BANGOR, Maine — This used to be almost routine for the Dexter field hockey team. New season, another trip to the Eastern Maine final, and a shot at another state title.
Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory over Stearns of Millinocket in the Eastern Maine Class C championship game at Huson College showed how title game appearances, wins, and even postgame celebrations had become anything but routine in recent years.
“It’s basically starting over again and building it back up again to this kind of level,” said Margaret Veazie, the undefeated Tigers’ head coach. “They don’t even know what to do. It’s cute.”
The 16-0 Tigers do know how to win, however, and have been tested in one-goal games much of the season. In their only other game against Stearns this season, they edged the Minutemen by the same score.
“It was the fifth game of the season, so we were both totally different teams,” said head coach Lori Lincoln, whose Minutemen wind up 13-4. “They use little, tiny, short passes and play with the ball for a long time, but my girls covered that well today. Our man-to-man and double coverage was very effective today. I knew this would be a defensive game.”
Stearns drew first blood on a textbook penalty corner play in which Molly Legassey’s hit Rebecca Leavitt with a perfect pass to the top of the circle. In one motion, Leavitt slapped the pass into the left corner with 18:43 left in the first half.
“They drove it and it was so quick, I didn’t even see it. I wasn’t ready for it and wasn’t quick enough to get it,” said Dexter goalie Sam Conway. “She was about a foot in from the top of the circle and drove it really hard.”
It took the rest of the half, but the Tigers answered the score and tied it up with no time left before halftime.
Olivia Gardiner capped a penalty corner with a shot from the right side of the net off a forward pass out from Claire Wyman, who was on the left.
The game-winner came with 12:40 left in the second half and once again, the score came off a corner with Gardiner right in the middle of things.
Jessica Mason’s shot off the corner pass was deflected back out to Gardner, who was out in front of the net and in the middle of the field. Gardiner couldn’t quite get a stick on it, so she moved left, hooked the ball, spun around and smacked it into the left corner.
“I’m not sure who it went to before her, but it went to Jess and then across,” Gardiner recalled. “I was on the post and thought it was going to go out of bounds, so I took it, reversed it really quick and scooped it backwards, and it went in.
“I got a good shot on it. I heard it hit the backboard. I love that sound!”
Dexter still had lots of time to kill before celebrating its first regional title since 2003.
Although Stearns was held to just two shots in the second half, its second caused a few heart palpitations.
The Minutemen rushed the net off a corner and Leavitt was at the head of the pack. Conway decided to come out and cut down Leavitt’s options by forcing her to shoot quickly. The shot deflected hard off one of her leg pads and backward before being controlled by a Tiger teammate and slapped away.
“I figured they were going to drive it. That’s what they did last time, so I was quick on my feet,” said Conway, who had three saves on five shots. “I just wanted to get it out of there.”
Stearns’ Kirsten Marter finished with 11 saves on 17 shots and had a solid game as the Tigers