St. Dominic Academy field hockey players return to the sideline after a halftime meeting during a recent game against Freeport in Auburn. From left are Tori Chase, Avery Greco, Maddy Pike, Anna Cote, Eisa Lee, Lizzie Perkins and Hannah Trottier-Braun.
AUBURN — Whether played on the ice or on a turf-covered field, St. Dominic Academy’s hockey teams have had some remarkable success the past couple of years.
On the ice, the Saints’ girls’ hockey team is a two-time defending state champion. On the grass, the field hockey squad reached the Class C South regional final a year ago, losing to eventual state champion Oak Hill.
This year, that same group of girls is on a mission, not only to avenge last year’s loss in the regional final, but to finally earn for the school its first Class C state title.
“Being so close, last year to lose in overtime and knowing we could have been state champs,” St. Dom’s field hockey coach Brian Kay said, “the girls still have that feeling that they want to get back there and finish it.”
The team is off to a mind-boggling start trying to reach that goal.
Callie Samson has had better than a front-row seat for all of the teams’ remarkable runs — she’s the lone player to compete for both squads in all four seasons.
“It’s been crazy,” the senior midfielder said. “We’ve had a lot of girls come in the past few years that have come in already with skills.”
The similarities between the teams are striking.
The ice hockey team outscored its opponents 168-20 over 21 games this past winter. The field hockey team has 76 goals through eight games, while allowing only three. Extrapolated over the maximum possible number of games the Saints could play this season (18, if they go to the Class C state final), that would come out to 172 goals for, and seven allowed.
Broken down, St. Dom’s goal total is even more impressive.
With 76 goals on the season, the Saints have more goals than the next best team, regardless of class, by 19 (Gardiner in Class B North has 58). In Class C North, Dexter has netted 56. No other team has more than 50. Perennial Class A powers Skowhegan (42), Messalonskee (36), Massabesic (28) and Scarborough (27) are all having typically solid seasons and are at or near the top of their respective regions.
As unfathomable as the ice hockey team’s numbers were seven-plus months ago, this year’s field hockey numbers are better.
And the Saints are sharing the wealth.
“Everybody contributes and it’s not just one person,” senior forward Hannah Trottier-Braun said. “It makes it so much easier to work together. They might guard me, then Paige (Cote) will score. Or Caroline (Johnson) will get going. It works really well, and it can catch teams off-guard because they expect only one person to be doing all of the scoring.”
Trottier-Braun is the team’s leading scoring forward with 34 this season, but in addition to her skill set, it’s her positioning on the field that makes her so hard to defend.
“It’s such a team effort getting the ball into the circle, everybody is touching the ball,” junior Kylie Leavitt said.
Leavitt plays atop an offensive diamond formation, with Cote, Johnson and Bailey Derocher among those on the wings up front. She’s also the team leader in assists with 24.
Part of the Saints’ ascent from really good to great this season? Pinpoint passing.
“We realize the ball moves a lot quicker when it’s being passed up the field instead of someone dribbling it the whole way,” Cote said.
“We passed a lot last year, but it was still more of a possession game,” Trottier-Braun added. “We pass, we talk, we communicate, and we keep everything going so fast. We work really well as a team.”
Of course, Kay and his team are quick to remind anyone who will listen that scoring goals isn’t the only reason the team has been successful this season. Nor are all of the goals the true foundation of what they’ve done at St. Dom’s.
“A lot of it starts on the defense, with Tori Chase,” Kay said. “They’re so solid on the back line, and our goal in every game is not to allow any shots on net.”
“Our defense is really good, they work really hard and they keep the ball out of our goal at all costs,” Samson said. “We’d rather take corner after corner than give up a goal. Last year, we had a game like that, against York, where they got a ton of shots but only two goals.”
Samson is that fourth player up the middle stripe, at the third layer of players behind Trottier-Braun and Leavitt, and in front of Chase.
That midfield play has also resulted in incredible defensive statistics.
“They’ve been killing it this year, working really hard in practices, and they’re facing our forwards, too,” Cote said. “And in the midfield, we’ve been working a lot on recovering, so if they do get beat, we can add a layer behind them.”
The Saints have allowed only three goals in eight games this season — all three against Poland in a 5-3 win. Part of the reason for that, of course, is the play of keeper Abby Slonina, who has acquitted herself well between the pipes for the better part of four seasons.
“In all honesty, I wish I had more shots on,” Slonina said, “but I am fine if we win every game, too, and we push through and make the effort and play our game.”
And it’s hard for opponents to score against the Saints when they’re not getting any shots on goal. That’s where the team’s solid — if unheralded — back line comes in.
“Our biggest thing is, the other team can’t win if they don’t have the ball,” Leavitt said.
In eight games this season, Slonina has seen just eight total shots on goal. In four of the team’s seven shutouts, she’s seen no action at all.
“We’ve been shooting on her a lot in practice, though,” Cote said laughing. “She’ll be ready.”
Now that all of the teams have begun the autumn descent from the middle of the regular season to the playoffs, maintaining both parts of the game simultaneously will be crucial to the Saints’ chances of attaining their ultimate goal.
“All the way, I’m hoping,” Leavitt said. “That’s the goal.”
St. Dominic Academy coach Brian Kay, left, and player Bailey Derocher chat about strategy on the sideline while watching action on the field during a game against Freeport in Auburn recently.
Hannah Trottier-Braun, left, Bailey Derocher, center, and Callie Samson, right, trot back to midfield after a goal against Freeport during a recent game in Auburn.St. Dominic Academy players, from left, Anna Cote, Hannah Trottier-Braun, Callie Samson and Bailey Derocher return to midfield after scoring a goal in a recent game against Freeport in Auburn.St. Dominic Academy coach Brian Kay watches the action during a recent game against Freeport in Auburn.