Paula Doughty was following along with the field hockey game between the University of Maine and Temple when the strangest thing happened for a game that was going into its second overtime.

“After the first overtime the screen just went dead,” the Skowhegan field hockey coach said. “I didn’t even know what happened.”

She soon learned, as did the rest of the country, what had occurred. The two teams were taken off the field at Kent State University prior to the start of the second overtime period, in order to make way for scheduled pre-game fireworks for Kent State’s football game with Kennesaw State.

By the end of the day, with help from a pair of tweets by Black Bears midfielder Riley Field, the decision had become a national story. And the reaction in central Maine was just as strong.

It was just like a slap in the face,” Doughty said. “Even when I read about it I thought it was disbelief. It was like ‘No, that would never happen.’ I just can’t even imagine, in this day and age, something like that happening.”

“We think we’ve moved so far forward with equality and Title IX and things like that, that it really feels like we’ve moved past something like this,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “At a Division I level, for this to take place is pretty appalling.”

Emotions covered the spectrum, from shock to anger to disappointment.

I couldn’t believe it when I read the article,” Cony coach Holly Daigle said. “It’s just surprise. Like ‘Wow, that really happened. They really made that call.’ “

Many players shared their coaches’ responses.

“I’d say (my reaction was) maybe angry, but also disappointed,” Cony junior Julia Reny said. “It wasn’t like it was the beginning of the game or anything. And it was for fireworks? … For them to work so hard for a whole game and then get into overtime and then have to be cut short is such a bummer.”

“I thought it was odd, and then as it kind of blew up, I realized what had happened and how people would see that as unfair,” Skowhegan senior Bhreagh Kennedy said. “I’m just glad people are taking steps to make sure that we have equality in this sport and all sports for women.”

There was a more personal connection at Messalonskee, where Field played before graduating in 2016. McLaughlin praised Field for helping push the issue into the national discussion.

“I could not be more proud of her,” she said. “It doesn’t surprise me from Riley. She’s been a great advocate for many things, starting in high school. It’s just great to see that we would feel comfortable in taking the front on this.”

When she first heard what happened, McLaughlin had the same stunned reaction many others did. For a while, at least.

“Initially, (I felt) absolute shock,” she said. “And then, as it kind of settled in, a little bit of ‘Of course it did’ kind of feeling. … It almost wasn’t hard to believe it was happening. To kind of see that something like this would happen in this day and age is really saddening.”

The situation has sparked conversations of equality, both in terms of being a gender issue (men’s sports vs. women’s sports) and a sports culture issue (football vs. everything else).

I think (it’s) the whole thing,” Doughty said. “They would never do that for another sport. Can you even imagine that? Can you imagine if the football team was playing in the third quarter and they just said ‘We’re done?’ “

UMaine athletic director Ken Ralph released a statement soon after the decision was made.

“Prior to the contest we were made aware of timing issues regarding pre-game football activities,” the statement read. “While we would have greatly appreciated the opportunity to play the final 10 minutes of our contest, the KSU administration made the decision they felt was most appropriate.”

Doughty wasn’t satisfied with the planning for the game.

To make a contract with somebody that you’ve got to be done at 10:30 for a Division I game … would they do that to a football game?” she said. “Would they do that to a men’s ice hockey game, that you’ve got to be done at 2 o’clock or we’re just going to kick you off the field? I think it was appalling.”

McLaughlin said the decision showed field hockey lags behind the biggest sports in terms of its public perception.

“(Football) is a culture, it’s a family event. Of course I don’t feel like other sports have quite the same energy that football brings in our nation,” she said. “In where we live and in our nation, it’s not as big of a sport. Sometimes, I think it’s not purposefully done, it’s just that people don’t know the sport, they don’t understand the sport.”

Even with the differences in size and stature of the two sports, the notion of stopping a game in one to suit the other was widely considered unfair, and by those in both sports.

“I thought it was embarrassing for them to cancel that game,” Cony football coach B.L. Lippert said. “I think those girls felt absolutely belittled, and I think they had every right to. … Even as a football coach, I think it’s pretty insulting to do that to people.”

The benefit, some said, was in the discussion it created — one that could prevent a recurrence in the future.

“It’s unfortunate the whole thing happened … but that was something that I liked seeing,” Daigle said. “It seems like a step back, but also maybe a step in the right direction. … It’s a shame that it happened, but nice to see that there was a big outcry from a lot of people about it.”


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