RUMBORD — St. Dominic Academy pressed forward intensely in the second half in an attempt to retain its crown as Class C state field hockey champion.
The Saints were able to score once in the final half, but two first-half goals by Mountain Valley were enough to put away the defending champs and send the Falcons to the C South final.
For Mountain Valley head coach Melissa Forbes, getting over the hump and into the C South final was a taller task than her players first realized.
“St. Dom’s has been to the big game, but we haven’t been to the big dance before,” Forbes said. “I think at halftime they were maybe celebrating more than they should have with two goals. It seemed easy to them and I was trying to get them to understand that they’ve been here before. You can tell kids that, but they had to feel it.”
The entire game was a back-and-forth battle, with some of the fastest players in Class C on display. The Falcons got on the board first when Avery Sevigny rifled a ball across the net that found the outstretched stick of Breanna Burgess, who tapped it in for the game’s first goal.
“It felt really good,” Burgess said. “All I saw was the ball was coming toward me and was going to miss the cage, so I just hoped and prayed and just reached and my reach actually tipped the ball and it went in.”
Throughout the first half, each team maintained chunks of possession at a time. Mountain Valley was finding its stride near the end of the first half, culminating after a penalty corner started by Rylee Sevigny. A pass reached Leigha Carrier, who then found Autumn Freeman for the second and deciding goal for the Falcons.
At halftime, Forbes was nervous that her team wouldn’t be ready for what was to come from the Saints.
It took the Saints a little more than five minutes to score in the second half, as Charlotte Gastonguay tipped in a ball to cut the deficit in half.
“It was an eye-opener, and as a coach those are the things where you say, ‘I told you. I warned you this would happen,’” Forbes said. “I’m proud of them for doing everything that they could to play defense. It’s hard to get the front line to transition from playing offense to wanting to protect the lead.”
The goal gave the Saints he confidence they needed to push the ball up the field and put the Falcons on their heels.
“They played their hearts out,” St. Dom’s head coach Jennifer Brown said. “… I was really happy in the second half with how we came out offensively and really had some opportunities. I think the big hit is something Mountain Valley uses really well, and just being ready for it and getting in front of that ball.”
The Falcons adjusted their defense to play more man-to-man in the second half, and it paid off.
“We started to mark up on one person,” Burgess said. “We started to mark one girl each. You could watch their body language because they would turn to who they were driving it to, and if we marked up on everyone they were practically doing circles trying to figure out who to give it to.”
St. Dom’s flung bodies forward at the end in desperate attempts at goal, but Mountain Valley held on to win. The Falcons will play the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 2 Spruce Mountain and No. 3 Dirigo in the regional final Tuesday. Top-seeded Mountain Valley split with both teams during the regular season.