BATH — Lexi Fuller might not have relished the moment, but she certainly wasn’t going to let it pass her by.

Fuller scored on a penalty stroke with no time remaining in the first half to swing an even first half, and ultimately, the Class C state field hockey championship, Oak Hill’s way.

Erika Hannigan added an insurance goal in the second half and Oak Hill celebrated a 2-0 victory over Maine Central Institute at McMann Field on Saturday.

The win avenged a 2-0 loss to MCI in last year’s final and gave the Raiders the first field hockey state title in the school’s history.

“To be able to make history … We’ve just all worked so hard,” Fuller said. “Most of us have been playing since we were 5 years old, so to pull it off was really amazing.”

“She’s an awesome stroker. She’s our only stroker, really,” Hannigan said of Fuller. “She’s just really good at them. We all believed in her.”

Fuller earned the penalty stroke on the second of back-to-back untimed penalty corners to end the first half for the Raiders (17-1). On the second, MCI goalkeeper Elspeth Taylor was called for covering the ball during a battle in front of the cage.

A senior sweeper, Fuller had missed two penalty strokes during the playoffs and admitted she wasn’t eager to get another one going into Saturday’s game. But she collected her thoughts in the circle and fired it to Taylor’s right, inside the post, to give Oak Hill the lead.

“I just knew that I needed to stay calm and don’t get overworked, don’t think about, ‘Well, what if I miss?'” Fuller said. “I just knew I needed to focus on that shot, and that’s what I did. I practice them a lot at practice and going to the left is a lot stronger for me, and it’s usually the weaker side for the goalie because it’s their stick side.”

“That was the spark that we needed,” Oak Hill coach Betsy Gilbert said. “Lexi is an amazing kid. She’s been our penalty stroker all year. We’ve actually had quite a few and she’s missed a couple and she’ll get down on herself. Her stepping up to the line and getting that was what the team needed.”

By contrast, MCI coach Nancy Hughes felt the sudden turn of events right before halftime didn’t set her team back, even though she disagreed with the call that led to the stroke.

“We actually were surprised with the stroke because the girl had played the ball from her knees. Usually that goes to the other team, so we were surprised that it kept going that way,” she said. “That didn’t impact us. We still had 30 minutes. We should have been able to get a couple in and just didn’t execute.”

Fuller, Hannigan, Lindsey Wright and Alexis Faucher led a defense that tightened the clamps on the Huskies (15-3) in the second half after several breakout chances in the first half, limiting them to two shots in the final 30 minutes and helping sophomore goalie Mackenzie Thibeault (six saves) earn the shutout.

“Those four girls are absolutely stellar,” Gilbert said. “They just work so well together in blocking up. You could see, MCI really couldn’t penetrate. They would get a few hits up in there, but we were just crowding and shadowing them.”

“The offense and defense really weren’t working well together,” MCI junior midfielder April McAlpine said. “There were some pretty good opportunities in the first half; . We just didn’t take advantage of them. We normally jump on those, but today was an off-day.”

Hannigan, a senior sweeper, doubled the lead after taking a pass in front of the cage from Hayden Spencer and drilling it into the opposite corner of the cage with 18:38 left in the game.

“To be up a couple of points was definitely a relief,” Hannigan said. “We could just kind of hang back and give our all towards keeping them off the scoreboard and getting the clock to run out.”

“The last two days in practice we knew that we had to pick up our passing game. We had to be quick. Our passing game was absolutely flawless today,” Gilbert said. “Everything as a coach that you build these kids for over the years, and you think even if they only catch a little piece of it. But they caught it all. They put it all together in one game today.”

Four minutes after Hannigan’s goal, Thibeault dove to her right to rob Keely Manzo and preserve the shutout, perhaps the Huskies’ last best chance to cut into the lead and get momentum on their side.

“It is so sweet,” Hannigan said. “We always go up a win every year, so being a senior and winning it all is definitely icing on the cake.”


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