MILLINOCKET, Maine — This was exactly the kind of situation of which Stearns field hockey coach Lori Lincoln was both wary and dreadful.
Her Minutemen, the third seed in the Eastern Maine Class C playoffs, were on their home field on a windy and wickedly cold Wednesday afternoon to play local rival and No. 6 seed Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, which Stearns had beaten 6-0 twice in the regular season.
“I think some of it was underestimating Lincoln and I think the girls got a little overconfident,” Lincoln said. “I was worried we might look past them a little.”
If not for a goal by Adriana Eurich with 18 minutes, 38 seconds left in game and the solid goaltending effort turned in by Kirsten Marter, the Lynx might have shocked the Minutemen, who pulled out a 1-0 quarterfinal victory.
“Coach wasn’t very happy with us,” Marter said with a smile. “Personally I think we might have underestimated Lincoln. Beating them like we did both times, I think we might have taken them lighter than we should.”
Marter made two saves on five shots to notch her third shutout of the season against the Lynx and at least her sixth overall, but even she didn’t know the exact number.
“I have no idea,” she said. “Quite a few.”
She’ll get a chance to add to her unknown total Saturday as the 12-3 Minutemen host No. 7 John Bapst of Bangor. Mattanawcook winds up 5-10, but didn’t play that way Wednesday.
“That was the best game we’ve played all season,” said MA coach Dean Libbey. “We made a few changes and switched some people around. Guess I should have done that weeks ago.”
Libbey’s Lynx switched from three midfielders to four and employed a man-to-man defensive scheme on Stearns’ wings, especially Eurich, who never got free for a breakaway or one-on-one scoring opportunity.
Luckily for Stearns, that still couldn’t keep her away from the goal.
Katie Mills set up the scoring play with a shot to the middle of the cage. MA goalie Colleen Albert (five saves on 10 shots) made the save, but the ball deflected slightly behind her and to her right as she rushed forward.
“Katie had a shot from about the middle of the circle and the goalie stopped it, but it deflected off her pads and it kind of went to the side a little bit behind her,” Eurich said. “She kind of went up too far after deflecting it and kind of fell back trying to stop it. I was right there in the post, so I ran up and poked it in.”
Both teams battled numbness and periodic snow squalls on the frigid field.
“I’m sure the cold bothered them, but I have to give Lincoln a lot of credit for how they played today,” Lincoln said. “They were more aggressive than I’ve ever seen them be.”
The Minutemen got their offense untracked in the second half, outshooting MA 5-1 and taking the play to MA’s side of the field for most of the half.
“I think their defensive line handled our forwards better,” Libbey said. “They were able to keep us from getting up to the goal, while at the same time keeping the ball on our end of the field.”