Mariners forge playoff point-worthy deadlock with No. 1 LionsOceanside and defending state champs fit to be tied after 76-minute battle
Belfast — Many Midcoast high school students were entrenched in classrooms Saturday morning, Oct. 6 while taking their Scholastic Aptitude Tests, but it was smart play on the field for student-athletes from Belfast and Oceanside later that afternoon that many high school field hockey fans will remember with Mariners and Lions squaring off in a pivotal late-season Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B showdown.
The two teams were scoreless throughout much of the evenly-matched contest and the Mariners scored first midway through the second half, but the Lions responded and both defenses dug in their heels as the two squads settled for a 1-1, double-overtime tie.
The tie propelled Oceanside (7-4-2, 62.0663 points) to eighth in Eastern Class B and guaranteed the Mariners a spot in the postseason, while Belfast (11-1-1, 105.8163 points) jumps to first in the Maine Principals' Association Heal Point Standings in the 14-team region. The top nine teams qualify.
Molly Mellor scored for Oceanside, on an assist from Jackie Thorbjornson, while Katrina Lapham scored for Belfast, on an assist from Maddy Cummings.
Zoe Billington made five saves in the cage for Oceanside, while Julia Ward made two saves in goal for Belfast. The Lions nipped the Mariners in shots 5-4, but held a commanding 13-5 edge in penalty corners, which meant they put considerable pressure on the Mariners.
While Mariner coach Joanna Hall would have preferred the win, her team will gladly take the points for the tie over the defending state Class B champions. Those points, in essence, have guaranteed Oceanside a playoff spot, but the Mariners still may have to play in a preliminary playoff game for the second straight season.
"A win or a tie, once you get to the playoffs, it's a whole new season," Hall said. "Looking at Belfast and they're so strong every year, and here we are at the end of the season [playing strong]. One team has beat [Belfast], which was Gardiner, and we beat Gardiner [earlier in the season]. So we're right there."
"We got behind, but I was glad we were able to come back and score to tie it up," said Belfast coach Allen Holmes, in his 40th year. "It was a more physical game than we're used to."
"Oceanside was hitting the ball pretty well side to side and they did a nice job stopping the ball," he said. "If you can hit it hard from side to side, you're going to beat a lot of people. And the key is to be able to control it on the other end and they were doing that."
Oceanside dominated possession throughout the middle portion of the second half, while Belfast started and ended the half strongly, setting up the two overtime periods.
The Mariners' offensive attack finally struck with 12 minutes to play after Isabella Garver carried the ball through the midfield and into the circle, where the visitors were eventually awarded a penalty corner.
On the corner, Garver inserted to Hannah Plourde, who made a quick pass to Jackie Thorbjornson at the top of the circle, who fired a shot on goal. Mellor got her stick on the hard shot and deflected the ball up and past Ward with 11:08 remaining in regulation.
The Lions would not quit, however, and picked up their play late, being awarded three straight penalty corners. Belfast got the equalizer off a second effort on the third penalty corner when Cummings put the ball on goal, which Lapham deflected past Billington to tie the game on a score similar to Oceanside's minutes earlier.
The two teams then went scoreless through two 7-on-7, eight-minute overtimes. Billington made a terrific point-blank save on a Cummings shot with less than two minutes to go in regulation to help preserve the tie for Oceanside.
Both Belfast and Oceanside finish the regular season on Tuesday, Oct. 9 with rivalry games. The Mariners will host Camden Hills, while Belfast will host Mount View of Thorndike with both teams jockeying for postseason positioning. Camden Hills appears out of playoff contention.
On the final game of the regular season last year, Mount View handed Belfast its first and only loss of the season 1-0 in Thorndike. The Lions then went on to win the regional and state titles.
"You can throw the records right out the door for this one," said Holmes of BAHS' upcoming game with the Mustangs. "Last year we went up there and didn't win. So we know this is going to be a big game."
Belfast also may be in line to play in the upcoming Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship game, probably against Leavitt of Turner, later this week.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.