The Mt. Blue High School field hockey team has carved out an incredible success story during the regular season and is hoping it can extend to the Class A North playoffs which begin for the Cougars on Wednesday with a quarterfinal against Brewer.
Mt. Blue is 13-0-1 and wound up atop the Heal Point standings, a perch usually occupied by defending state champion Skowhegan, which has won 13 of the last 15 Class A state titles. The few times Skowhegan hasn’t owned the top spot, Messalonskee of Oakland has been there.
Since 1996, the Class A North titlist has been either Skowhegan or Messalonskee.
The 1995 Cony High of Augusta team was the last team other than Skowhegan or Messalonskee to to represent Class A North in the state championship game.
But the Cougars sent a message loud and clear that they were a force to be reckoned with when they beat Messalonskee 4-2 on Sept. 6 and edged Skowhegan 1-0 two days later.
Mt. Blue’s rise to prominence may have stunned a lot of people in the field hockey world but not its head coach, Jody Harmon.
“We’ve been building the program the last four years,” explained Harmon, who set the wheels in motion seven years ago when she established a youth program for fourth- and fifth-graders.
“That has made a big difference,” said Harmon.
The benefit has been twofold: Better numbers and more skillful players.
Harmon admitted the back-to-back wins over Skowhegan and Messalonskee gave her team a big shot of confidence.
She said the key to her team’s success has been its cohesiveness.
“We don’t have a bunch of Division I players. We have a real good team that plays as a unit. Everybody does their job,” said Harmon, whose team has outscored opponents 58-8.
The two catalysts have been midfielder Hannah LeClair and center back Kayleigh Fontaine, who are both seniors.
Junior Gracie Foss has helped Fontaine anchor an air-tight defense and senior Leah St. Laurent has complemented LeClair in the midfield.
They have received balanced scoring with junior Hannah Minns and sophomore Adelle Foss among the leaders. Minns had a hat trick against Messalonskee.
The fifth-year coach has also had the pleasure of receiving important contributions from her daughters, Molly Harmon and Rebecca Harmon, who are a freshman and a junior, respectively.
Junior Erika McArthur has supplied them with solid goalkeeping.
Mt. Blue was the fourth seed last season and finished 10-5-1, losing to Messalonskee 6-0 in the semifinals.
Second seed Messalonskee (12-2) has won 11 in a row and will be a threat to the Cougars as will 10-3-1 Skowhegan, which has always been an exceptional playoff team under Maine Sports Hall of Fame coach Paula Doughty. Third seed Cony (9-3-2) could also be a factor with seven wins it its last eight games and ties with Mt. Blue and Skowhegan.
In Class B, Foxcroft Academy received a present from Waterville on the last day of the regular season as the Panthers, who were 2-10-1, shocked undefeated Gardiner 2-1 in double overtime to catapult the Ponies past Gardiner into the top spot.
Amber Hill’s goal with 7.2 seconds left in the second OT dropped the Tigers into second place.
Senior Alli Bourget’s 35 goals have sparked coach Stephanie Smith’s Ponies, who have outscored their opponents 71-8 and have posted five straight shutouts.
But No. 2 Gardiner and No. 3 Belfast, both 13-1, will be very much in the hunt.
Belfast’s only loss was a 1-0 setback to Gardiner, which has notched 10 shutouts. Belfast has blanked opponents nine times.
In Class C, coach Nancy Hughes looks to lead Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield to a second straight state championship after they earned the top seed at 12-2.
Their only losses have come at the hands of Class B contenders Gardiner (3-0) and Belfast (2-1) and they enter the tourney with a five-game winning streak.
Addi Williams, who scored seven playoff goals last fall in leading the Huskies to the title, and midfielders Madisyn Hartley, Victoria Friend and Allison Hughes have sparked MCI.
Margaret Veazie’s Dexter Tigers are also 12-2 and earned the second seed. Their only setbacks came at the hands of Class B Foxcroft, 5-3 and 2-0.
University of Maine-bound Abby Webber is among Dexter’s standouts although she was hampered by an ankle injury early in the season.
Winthrop is seeded third at 11-2-1 and the Ramblers’ two losses have been to Class C South leader Oak Hill of Sabattus (13-1).