AUBURN — For all of the misty-eyed elation along the St. Dominic Academy sideline Friday, one word from senior Brittany Eastman expressed what everyone else was thinking.

“Incredible,” she said, unable to contain a wide smile.

Two years ago, the once-formidable Saints were winless.

Friday, the team added another step on its slow climb up in one of the sports toughest conferences, earning a 2-1 Western Class C preliminary-round playoff victory over an undermanned but scrappy Maranacook squad.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Eastman said. “It’s most of the same girls, it’s just great, because we saw the growth. It was really fun to see, especially in our senior year, never having made it.”

Eastman earned a pair of assists on goals by Callie Greco and Olivia Chase, who each tipped the ball past Maranacook goalie Amber Ridlon in the first half to erase an early one-goal deficit.

“We knew coming in they were short players,” St. Dom’s coach Brian Kay said, “but those players are good players. The game’s opened up, and we both had our chances.”

The Black Bears began the season with only 12 players, and due to injuries played the stretch run of their KVAC schedule and Friday’s playoff tilt with only nine players on the field of a possible 11, including Ridlon between the pipes.

“The girls are obviously upset, but they’re also saying, ‘Who would have thought we’d be here at all?'” Maranacook coach Tanya Evans said. “Starting the season the way we did with all of the obstacles we had to overcome. They’re heartbroken, but that’s also one of the best games we’ve played all year. They need to take that away from this as a learning experience.”

And the Black Bears pushed the tempo early. Lindsay Jackson finished a shot at the left side of the cage and beat Saints keeper Taylor Bergeron on her backhand to put Maranacook in front 1-0 14:47 into the game.

“When that happened, we knew we needed to kick it into gear,” Greco said, “and bring even more energy than we had. I was so proud of the way we came back and hustled”

Greco evened things up at 1-1 with 7:48 to play in the first half when she tipped a ball past Ridlon from the right post on a blast from McKenna LaChapelle.

“I flicked it and it bounced off my stick and in,” Greco said.

Eastman had an assist on that play, as well, feeding LaChapelle from the 25-yard line.

Not content to make it to halftime deadlocked, the Saints again rattled the cage with 1:09 to play. This time, Eastman fired a ball to the left post, where Chase redirected it past Ridlon.

The Black Bears never faded in the second half, either, and maintained the majority of the offensive-zone pressure. One of their three shots on goal in the half eluded Bergeron, but Sarah Clark was on the goal line for the Saints and cleared the ball out of harm’s way.

“We outshot them,” Evans said. “That one save by the sweeper, that was tough. They played well.”

“I know our defense will step up when they need to,” Kay said. “It’s just a matter of getting the breaks in a tight game. (Lindsey Webber) for Maranacook, she did a great job, but all in all, our kids played well.”

Maranacook’s program may be in danger this offseason, with five of the nine players from Friday’s game graduating.

“(The seniors) won’t be back, but the underclassmen, they have a taste of what the playoffs are like now,” Evans said. “They kind of like it, so hopefully we’ll be back soon.”

The Saints, meanwhile, advance to the Western C quarterfinal round, where they will take on No. 1 Lisbon. That game is slated for Thursday, Oct. 24 in Lisbon.

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