No matter the sport, the last line of defense — the goaltender — is about as key a position as you can find. With one of the more solid teams he's seen emerge from the halls of Edward Little High School in quite a few years, coach Greg Perkins was left wondering if what he had between the pipes was enough.
Amanda Williams didn't waste much time in reassuring the longtime coach that he has absolutely nothing to worry about.
Williams, only a sophomore and last year's junior varsity starter, stepped into the varsity fold this season for the first time. All she's done to date is allow just four goals in eight games, including four shutout wins in the team's six victories.
"She's really worked hard all summer, she went to camps and really worked at the game," Perkins said.
And, he added, it's not like Williams has had the benefit of veteran support. The team's most decorated and experienced back, Ashley Butler, has missed three games with an injury, and another has seen limited action for the same reason.
"In (Tuesday's) game (against Messalonskee), I started a sophomore at center back in her first game at the position," Perkins said. "The younger players have stepped up, there's no question, but a lot of what Amanda has been able to do this year, she's done because she's good at tracking the ball and moving to it, and she's not afraid to take charge, even as a sophomore. Goalies can see the field better, and it's their job to be vocal."
Against Brunswick on Saturday, Williams stopped five solid shots in the opening half with her squad trailing 1-0.
"Those go in, any one of them, it's a whole different game," Perkins said. "And then against Messalonskee, they outshot us (9-5), and outcornered us (10-3), and she kept us in it."
Behind Williams, the Red Eddies have now solidly planted themselves in the top three in Eastern Class A, and a showdown with unbeaten perennial power Skowhegan looms for this Saturday.
After surpassing their own expectations in 2009, the Winthrop Ramblers knew better this season. Wanting to get to 10 wins and beyond last year, the green machine blazed through its schedule and earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Maine playoffs, only to lose in the first round.
This year, the distinction of being unbeaten disappeared a bit earlier. After again jumping out to a 4-0 start, Winthrop traveled to perennial power Telstar late last week and ran into an angry Rebels squad that lost its unbeaten string in the season's second game. Telstar pounded Winthrop, 6-0.
"It was a reality check of sorts for us," Winthrop coach Sharon Coulton said. "We needed to buckle down on defense a bit more, and that's what that game showed us."
The key was, the Ramblers learned from it. After taking out their frustrations two days later against the outmatched Dirigo Cougars, Winthrop on Monday traveled to Lisbon and faced a tough test against a Class B opponent.
"We'd graduated a senior goalie from the year before," Coulton said, "and she was very good, and it left a big hole to fill. Telstar played really well in that game and gave us a run. Against Lisbon, we came back and we again had to play a lot of defense, and it was encouraging to see the improvement on the defense in just two games."
Searching for Heals
There was no doubt that the Gray-New Gloucester schedule last season was a bit soft, loaded with a handful of Class C programs. This year, the Patriots went with a more mixed schedule. The results have been, well, mixed.
In seven games through Monday, the Patriots had three wins against four losses, and two of those wins had come against Class B opponents. Problem is, the three wins have also come against teams with a combined one win this season, leaving Gray-New Gloucester to search for some valuable Heal Points in a deep Western Class B field.
Last of the unbeatens
Seven Maine field hockey teams remain among the unbeaten as the season hits the halfway mark for most conferences. Scarborough and Skowhegan lead the way in their respective divisions in Class A. In Class B, John Bapst, Mt. View and Gardiner are all unbeaten in the East, while York has yet to lose in Western B.
Livermore Falls is the lone unbeaten team in all of Class C at 7-0.
Of course, with the unbeatens, there are also those teams still searching for a victory. Among those yet to break into the 'wins' column are Windham, Deering and Morse in Class A, Erskine, Hermon, Yarmouth, Oak Hill and Poland in Class B, and St. Dom's in Class C, though the Saints have earned a tie this season.