Gardiner’s Margaret Bell and York’s Hannah Gennaro fight for possession durinng the Class B field hockey state final on Saturday at Deering. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)
Madelin Walker watched the scoreboard clock as it counted down the final seconds of the Class B field hockey state championship game.
“I was watching, 3 … 2 … 1,” said Walker, a senior midfielder for Gardiner. “Then I just kicked the ball. Did we really just do that?”
Yes, Madelin, you did.
Gardiner won its first Class B state championship since 2009, holding off York, 3-2, in an incredibly even and tense game in the rain at Deering High in Portland. Walker scored one of the Tigers’ two goals in the second half, putting in a penalty stroke with 15 minutes remaining.
Senior forward Sarah Foust scored the other second-half goal, which proved to be the winner, with 12:53 remaining. The Tigers finished 17-1 and reversed the outcome of the 2014 state final in what was Sharon Gallant’s first year as Gardiner’s head coach.
“I have a great group of seniors,” said Gallant, fighting back tears. “And a few weeks ago, when we weren’t playing well, the players said, ‘If we go to states, coach, will you get a tattoo?’ I said ‘No,’ so they said a nose ring. Apparently Monday, I’m going to get a nose ring.
“I probably ought to tell my husband.”
York, playing in its sixth consecutive state final and seeking its fourth state championship in five years, finished 13-4-1. The Wildcats controlled much of the first half and led 1-0 after a rebound goal by Bailey Oliver with 14:14 left in the first half. But Gardiner got a goal from Jazmin Clary with 0.5 seconds left in the half, off a scrum on a penalty corner.
“Oh my God, it felt so good to go into the half tied,” said Gardiner goalie Lindsey Bell, who made 11 saves. “If we hadn’t scored, it would have been much harder for us.”
It stayed tied until Walker’s penalty stroke, which was awarded off a Gardiner penalty corner when the ball went off the foot of York defender Hannah Gennaro, who was behind York goalie Julianna Kiklis (eight saves).
“She was back there, right place, it just hit her foot,” said York Coach Nora Happny. “It gave us another chance to stop the ball.”
Walker admitted to being nervous. “I was shaking,” she said. “I had to take a couple deep breaths.”
Her shot, to Kiklis’ right and halfway up the goal, was true and the Tigers led, 2-1.
“That was a rocket, wasn’t it?” said Gallant.
Just over a minute later, Emlyn Patry, York’s best player, lost two teeth in a collision with Walker. Fifty-five seconds after she left the game, Gardiner scored, as Foust got behind the defense and swept in the ball.
Stunningly, Patry returned to the game minutes later and scored off a penalty corner, ripping a low shot from the top of the circle past Bell with 7:54 remaining to pull the Wildcats within a goal.
“She is just an incredible athlete, a fighter, all-in every game,” said Happny. “You cannot deny that she leaves everything on the field. I am shocked she went back in. Then she scored. She is such a rock star.”
Patry’s effort certainly impressed the Tigers. “When she came in, I was rooting for her,” said Walker.
But Gardiner did not give up another shot.
“This whole year, we’ve been a second-half team,” said Gallant. “They get to this point, and in the second half they’re ready to go. They have said from Day 1 this is their goal and they were going to make it happen. And they made it happen.”