Scoreless at the half, York scored four goals in the final 30 minutes — three off the stick of Alie Jones — as the Wildcats claimed their ninth regional championship in the past 11 years with a 4-0 victory over Spruce Mountain on Thursday at Scarborough High School.
The Phoenix’s defense bent but didn’t break in the first half, keeping a York offense that averages 4.3 goals per game off the board through the first 30 minutes. That, despite surrendering 11 penalty corners and 10 shots on goal.
“First half, I think we probably surprised them after last year’s game,” Spruce Mountain co-coach Julia Parker said. “This game, we’ve been talking about it a lot, these girls earned this spot to be here. They’ve had a great season.”
The Wildcats put one past Spruce Mountain goalkeeper Grace Ryan in the final minutes of the first half, but officials disallowed the goal, ruling it had been kicked in off a York player’s foot.
The Phoenix (12-5) weren’t as fortunate in the second half.
Much like the first half, York dominated in the second, only this time it found the back of the cage.
After 11 unsuccessful penalty corners in the opening 30 minutes, the Wildcats scored on their first attempt of the second half. Devon Datsis corralled a loose ball at the top of the circle and fired a shot through traffic that deflected off a defender’s stick and past Ryan to put the Wildcats in front four minutes into the second half.
“We had a play set, and it didn’t work out,” Datsis said. “Their goalie made a great save, so the rebound came out, and it was just an instinct to shoot.”
If York’s undefeated run this season proved anything, it was that one goal was most likely going to be enough. The Wildcats entered Thursday’s game having allowed two goals all year. They hadn’t been scored on since Sept. 19, a string of nine consecutive contests.
But Jones added some insurance, netting a natural hat trick in a span of 10:35 to ensure York a spot in the state championship game, where it will play Gardiner on Saturday at Thomas College at 1 p.m.
“I’m thankful to have the opportunity to get back there, because it’s hard,” York coach Barb Marois said. “It’s hard to do, and I know how hard the girls have worked to get back to that point. They love the game like I love the game.”
Jones’ first came less than two minutes after Datsis broke the scoreless draw. She chased down a loose ball at the goal line to the left of the cage, circled in front and slipped a shot by Ryan for a 2-0 lead.
Seven minutes later, she converted an opportunity in front of the cage after Datsis was tripped from behind after carrying the ball into the circle, maneuvering past Spruce Mountain defenders in the process.
Jones said she didn’t foresee herself having such a memorable game.
“I woke up very nervous,” Jones said. “I was coming in with optimism, because we ddn’t really know how this would turn out. We played them my freshman year in double overtime, and last year we beat them in Western Maines. There’s really no say on how good a team can get over a year, and it changes so much.”
The teams didn’t meet in the regular season. The two met in last year’s regional final, with the Wildcats winning 6-0.
Jones scored her hat-trick goal on York’s 17th penalty corner of the game. She handled the first pass from Kayla Kelly, took a shot on net that was blocked aside by Ryan, grabbed her own rebound and stuffed it into the cage with 13:45 remaining.
“Thankfully today when we needed it, she stepped it up,” Marois said. “The potential’s there, no question about it. It’s just a matter of consistency, and she was able to do it today when we really needed it.”
The Wildcats finished with 20 corners and 23 shots on goal. The Phoenix went without a penalty corner and recorded their lone shot on net with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Ryan finished with 16 saves.