Windjammers push Lions to limit, but unbeaten visitors win in 2OTNelligan scores two goals, including game-winner in competitive field hockey game
Rockport — Trailing for the first time all season and in a timeout with his team, Belfast field hockey coach Allen Holmes, in his 40th season, issued a challenge to his student-athletes.
"Well, we haven't been behind all year," he said. "Let's see what we're made of."
The old adage is to never underestimate the heart of a champion. The Lions, the defending state Class B titlists, are no exception.
Belfast trailed 2-0 but rallied to tie the game midway through the second half and found the back of the cage well into the second overtime as the Lions (5-0) remained unbeaten with a thrilling, hard-fought 3-2 win over host Camden Hills on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 11.
Lexi Nelligan tallied two goals — including the game-winner with 5:55 remaining in the second overtime — to lead Belfast, while Maddy Cummings added one goal and Katrina Lapham one assist.
Allie Flint and Macy Buck both scored for the Windjammers (2-4), who had played a game the day before.
The game was another competitive, some might say, epic battle between the teams coached by a father and his daughter, as Allen Holmes has guided the Lions for four decades and his daughter, Jan Holmes-Jackson, has been with the Windjammers for more than a decade.
"I said, 'At the end of the game, regardless of what happens, we need to look each other in the eye and know we left it all on the field,' " Allen Holmes told his players. "I just wanted the girls on my team to realize that no matter what happens, you never stop playing."
Jan Holmes-Jackson saw a silver lining in the loss, with her young squad being able to push the talented Lions to the limit.
"I thought this was the best we've played all year," said Jan Holmes-Jackson. "If we continue to play like this we should really start winning some games. I was very pleased with how they played."
Julia Ward made 14 saves on 16 shots in the cage for the Lions, while Zia Sulick turned away 20-of-25 shots for the Windjammers. The visitors also edged the hosts 8-7 in penalty corners.
Camden Hills dominated play and possession throughout most of the first half and was rewarded for its efforts with 6:09 remaining when Windjammer Macy Buck put a shot on goal, corralled her own rebound and beat Ward on a strong second effort to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
The Windjammers then added to their lead early in the second half when Chelsea Hunter inserted on a penalty corner and found Flint for the game's second score with 26:18 remaining, a development that prompted the second timeout of the game for Belfast, and another meeting between players and coach Allen Holmes.
"He just told us [the game] is within reach," said Cummings. "We're not down by like five or anything and we'd never been down yet in a game this season. So it was kind of a test for us to come back."
The Lions responded with vigor as they seized the game's momentum minutes later when Cummings dribbled through a handful of Windjammer defenders and beat Sulick glove side with 22:46 left, which cut the hosts' lead in half.
"That energized us a lot," said Nelligan of Cummings' goal. "I know that when she scored I wanted to score right after her and get one."
Belfast then went on the attack and had a slew of penalty corners over the game's next few minutes, with Camden Hills' defense holding pat until the 16:11-mark, when the Lions lined up for another corner.
The ball was inserted to Lapham, who found Nelligan down on the left post and Nelligan found the back of the cage to knot the game.
The two squads continued to battle back and forth throughout the remainder of regulation, through the first overtime and into the second, when the Lions finally got a break. Teams play 7-on-7 and eight-minute periods in overtimes. Regulation is played 11-on-11 with 30-minute halves.
Nelligan got ahead of the Windjammer defense and fired a shot that deflected off Sulick and back into Nelligan's abdomen. Nelligan then collected herself — and the ball — and popped it past the goalie from the left post to win the game for Belfast.
"Lexi's so fast that she just burned by one of the [Camden Hills] girls," said Cummings. "So then she got a shot on goal and got her rebound and kept her stick down."
Coach Allen Holmes said Nelligan "had the wind knocked out of her" on the play, but was fine after the game.
Camden Hills had additional scoring chances, including a nice effort by Camilla Walker in the first overtime, a shot that deflected off Ward and out of bounds for a corner. That was in addition to a hot shot by Flint that brought Ward out of the goal mouth to make a terrific diving stop, at one point.
Camden Hills led 7-3 in shots and 2-1 in penalty corners at the end of the first 30 minutes. The Windjammers have lost four games this season by a combined five goals.
In the Maine Principals' Association Heal Point Standings for Eastern Class B, Camden Hills (2-3, 2.5000 points) is 11th, while Belfast (5-0, 14.2347 points) is first in the 14-team region. The top nine teams qualify for the playoffs. The Windjammers actually are 2-4, but a 2-1 loss Sept. 10 against Waterville is not included in the standings.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.