Class C field hockey state championship: Ramblers claim elusive state championship

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Winthrop celebrates its win over Spruce Mountain in the Class C field hockey state championship Saturday at Deering High School in Portland. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald)

PORTLAND — Last year the Winthrop Ramblers felt the agony of the defeat after a state final loss to St. Dominic Academy in overtime. In 2018, they experienced the thrill of victory with a 3-1 win over MVC rival Spruce Mountain to capture their first Class C state field hockey championship since 1989.

Breonna Feeney had two goals and Gia Francis added an insurance marker as the Rambers capped off a 17-1 season.

“It just makes it more of achievement, it just makes more special to me and the entire team,” Francis, a junior forward, said of winning the state championship after last season’s disappointment. “In all honesty, we are all on the top of the world right now.”

Words were hard to come by for Winthrop coach Jessica Merrill, but with nine seniors on the team in 2018, she badly wanted this season to end in a different result.

“It’s a long season, it can be emotionally draining, you want it so much for them,” Merrill said. “We worked so hard for this from last October to now. I wanted it more for them. They’ve worked so hard for it, to see them put all this work and today, I still don’t have the words.”

On the other sideline, Spruce Mountain coach Jane DiPompo’s message after the game to her team was to not let one game define them.

“Don’t look at your season in one game, you got to look at the season as a whole,” Dipompo said. “We’ve made so many gains and we have come so far, you can’t forget about that. You can’t let this one (game) overshadow it.”

The first 20 minutes of Saturday’s contest were quiet as both teams, who were meeting each other for the third time this season, tried to find a rhythm.

Feeney broke the 0-0 deadlock with 10:09 remaining in the first half.

The lead lasted about five-and-a-half minutes, until Spruce Mountain answered when Brooke Boute found a loose ball in the crease for an easy goal.

The score remained tied 1-1 at halftime.

“We were psyched at halftime,” DiPompo said. “We knew we were in the game, we knew we were playing with them.”

The teams took different approaches during the 10-minute halftime break. Winthrop kept doing what is has done all season and stayed on the field to keep things as normal as possible. Spruce Mountain decided to went into a locker room to warm up.

The advantage went to the Ramblers, as they took control of the game from the opening draw of the second half. But Spruce Mountain’s Emily White prevented the Ramblers from taking a lead with a nice defensive stop early on in the second half.

Merrill’s halftime speech resonated with her players.

“I told the girls, this may not end the way you want it to if you don’t get yourselves mentally in check,” Merrill said. “It’s like the spark went off in them at halftime. Their attitude was totally different. We maintained play in the second half, and I think we realized that they have 30 minutes — I have nine seniors — left in their high school career.”

Spruce Mountain (11-6-1) couldn’t get a shot on goal until 14 minutes remaining. Right after that, the Ramblers responded. Feeney found the back of the net again to make it 2-1 Winthrop with 10:50 left in the contest.

“We just had to stay confident, stay together, work together and not get too excited because the game wasn’t over yet,” Feeney said.

Francis added breathing room with with a goal with 9:14 to play. It took a couple more minutes before she realized how big her goal was.

“It wasn’t until the four-minute mark where it started to settle down and I realized, ‘Oh, my God, we actually have a chance if we keep this (lead),’” Francis said.

With the game slipping out of their hands, the Phoenix attacked the goal. They had two shots go wide in the closing minutes.

“They showed heart, they came out, they didn’t give up,” DiPompo said. “I love these kids. They gave their heart and soul.”

Winthrop celebrates its 3-1 win over Spruce Mountain in the Class C field hockey state championship Saturday at Deering High School in Portland. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald)

Spruce Mountain’s Aurianna Armandi, left, and Winthrop’s Kate Perkins battle in the first half during the Class C field hockey state championship Saturday at Deering High School in Portland. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald)

Winthrop’s Maddie Perkins (11) is wedged between Spruce Mountain’s Erin McPherson, left, and Julianne Doiron during first-half action in the Class C field hockey state championship Saturday at Deering High School in Portland. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald)

Winthrop’s Breonna Feeney (10) reacts after scoring the first goal of the game in the first half during the Class C field hockey state championship Saturday at Deering High School in Portland. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald)

Spruce Mountain’s Julianne Doiron (13) celebrates with teammates after Brooke Buote scored in the first half against Winthrop in the Class C field hockey state championship Saturday at Deering High School in Portland. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald)

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