“The confidence has just grown in her,” Leavitt coach Wanda Ward-MacLean said after that game. “Even if she’s not having a great day for her, she’s still confident and she gives her teammates that feeling of, ‘Yeah, we have a great goalie back there.'”

DeMascio is not alone.

The tri-county area boasts a handful of solid, state-title-contending field hockey teams this season, and as the playoffs begin in earnest this week, all of the area teams with title aspirations have a common denominator: A keeper who instills confidence in the team in front of her.

“It’s absolutely huge,” St. Dom’s coach Brian Kay said. “When we made a run in 2006, and in 2003, we had a strong goalie then, too.”

Kay’s keeper this year is Abby Slonina. The junior backstop has already seen her fair share of action over the past three years as the Saints have rebuilt their program from the ground up.

“Now, there are some games where she’s not seeing much action, sometimes no shots in a game,” Kay said. “We made sure we got her ready this week, though.”

The Saints are the No. 2 seed in Class C South after making the transition this season back to the Western Maine Conference. They have competed in the past in the Mountain Valley Conference, which is also well-represented in this year’s playoffs.

And those teams also have goalies on which they rely in pressure situations.

That includes Class C North No. 3 Winthrop, which just avenged a pair of regular-season losses to Oak Hill with an MVC Conference title. Big in that win was senior keeper Corinna Coulton.

“She’s such a leader for us out back,” Winthrop coach Jessica Merrill said. “She worked really hard over the summer to get where she is now, and we really feed off her energy.”

Coulton posted 10 shutouts and 11 wins this season while allowing only seven goals in 14 games, five of those to Oak Hill in the team’s only two losses.

“She’s quick to the ball, she’s smart,” Merrill said. “Because of her, the girls in front of her are much more confident.”

Speaking of Oak Hill, the Raiders have their own solid backstop in MacKenzie Thibault, who has allowed just six goals and posted eight shutouts of her own in leading Oak Hill to a 13-1 regular season and a No. 1 seed in Class C South, just ahead of the Saints.

And because the Ramblers move into Class C North for the playoffs, there is a chance they could see a familiar MVC foe in the state final, should they navigate the bracket unscathed.

Meanwhile, in Class B, DeMascio and the Hornets earned home field advantage in the quarterfinal round thanks to a late-season win over Spruce Mountain. The Phoenix finished 9-5, while Leavitt hit 10 wins and finished 10-4. DeMascio posted six shutouts in those 10 wins against some of the top Class B North teams in the KVAC.

And then there is the surprise of the season in Class A, where Mt. Blue completed its rise through the ranks in front of keeper Erika McArthur, who backstopped the Cougars to an unbeaten 13-0-1 season, including two wins over perennial powerhouse Skowhegan and another over nemesis Messalonskee.

McArthur posted seven shutouts in the cage this season, and allowed only eight goals in 14 games.

Preliminary round games concluded Saturday, and quarterfinals begin Tuesday across the state.

And you can bet those teams that make it through to the weekend, and indeed all the way to the state game, will owe at least a part of that success to a goalie or two.

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