Saturday, December 7, 2013
By Matt DiFilippo email@example.com
WATERVILLE -- There were two dominant players on Saturday afternoon. Waterville's Jena Nawfel was dynamic and exciting every time she touched the ball. Meanwhile, Maine Central Institute goalie Courtney Sprague did everything in her power to keep the game scoreless.
The game fittingly came down to a confrontation between Nawfel and Sprague. The difference was, Nawfel had a little more help.
With time winding down in the second half, Nawfel got free and led a 3-on-1 Waterville breakaway. Sprague stopped her shot, but freshman Amber Hill was there to put in the rebound with 1:09 left, giving Waterville a 1-0 victory in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference field hockey action.
"Olivia (Lopes) passed me the ball," Nawfel said. "I caught it, and I just saw a lane up through the defensemen, and I took it as fast as I could. I saw Amber. I took the shot. She was right there."
The loss was a heart-breaker for MCI (3-8-0), which has now lost eight straight. The Huskies needed the win for playoff purposes (they were 11th entering the day, and the top nine teams in Eastern C qualify), and they played well enough to get it. Each team finished with 10 shots, and almost all of Sprague's eight saves were tough ones.
"Courtney played phenomenally in goal," MCI coach Nancy Hughes said. "We're just really disappointed, because we feel like we're a better team than what our record says."
Sprague made a difficult save in the first half, when Sara Sack one-timed a pass from Nawfel. In the second half, Nawfel got open on a penalty corner and let loose with a stinging drive that bounced off Sprague's pads and out of bounds.
Meanwhile, Waterville's defense did a fine job of defending the Purple Panthers' circle. Specifically, the Panthers (5-5-1) avoided the fouls in the circle that result in penalty corners. MCI had only three corners in the game, and two came with the Huskies a player down because of a dangerous stick call.
"We've been working a lot defensively on just staying low, staying solid, staying poised and big in the circle," Waterville coach Amie Dubois said. "I think the last couple games, defensively, we've been doing just a very stable, solid jobs."
Waterville goalie Rachael Bergeron also made some key saves, and MCI's Kali Doiron had a shot go just wide left with two minutes remaining in the second half. That set up the game-winning goal, which developed as the Panthers were making a substitution and Hill was changing positions.
"(Amber) had been in the game, but she was left forward," Dubois said. "What happened was, I took my center forward out, and I moved Amber over to center forward, and I put my new sub in to left forward. And as this all happened, Jena Nawfel was coming up the field, and she made that one pull around that last defender. It was beautiful."
"I saw Jena running towards the goal, ready to hit it in," said Hill, who said it was her second career goal. "I saw that more people were coming up behind her, so I decided to position myself to score. It hit the goalie's pads and kind of ricocheted towards me, and I swept it in."
Waterville entered Saturday seventh in Eastern B, which would put the Panthers in the playoffs. Nawfel is one of four senior captains, but Waterville also has six freshmen on its varsity roster.
"It's been different, because last year we had like seven seniors," Nawfel said. "But it's been good, because I see them progressing so much. They're improving, and it's just a lot of fun to work with the younger kids."
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243