The longstanding, storied Belfast and Mount View field hockey rivalry is like a bestselling novel that one cannot put down, where each chapter is better than the last. And that again was the case Saturday afternoon, Oct. 20 on the rain-soaked artificial surface at Thomas College, as so much more was at stake for the Lions and Mustangs in the Waldo County neighbors' latest athletic saga.

What was on the line was a trip to the Eastern Class B championship game and both teams left every ounce of energy on the field with a momentum-grabbing, late second-half goal by the Lions and sturdy defense down the stretch helping Belfast carve out a hard-fought 1-0 victory.

Click for photos from the Belfast and Mount View game.

The win, made possible by a goal from Katrina Lapham off a penalty corner with time expiring in the first half, and a bend-but-don't break defense, anchored by Julia Ward, will allow the Lions an opportunity to defend their regional crown on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. (a change from the previous time of 5 p.m.) when No. 1 BAHS plays No. 3 Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft on the artificial surface at Hampden Academy.

While No. 1 Belfast (13-1-2) held off No. 5 Mount View of Thorndike (11-4-1) on Saturday, No. 3 Foxcroft Academy (14-2) slipped past No. 2 Nokomis of Newport (12-3-1) 2-1 on Friday, Oct. 19, both in semifinal games.

Belfast does not play Foxcroft Academy during the regular season but did play the Ponies in last year's regional playoffs in a game that was not decided until regulation and overtime play was finished and after 20 rounds of penalty corners. The Lions won 1-0.

The Belfast and Mount View playoff was suppose to be in Belfast on Saturday, but heavy recent rain made that field unplayable, thus the switch to Thomas College and its field which drains well and dries quickly.

Earlier in this year's playoffs, Belfast beat No. 8 Gardiner 3-2 and Mount View outlasted No. 4 Winslow 2-1 in overtime. Foxcroft Academy downed No. 6 John Bapst of Bangor 2-0 in the quarterfinals and defeated No. 2 Nokomis of Newport 2-1 in the semifinals.

At Thomas College Saturday, it was an all-Waldo County regional semifinal playoff affair as the Lions and Mustangs battled stick-to-stick for 60 thrilling minutes, with the game not decided until the final seconds melted away.

The game included intense back-and-forth action amid overcast skies and intermittent rain, a contest that left fans of both teams standing around the field's fence on edge until the end.

The game included a goal scored as time expired in the first half and a stop of a penalty stroke on a would-be tying second-half goal.

Neither team gave an inch and each controlled play at times during the 60-minute affair, with the Lions enjoying the overall edge in play.

Belfast held a 16-10 advantage in shots on goal and an 11-5 edge on penalty corners. Ward made nine saves in goal for the Lions and Abbie Charrier, who was equally as impressive in the cage, eight stops for the Mustangs.

Ward even stoned Mount View's Brittany Masessa on a second-half penalty stroke.

The game included talented, skilled players on both teams, with crisp passing and fast play on the artificial surface, as both squads were able to make quick transitions from offense to defense.

From the open whistle, the Lions and Mustangs, as they usually do, went toe-to-toe with the team's defenses and goalies coming up with key plays. The first of those came with 21 minutes left in the first half when the lightning quick Braley Leadbetter, who was an offensive threat all game, broke down the middle of the field and in on Ward, who redirected the shot.

Not to be outdone, Charrier also made a nice diving stop on the corner of the cage with about 17 minutes left. Belfast's heavy pressure on Charrier continued over the next few minutes.

But that Lion pressure finally paid off with a couple of late first-half penalty corners, one of which turned into the game's only score. With time running out, Kristine Mehuren inserted the ball to Maddy Cummings, who passed to Lexi Nelligan on the endline and Nelligan sent the ball across the mouth of the cage, where Lapham was Johnny on the spot, as she stopped the ball and knocked it past Charrier.

"It is really important to come out of halftime with the momentum because that determines the rest of the game," said Lapham, a senior. "So it is really great to get the goal right at the end [of the first half] and have no chance for them to get the momentum back, so we came back [in the second half] with the most momentum. So that [goal] was crucial."

In recent years, Lapham has become accustomed to making key plays for the Lions, but most have been on the defensive end of the field before she became more involved on offense this year. Saturday's goal gave the Lions the lead, the momentum and the eventual win and was the most important goal of Lapham's career.

"This is my first year of playing offense so this is my first year scoring so it feels awesome," Lapham said. "Being a senior and scoring against our rivals Mount View feels great."

Lapham's goal was key, but not the most important play of her high school field hockey career, she said, with still being a waist-high stick save near the goal to keep Belfast alive in a playoff game last fall en route to the Lions' state title. She said that defensive play felt even more rewarding than scoring Saturday.

Facing a 1-0 deficit in the second half, the Mustangs increased their offensive intensity in an effort to notch the tying goal. Midway through the half, Ward came up with several key saves on heavy Mount View pressure. Then, with 13:53 remaining, Masessa attempted a penalty stroke and tried to knock the ball into the left side of the cage to Ward's right, but the Lion goalie made the stop.

Mount View's frantically tried to mount enough offensive push down the stretch to score the tying goal but Ward and the Lions defense would not give an inch.

Ward said an intense, one-goal game for a trip to the regional finals keeps all goalies on their toes, so to speak. "It gets you more on edge," she said. "I have to be more aware of everything going on and what everyone is doing and making sure everyone on defense and offense is working together."

Ward said she tries not to get nervous in key situations, but looks to maintain a level of confidence, especially when facing a penalty stroke, or any other tough shot. "You have to be sure about what you want to do," she said. "And, if you are, even if you miss [the shot] you are going to make a good attempt at it."

The Mustangs and Lions have played a bundle of tough battles over the years, as Mount View and Belfast have two of the most consistent and successful programs in the state Class B ranks. To end this regular season, for example, the two squads played to a 1-1, double-overtime tie.

Two years ago the Mustangs advanced to the regional final and last season the Belfast captured regional and state crowns.

This season, Belfast has outscored opponents 45-15 in 16 games, with five shutouts and has been shut out only once. The Lions lost to Gardiner 3-0 and tied both Oceanside and Mount View 1-1 during the regular season.

Mount View outscored foes 45-12 in 16 games, including recording eight shutouts, and were shut out once, that being Saturday against Belfast. The Mustangs lost 3-1 to Nokomis and 2-1 to Leavitt and tied Belfast 1-1 during the regular season.

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