LEWISTON — The uncertainty surrounding the weather as the clouds swirled overhead at Bates College on Thursday night matched the feeling on the field itself: A pair of teams meeting for the first time, in the season’s inaugural game, not knowing exactly what to make of one another, and not knowing what to expect of themselves.
Mt. Ararat knows now that it can score, and Lewiston knows that a healthy lineup and a bit more practice will make a world of difference.
Whitney Dano netted two goals in the game’s first 5:27 on her way to a five-goal effort and eight different Eagles scored to lead the squad to a 17-2 opening-day victory over the host Blue Devils.
“There were a lot of question marks to begin the season,” Mt. Ararat coach Jill Carney said. “We do have some experienced players coming back who wanted to pick up where we left off last year, but we also have some first-year players. I wasn’t sure how everything would fit in, but they have great natural instincts, and it really showed, I think.”
Dano, a key cog in the Eagles’ run to the Eastern Class A final last season, was a big part of Mt. Ararat’s quick start Thursday, too.
“There’s no question she’s a leader on our team,” Carney said. “She really gets people pumped up, and she knows how to communicate with the other players, to help the whole team be the best that we can be.”
Carrie Smith added three goals for Mt. Ararat, while Heather Bolduc, Kristina Johnson and Haley Michaud all netted two each. Audrey Petteruti and Anna Bruning combined to make eight saves on 10 shots.
Lewiston, meanwhile, struggled to generate any kind of offensive pressure all evening.
“We practiced all week without sticks, our defense physically pushing and grabbing,” Lewiston coach Christy Gardner said. “We knew this was going to be a physical contest. The other team came out and wanted it, they hustled, and we cracked under that pressure.”
The Devils’ defense appeared perplexed by the variety the Eagles showed in attacking the cage, from all angles and sides.
“The seams, I knew they were there, I was hoping they didn’t and wouldn’t exploit them,” Gardner said. “The biggest thing by far is that we cracked a bit under pressure early, and then all of the seams opened up.”
Hayley LaPointe made the score 3-0 at the 6:13 mark of the opening half, and then the Eagles rattled off three more in a 2:16 span to blow the game open. Four more in the final 10 minutes of the half pushed the lead to 10-0.
Kristen Lacasse scored for Lewiston early in the second half, and Megan Pelletier bookended seven more Mt. Ararat goals with her first late in the game to cap the scoring.
Despite the lopsided score, Gardner had plenty of optimism for the days and weeks ahead.
“As bodies become more healthy and people grasp more of the concepts we’ve been teaching, I think this can be a very, very different season from what we saw here,” Gardner said. “It’s going to be a matter of putting all of the pieces together right now.”