs practiced defending that corner play, but broke down in the execution on Lancaster’s goal.
That goal sent the Indians on their way. At one point in the second half, the shots were 3-3. They ended up 16-3 in favor of Skowhegan.
“They came out hard like they always do,” Skowhegan back Holly Lupo said. “They’ve always been a second-half team. But once we kept shutting them down, shutting them down, there’s nothing they can do. We just stuck together as a team, and that’s all we needed to do.”
Lawrence appeared to wear down late in the game, and Skowhegan scored with 15:46 left when Toth fed Blanchet, who pushed a shot in.
“Rylie just called for the ball, and I got to her, and it was awesome,” Toth said. “She just put it right in.”
The Bulldogs had a streaky year, winning eight in a row, then going winless through five games to end the regular season. With a quarterfinal win over Oxford Hills and this performance against Skowhegan, they showed which was the real Lawrence team.
“We were ready,” Larrabee said. “I’m very proud of my kids. We did a lot of team-bonding, goal-setting as a team. It was a pretty game, and I think the fans were not disappointed.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243