Spruce Mountain’s Harmony Castonguay, left, tries to slow down Winthrop’s Gia Francis as she moves up the field during a field hockey game in Winthrop in September. (Sun Journal file photo)
The six field hockey teams set to compete in state championship games Saturday have had an extra week to ponder and plan for their opponents after weather wiped out the slate last weekend.
Several teams —including Skowhegan, Gardiner and York — scrimmaged each other at Thomas College midweek in an effort to stay sharp. Two teams, Spruce Mountain and Winthrop, have already faced each other twice during Mountain Valley Conference play.
The state finals will be played Saturday at Memorial Field on the Deering High School campus in Portland.
Here’s a look at the matchups:
SKOWHEGAN (17-0-0) vs. BIDDEFORD (16-0-1), 3 p.m.
Skowhegan has an unmatched resume of any high school sports team, having won 18 state championships, including the last three in a row, and 15 of the last 17.
The Indians are quick, balanced and deep. Three of their players — Maliea Kelso, Lizzie York and Bhreagh Kennedy — have committed to play for Division I colleges next fall. They are strong front to back as one would expect an unbeaten team to be. Junior Emily Reichenbach leads a balanced scoring attack with 20 goals, followed by Kelso with 14 and Alexis Michonski with 10.
“We don’t have one scorer, we have eight,” coach Paula Doughty said.
Doughty has been pleased with the progress of goalie McKenzie McConnell, who has gained confidence over the second half of the season.
Doughty is in her 38th year of coaching and heading to her 24th state championship game. Her counterpart, Biddeford coach Caitlin Albert, is a newcomer to this stage. The Tigers last won a state title in 1990, but have been knocking on the door of late. Last year they lost to Westbrook in the regional final.
“They’re smart and they play well together as a unit,” Albert said. “We have speed and versatility.”
The Tigers also have the advantage of playing on the turf at newly revamped Waterhouse Field while the Indians played just one regular-season game on the surface.
Biddeford’s three captains — Paige Laverriere, Hailey Allen and Taylor Wildes — are four-year starters in the front line, midfield and goal, respectively. Allen, who will play at Assumption College (Worcester, Massachusetts) next fall, scored 15 goals and has 47 for her career, one shy of the school record. She injured her knee during the playoffs, missed the regional final and is not expected to play.
“She’s the heart of our team,” Albert said. “Losing her is the hardest thing we could deal with.”
Allen’s sophomore sister Abby set a school record with 24 goals this season, including five game-winners. Wildes is headed to play at Seton Hall next year and has recorded 11 shutouts.
GARDINER (16-1-0) vs. YORK (13-3-1), 11 a.m.
These teams have a championship history, having played one another for the state title in 2009 and 2014. Gardiner won 2-0 in 2009 while York prevailed 2-1 in 2014. That game came in Gardiner coach Sharon Gallant’s first season.
“I don’t know much about them,” Gallant said of the Wildcats. “Their goalie’s a four-year starter. We’re going to just do what we do best.”
The Tigers have been a second-half team all year, and that continued in the playoffs, when they rallied from two goals down to defeat Winslow in the regional final.
“They’re so confident and truly feel they can match up with anybody, even when down by two goals,” Gallant said.
The Tigers feature a balanced scoring attack, led by juniors Maggie Bell and Haley Brann and senior Sarah Foust. Their midfield line — Madelin Walker, Aimee Adams and Jaz Clary — is strong and aggressive, while Jillian Bisson is an experienced defender in front of first-year goalie Lindsay Bell.
York has played in the last five state title games, winning three straight before losing to Maine Central Institute last year. Goalie Julianna Kiklis and midfielder Emily Patry have played in four straight state championship games.
Junior Bailey Oliver is the leading scorer with 14 goals and two assists, while freshman Sage Works has seven goals and six assists. The Wildcats aren’t the offensive juggernaut they’ve been in recent years, scoring 27 goals in 14 regular season games, but they’ve only allowed six and recorded 11 shutouts.
“As long as we come out as we have, it should be a good game,” first-year coach Nora Happny said.
WINTHROP (16-1-0) vs. SPRUCE MOUNTAIN (11-5-1), 1 p.m.
Winthrop, which lost in double overtime in last year’s state title game against St. Dom’s, will be a solid favorite. The Ramblers, who defeated Spruce Mountain twice in the regular season (1-0 and 3-0), returned all but two players from last year’s team.
“We focused on shutting down their wings,” Winthrop coach Jessica Merrill said of her team’s strategy in defeating the Phoenix.
The Ramblers present problems of their own with a short, crisp passing game suited to turf. They added a scorer in freshman Maddie Perkins, who led the team with 27 goals. Mountain Valley Conference player of the year, Moriah Hadjuk, added 12 goals and 13 assists, while Kerrigan Anuszewski and Nora Conrad each scored seven and Katie Perkins notched 16 assists. The Ramblers outscored their opponents 84-6 this season with goalie Aiva Agri recording nine shutouts.
“They’re an aggressive team,” Merrill said of the Phoenix.“They’ve got some fast wings and they do a good job getting the ball up the field.”
Spruce Mountain brings back 10 seniors from a team that lost in the regional final a year ago. Emily Castonguay and sophomore Aurianna Armandi are their speedy wings, while seniors Brooke Buote and Julianna Doiron anchor midfield. Coach Jane DiPompo moved Erin McPherson from the front line to sweeper this year and it’s paid off. Goalkeeper Melissa Bamford was a backup last year.
DiPompo is aware she’ll have to alter her strategy against the Ramblers, especially on turf.
“They do play a different game,” she said. “We’re going to have to be fast and play with a little skill, not just flying down the field.”