This preseason, John Bapst field hockey coach Gina Schuck took advantage of her New York roots and brought her Crusaders to the Empire State to play a couple of exhibition matches against top teams from the Binghamton area.

That has been a tradition for John Bapst the last few years, and as a result, the Crusaders have built up a successful program.

This fall has been no different, as Schuck’s team is in the driver’s seat to earn the top spot in the Eastern Maine Class B playoff field.

The regular season concludes today, and the Crusaders should be able to nail down the top spot if they defeat Central of Corinth this afternoon.

Mount View of Thorndike, which is second, plays an always-tough Belfast team to finish its regular season.

John Bapst’s offense has been dynamite this fall, led by sisters Elise Tilton and Emily Tilton and Brianne Robertson. The Crusaders have racked up 42 goals in 13 games, and they’re one of only two teams to have put one in against Class C power Dexter.

“I like to keep the ball in the offensive players’ hands when called upon, absolutely,” said Shuck. “I’ll give one up if we score, too.”

Getting home-field advantage will also be a huge asset for John Bapst, as it plays its home matches on the University of Maine’s artificial turf field.

If that is the case, Bapst will play the remainder of its games on turf, as the regional finals are on Hampden Academy’s artificial surface and states at UMaine.

“It’s huge. It’s what we’ve talked about for the last couple games,” Schuck said.

The Crusaders have also gotten a lot of help from their cousins in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, particularly when defending regional champ Gardiner lost to Winslow and Mount View fell to Leavitt of Turner Center recently.

Bapst hasn’t seen any of those teams, save for a preseason game against Nokomis of Newport, which is currently third and plays at Gardiner today, but that’s the way Schuck likes it heading into the postseason.

“It’s one of the things I like about being a Class B school in the PVC, I like facing an absolutely, new, unknown opponent,” she said.

While Bapst does feature five seniors in Robertson, forwards Katrina Daigle and Marissa Rublee and backs Robyn Handley and Adriana Pellegrina, Elise Tilton, a sophomore, and junior sister Emily have developed into strong leaders as well.

“Last year [Elise] was a freshman and being asked to do a lot, same thing with Emily. This year they both are captains,” said Schuck. “Elise is really good about setting up other players.”

Elise Tilton has 17 assists on the season.

“They complement each other very well,” Schuck said.

Postseason play gets under way on Oct. 19 with quarterfinal action, with the semifinals on Oct. 23 and regionals on Oct. 26 at Hampden.

Defending Class C state champion Dexter, which finished its regular season with a win over Central on Saturday, is a heavy favorite in that class having gone undefeated against Class C competition.

Coach Margaret Veazie’s team’s lone loss was a 3-1 setback to Bapst on September 13.

“They’re balanced, they have no weak spots,” Schuck said.

Dubay to coach MA girls hoop

Mattanawcook Academy has turned to a familiar face in filling its vacant girls basketball coaching position.

Stephanie Dubay, who was the Lynx’ junior varsity coach the last four seasons and is the Lincoln school’s girls soccer coach, has been hired to coach the Lynx this winter.

“I’ve been part of the program the last four years. I feel I know the players and I worked with them all summer,” Dubay said.

She’ll replace Brian McDormand, who stepped down earlier this fall and was subsequently hired to coach the Old Town boys recently.

Dubay has varsity coaching experience on the hardwood, having served as head coach at East Grand in Danforth the 2005-06 season while she served as an assistant at the college level while living in Kansas earlier this decade.

Mattanawcook fell one game short of making it to the Bangor Auditorium last winter, falling to Hermon in a Class B preliminary, and the Lynx graduated three seniors, including top offensive threat Brooke Hanscom.

Like McDormand, Dubay will be a defensive-minded coach who will put a lot of emphasis on a full-court press.

“I know what they can do, I’m hoping to play an uptempo press and get the girls going that way,” she said. “I feel we have a pretty deep bench, I feel we can definitely be competitive.”

Mattanawcook has two regular-season games left on its soccer slate, and Dubay is looking forward to focusing on basketball.

“I want to finish the soccer season strong then focus on that,” she said.

Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective...