Mt. Blue’s Gracie Foss (14) pursues Messalonskee’s Emily Crowell (19) in a Class A field hockey opener at Caldwell Field in Farmington on Thursday afternoon.
FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue field hockey coach Jody Harmon was forced to play a chess game without all the pieces Thursday.
For openers, a rash of injuries forced the Cougars to take on a more mature Messalonskee team, which went on to beat Mt. Blue 3-1 in a Class A field hockey opener at Caldwell Field on Thursday afternoon.
Harmon was trying fill voids left by key injured players as well as pamper other athletes who were playing hurt. Harmon’s moves on this giant chess board gave the Cougars momentum in the second half.
“We finally got out from being flat-footed, planting and watching and attacked more” Harmon said. “Definitely, we are on the low side now.
“We have three starters that are injured so we are not even playing with our full load, and three of them that are playing are injured are not playing 100 percent, so we have a long ways to go.
“We’ve got to get healthy again. We have to get recovered to build our strength. But I had three freshmen stepping in roles … in a varsity game and they did well. It also gave the sophomores and underclassmen to get some action.”
The Cougars got a taste of a more mature Messalonksee team and a preview of autumn on a sunny and breezy afternoon. The Eagles, once a young team struggling to find their way last season, are now a year older, wiser and a lot more confident.
The Eagles demonstrated their maturity in the first half, putting the Cougars on the defensive the entire first half.
“Last year, we were very young talent,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “The talent was there, but we were very young, immature and just hesitant.
‘This year they are all a year older and much more matured. I think they played a better game. You know Mt. Blue never lets down. They will never give up. They will always score a goal if they can.
“I think we are working better as a team. We are a very smart group of girls. I was really happy with the first game and we know now what we really need to work on now.”
Messalonskee’s pressure allowed junior Kaitlyn Smith to punch in two of her three goals to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead going into the first half. Autumn Littlefield and Ally Turner each earned an assist thanks to Smith’s hard work.
Smith was still on a tear, scoring her third goal on a Chloe Tilley assist to provide the Eagles with a three-goal lead in the second half
“I am very happy that we played well together,” Smith said. “We focused a lot on being very aggressive and that is just our main game plan — just be aggressive, take no prisoners.”
But the second half also saw the Cougars snap out of it, become more comfortable and go on the offensive.
The Cougars’ second wind opened an opportunity to score their only goal. Samantha Ellis drilled in an unassisted goal late in the second half.
But Eagles put a stop to the fired-up Cougars from doing further damage.
Mt. Blue’s Samantha Ellis (5) reaches for the ball as teammate Rylee Keaten (4) and Messalonskee’s Megan Quirion close in a Class A field hockey opener at Caldwell Field in Farmington on Thursday afternoon.Messalonskiee’s Kaitlyn Smith (6) slips her third goal past Mt Blue goalie Erika McArthur as the Eagles’ Chloe Tilley in the second half of a Class A field hockey opener at Caldwell Field in Farmington on Thursday afternoon.