Updated with link to photos

Lions demonstrate fortitude in field hockey playoff win over Tigers

Defending state champions to play rival Mount View Oct. 20 at Thomas College
By Ken Waltz and Mark Haskell | Oct 18, 2012
Photo by: Ken Waltz With a backdrop of field hockey sticks and photos, Belfast's Lexi Nelligan runs back to the middle of the field with the ball after scoring a goal in an Oct. 17 Eastern Class B high school field hockey quarterfinal playoff in Belfast. The host Lions beat Gardiner 3-2.

Belfast — The Belfast field hockey team, under the steady guidance of 40th-year coach Allen Holmes, always has had the propensity to bounce back from disappointing losses or in-game momentum shifts to stay focused on the task at hand.

The was never more evident than Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 17 when the No. 1 Lions (12-1-2) outlasted No. 8 Gardiner (10-5) 3-2 in an Eastern Class B quarterfinal playoff game. The Tigers had beating No. 9 Old Town in an earlier prelim game to earn the right to play BAHS.

The Lions, the defending regional and state champions, bounced back from a regular season-ending tie with Mount View of Thorndike, an 8-0 loss to powerful Skowhegan in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship game and an earlier-season 3-0 loss to Gardiner before buckling down to earn Wednesday's playoff win.

BAHS showed the same resilience last year in losing a regular season-ending game to Mount View and the KVAC Class B title game, only to rebound to win four straight playoff games en route to regional and state crowns.

On Wednesday, the Lions had too much fortitude, talent, defense and Maddy Cummings for the visiting Tigers, who handed the Lions their lone loss of the regular season on Sept. 22 in Gardiner.

Cummings scored two goals and assisted another, while Lexi Nelligan added a goal and Katrina Lapham an assist as the Lions rolled to the semifinals, where they will host Waldo County rival Mount View on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. on the artificial surface field at Thomas College in Waterville (change from original venue and time).

Mount View beat No. 4 Winslow (11-4) 2-1 in double-overtime in the quarterfinals.

Belfast and Mount View recently played to a 1-1, double-overtime tie to cap the regular season.

On Wednesday, the Lions grabbed the early momentum with a quick goal and held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before needing a second-half Cummings' goal to pull out the win.

Cummings scored, off a Lapham assist, with 28:02 left in the first half to thrust the hosts into the lead and give them the early momentum.

"We were very pleased to score in the first two minutes of the game," said Holmes, whose career record is 431-161-43 (not including this year's KVAC game). "So that was a huge boost for us. For us to get the lead early was very important."

Gardiner, coached by Moe McNally, in her 34th season, knotted the contest when Nicole Chadwick scored, off a Lee Anne Greenleaf assist, with 24:48 remaining in the first half. Then Nelligan scored, on Cummings' assist, with 7:25 left in the opening half to give the Lions a 2-1 halftime cushion.

The Lions experienced a scare with about two minutes remaining in the first half when Cummings and Gardiner goalie Emalee Couture had a heavy collision in front of the cage as the Tiger came out to meet Cummings' rush. Both young athletes were slow to get off the ground, but eventually did to continue play. Belfast could not score in the ensuing scrum for the ball with the cage vacated by Couture.

The Tigers rallied with 21:57 left in the second half as Nickyia Lovely scored off Greenleaf's assist.

Then Cummings came up big — as she has so often for the Lions — with the game-winning goal with 13:01 remaining, off an assist from Kristine Mehuren.

"With 13 minutes to go on a penalty corner, Kristine made a nice insertion to Maddy, [the defender] thought [Maddy] was going to pass to Kat [Lapham], and Maddy used that nice pull to the right, just dribbled in a little bit and there was nothing but open net. She hit the back of the boards with that nice flick of hers," said coach Holmes.

With 5:16 left the Tigers called timeout. Holmes and his players discussed how the Tigers would try to send the ball down the field quickly in the hope of getting a penalty corner.

"We made just a little adjustment in our defense," Holmes said. "We kept our backs closer to the goal area to prevent any long through balls. And all three — Kaysea Harford, Savannah Wood and Britt Littlefield — did an outstanding job preventing any of those long balls from getting through and creating some momentum for them."

The Lions finished with 12 shots on goal and nine penalty corners, while Julia Ward made two saves in the cage. Gardiner finished with three shots and three penalty corners and Couture had seven saves in goal.

Holmes said a semifinal playoff meeting between two talented Waldo County teams, both of whom want to advance to the regional final, will be exciting.

"I expect a big crowd," he said. "The coaches won't have to use too much motivation to get the teams fired up for this one."

In reflection on the teams' 1-1 tie to end the regular season, Holmes said, "We both had pretty good opportunities, we both played pretty good defense, we both had spurts during the game. It's going to be a matter of execution and hopefully we'll get some breaks and capitalize."

Courier Publications sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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