FARMINGTON — Morse banked its first field hockey win of the season a day earlier and was brimming with confidence Wednesday in pursuit of its second. Mt. Blue's sensible strategy: Start quickly and shatter that confidence early.
When that plan didn't bear fruit, the Cougars discovered that a late knockout worked just as well.
Krista McLatchy's goal broke a tie with 20:28 remaining in regulation and fueled a flourish of four goals in under nine minutes, making Mt. Blue a 5-1 winner in the raindrops at Prescott Field.
Mikayla Oswald tipped home the next two shots in a 62-second span to clinch a KVAC Class B win for the playoff-contending Cougars (6-5).
The turning point, according to Oswald, was a timeout with 21:24 on the clock and the score knotted at one.
"Our coach (Jody Harmon) gave us a really encouraging talk about how intense we could play compared to how we were playing," Oswald said. "I think it just made us all realize that we are a better team than what we showed in the first half."
Jenna Bullen sent a sharp hit from outside the scoring circle in advance of the eventual game-winning goal.
Morse goaltender Bryanna Ringrose tried to kick away the ball, but McLatchy was there for the rebound.
Those strong, uncontested offerings from the perimeter became the rule. Oswald redirected Taylor Hollingdale's pass to the goalmouth at 13:49, then touched up co-captain Alyssa Williams' blast with 12:47 to play.
"Once they got moving they started to pick up the intensity. (They were) not waiting for it to come to them but going after it," Harmon said. "We don't ever give up, but sometimes we lack in the intensity and attacking the ball. Once we started doing that and working as a team, those were some of the best passes we've had so far."
Williams, the Cougars' lone senior, finished the onslaught with an assist from Bullen on the continuing action after a penalty corner.
It was a far cry from the first half, when the Cougars jumped out to a 1-0 lead, only to remain on their heels and watch the Shipbuilders (1-11) even it up in the closing stages.
Ringrose kept Morse in the contest by getting many of her 18 saves in bunches, including a pair of brilliant sequences in which she stopped three consecutive Mt. Blue bids in bang-bang-bang fashion.
"In my case I was kind of feeling down because when we were practicing (before the game), I wasn't doing so good," Oswald said. "It makes a huge difference to have your stick down on the ground."
Taylor Hollingdale furnished Mt. Blue's initial lead less than five minutes into the game, polishing off a corner with help from Sarita Crandall.
Despite a 7-3 advantage in shots in goal and five more corners before the break, the Cougars couldn't convert.
And Morse, which has rebounded nicely from a run of six shutouts to open the season, used the speed of Abby Moore and Aysia McCloud to produce multiple breakaways.
Mt. Blue goalie Rileigh Blanchet (five saves) and defenders Victoria Newbill and Taylor Hollingsworth stymied several of those opportunities. But McCloud broke through and tied the game on an off-balance shot through traffic with 4:43 to go.
"We got lax. We were like, 'Oh, we've got this,' because we controlled the ball at our end," Harmon said. "But every time Morse had a chance, boom, it was right on us and they almost scored every time. It showed us we can't be lax getting back getting back on (defense)."
Now in their second season since dropping from Eastern Class A to B, the Cougars appear primed for a return to the playoffs.
They have defeated two teams ahead of them in the KVAC standings — Leavitt and Oceanside. They're currently in the final playoff qualifying spot with three games remaining against Nokomis, Maranacook and MCI.
"Our slogan is 'dream, believe, achieve.' The key for us is believing they can do it," Harmon said. "Once they believe, they have the potential to beat anyone. They just have to believe and follow through."