University of Maine field hockey goalkeeper Mia Borley (second from left) celebrates with her teammates after a victory during the 2021 season. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine Athletics Department

ORONO, Maine — Earlier in the game, University of Maine freshman field hockey forward Mallory Mackesy passed up an opportunity to shoot, electing to pass instead.

“I’m a pass-first kind of player,” said Mackesy, who had second thoughts about her decision.

Head coach Josette Babineau encouraged her to shoot, telling her she was one of the best shooters on the team, and she did with 2:50 left in the game to break a 1-1 tie and give the Black Bears a 2-1 win over Vermont.

Mackesy’s 10th goal of the season earned the Black Bears the right to host the America East tournament for the second straight season.

UMaine won the tournament last year to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

UMaine is now 12-4 overall and 6-0 in the conference, while Vermont fell to 11-4, 4-3, respectively.

Boothbay Harbor’s Sydney Meader had opened the scoring for UMaine just 5:33 into the game when she converted a pass from Skowhegan’s Bhreagh Kennedy.

“I knocked it out of the air,” said Meader, whose goal was her eighth of the season.

UMaine dominated the first 10 minutes of the game but Vermont began carrying the play and did so for the rest of the half and the third period.

Alina Gerke scored a well-deserved tying goal when she flipped a high shot over UMaine goalie Mia Borley off a Sophia Drees pass.

Borley finished with eight saves, including several gems as her team was under a lot of pressure through the middle of the game.

“She kept us in it,” Babineau said.

The Black Bears finished strong, controlling the fourth quarter after Babineau changed tactics by going to a man-to-man marking system in the midfield instead of staying in a zone marking scheme.

“We were able to stop some of their little passes. It gave us momentum again,” Babineau said.

UMaine was able to limit the time and space the Catamounts had on the ball that they enjoyed during the second and third periods and the Black Bears were able to create turnovers that led to counter-attacks.

Espeland finished with seven saves for UVM. Both goalies turned in exceptional performances.

Pivotal play: The Mackesy goal capped a string of pressure by UMaine, which outshot UVM 7-2 in the fourth period and had five penalty corners to Vermont’s one.

Mackesy’s goal was set up by a Tereza Holubcova pass that sent her sprinting down the left wing with one defender to beat.

Mackesy protected the ball and then rifled a reverse-hit bullet into the top corner past helpless Vermont goalie Sierra Espeland.

“I was thinking, ‘just rip it,’” Mackesy said. “I saw some open space on the short side.”

Big takeaway: UMaine showed its resiliency. Despite spending a healthy portion of the game defending and using just two substitutes to Vermont’s six, the Black Bears found energy in the fourth quarter to dominate and secure the win.

Vermont turned in an impressive performance and is a legitimate contender.

Up next: UMaine hosts Stanford on Friday at 3 p.m. while Vermont entertains Dartmouth on Sunday at noon.