GARDINER — Skowhegan was down a goal after three quarters and facing its first deficit of the season when coach Paula Doughty delivered a direct message to her team.

“I told them, ‘This is it,'” she said. “‘If you don’t do it now, you’re done for the year.'”

The players listened.

The River Hawks’ Samantha Thebarge tied the game in the fourth quarter, and Layla Conway’s game-winner 4:24 into overtime, her second goal of the game, gave Skowhegan a 3-2 win over Oxford Hills in the Class A North field hockey final Wednesday at Hoch Field.

The River Hawks have won 21 consecutive regional titles dating to 2000. The 2020 postseason was not played due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Skowhegan (17-0-0) will face South champion Cheverus — a 6-0 winner in Wednesday night’s Class A South final against No. 6 Windham — for the state championship Saturday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Cheverus defeated Skowhegan in last year’s final, 4-1.


Oxford Hills finishes its season 13-2-1.

Stationed on the left side, Conway converted a long cross pass from Sydalia Savage and knocked the ball past Oxford Hills goalie Gabby Wright (six saves).

“I just stuck my stick out and hoped for the best,” she said with a laugh. “We realized what was definitely on the line and we stepped it up.”

Skowhegan’s Jayla Gentry poke-checks the ball away from Oxford Hills’ Paige Temple during the Class A North final in Gardiner on Wednesday. Brewster Burns photo

Thebarge tied the score with 8:17 left when she converted a Conway pass following a penalty corner.

While the River Hawks celebrated the latest addition to their bulging trophy case, the Vikings were left to wonder what might have been after coming so close. While they scored twice on the River Hawks — who had outscored their foes 101-2 going into Wednesday — the feat amounted to a consolation prize. Skowhegan defeated Oxford Hills in their lone regular-season matchup, 1-0 on Sept. 24.

“We knew what we had to do against Skowhegan,” said Oxford Hills coach Cindy Goddard, whose team loses 11 seniors to graduation. “We have speed and we have talent, so I wasn’t surprised that we scored on them. We knew they were going to play a big-ball game, so we made some adjustments to that.”


The first quarter was back-and-forth. Skowhegan’s Conway opened the scoring just 2:04 into the game, when she took a feed from Savage and fired a low shot to the left of the cage, just past Wright.

The Vikings knotted the score with 5:53 left in the period when Allison Slicer flipped a shot into the air that landed behind River Hawks goalie Emmah Corson, whose eight-save performance included a dazzling stop when she kicked at the ball and, when it failed to go far, swatted it away with her glove hand.

The score remained 1-1 at halftime, but not for a lack of chances. Corson made a kick save in the closing seconds of the first quarter, and a close second-quarter shot by Skowhegan’s Julia Fitzgerald trickled past Wright, but Oxford Hills’ Molly Corbett fired the ball away before it could cross the goal line.

Oxford Hills’ Tristen Derenburger reaches in to get the ball away from Skowhegan’s Jayla Gentry during the Class A North final in Gardiner on Wednesday. Brewster Burns photo

The Vikings took a 2-1 lead with 7:18 left in the third when Page Temple recovered the ball out of a scrum in front of the River Hawks’ goal and popped the ball past Corson.

“Oxford Hills played to win the whole game,” Doughty said. “We started out strong, I think we sat on our lead a little bit, which you can’t do. But that last quarter, we just played to win.”

After Thebarge’s goal, Skowhegan put pressure on the Vikings as the final minutes ticked away in regulation, but Oxford Hills’ Carlee-Mae Cash swatted away a Skowhegan shot that was heading for an empty space in the cage with seconds left.

The River Hawks had eight penalty corners to the Vikings’ seven.

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