The University of Maine field hockey team was understandably elated after Sunday’s shootout win over Albany in the America East championship game that earned the Black Bears their first ever league tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth.
It was UMaine’s 14th consecutive trip to the America East playoffs under 15th-year head coach Josette Babineau and the first time it hosted the tournament.
UMaine, now 15-6, will travel to Oxford, Ohio, on Wednesday to take on Miami University, 11-10, at 2 p.m. The winner will head to Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Friday to play the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines. Miami won the Mid-American Conference tournament and will be hosting an NCAA game for the first time in program history.
Nobody was happier than the nine in-state players on the UMaine roster who have followed the Black Bears ever since they could pick up a stick.
“It means everything to bring the trophy home,” said UMaine senior back Hannah Abbott from Portland and Cheverus High School. “We have always known that we’re a great program and this really shows that we can do it. It puts Maine on the map once again.
“This is everything. It doesn’t feel real right now,” said graduate forward Brooke Sulinski, who grew up in Old Town and dreamed of playing at UMaine. “I’m just really proud of this team. I knew we could do it. I’m proud of what we accomplished and I’m really thankful.”
Graduate student midfielder Abby Webber from Garland and Dexter High School called it a “huge accomplishment.” She also said the crowd was the biggest she had ever seen at a UMaine game.
The other six in-state players are junior forward Madisyn Hartley of Pittsfield, senior forward Sydney Meader of Boothbay Harbor, sophomore midfielder Bhreagh Kennedy of Skowhegan, senior midfielder Claire Scobie of Hampden, senior midfielder Kelsey Mehuren of Searsmont and freshman forward Meaghan Caron of Bangor.
UMaine senior goalie Mia Borley was chosen the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and she was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Hana Davis, Poppy Lambert and Cassandra Mascarenhas. UMaine junior forward Julia Ross from Vancouver earned the league’s Elite 18 Award with her 3.98 grade-point average in biomedical engineering.
Ross and Chloe Walton scored in the shootout to complement Borley’s goalkeeping. Borley, from England, allowed just one goal on Albany’s five shootout attempts after making seven saves, including several gems, during regulation and the two 10-minute seven-on-seven overtime periods. She had three saves in a 2-1 semifinal win over California.
Sophomore back Lambert, from New Zealand, scored the game-winner against California and converted a penalty stroke in the first half of the title game. She had 11 shots on goal vs. California and two against Albany.
British Columbia native Davis, a midfielder, scored the game-tying goal against California and was a two-way force in the midfield, making several crafty runs to generate scoring chances and penalty corners.
Mascarenhas, who is from Ontario, used her quickness and stick skills to make several critical defensive stops and triggered offensive attacks.
The other all-tourney selections were Albany’s Lara Behn, Julie Rodijk and Alison Smisdom, California’s Cato Knipping and Megan Connors, Monmouth’s Hannah Schiavo and Annick van Lange, Stanford’s Molly Redgrave and New Hampshire’s Bloem van den Brekel.
UMaine and Miami had two common opponents and similar results. Each lost to Northwestern and Kent State. UMaine lost 5-0 to Northwestern and 4-3 in double overtime to Kent State, while Miami lost 6-2 and 1-0, respectively.
The RedHawks feature MAC Offensive Player of the Year and 17-goal scorer Negrete Garcia and fellow All-MAC first teamer Morgan Sturm, a midfielder-back. Four other RedHawks made the second team.