GARDINER — It’s hard enough for a small roster to keep pace with depth at this point in the postseason. Doing so fresh off a grueling win is even more of a challenge.

The Maine Central Institute field hockey team entered the Class C North championship game exhausted, both mentally and physically, after overtime wins in the regional quarterfinals and semifinals.

Still, the Huskies persevered yet again, taking a 2-0 victory over Dirigo to win their second consecutive regional championship.

“(We did) a lot of conditioning,” said MCI coach Terri-Jean Wilkinson, who had to rally her team into shape quickly. “It’s what we’ve done all season. We know our numbers are low, and when your numbers are low, you’ve got to be able to run for 60 minutes.”

No. 2 MCI (13-3-1) will play Winthrop for the state title on Saturday at Messalonskee. Top-seeded Dirigo finished 13-4-0.

The Huskies wasted little time going in front, scoring first just 1:18 into the game as Ella Bernier found space in the Dirigo defense and rolled a shot past goaltender Alivia Ellis. The Huskies would dominate the remainder of the first quarter, nearly scoring a second on a shot that forced an impressive save from Ellis as the first quarter expired.


Despite a somewhat slower start to the second quarter, MCI doubled its lead with 7:52 left in the half through Trinity Leavitt. The Dirigo defense failed to clear the ball following a shot on goal, and with the ball falling to Leavitt’s stick, the senior winger found the cage from close range to give her team a two-goal cushion.

“There was a lot happening, but I shot it, the goalie dove for it, it bounced right off her feet, and I was able to pull it through and lift it over for the goal,” Leavitt said. “It’s just (a matter of) practice, I guess; I’ve been known as the tipper over the past four years, and I was able to put it in.” 

MCI senior left wing Trinity Leavitt, second from left, scores the Huskies’ second goal of the Class C North field hockey final against Dirigo on Wednesday at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Dirigo senior fullback Kallie Errington, left, senior goalie Alivia Ellis (98) and junior fullback Libbie Errington tried but couldn’t stop the shot. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

After an immediate timeout, top-ranked Dirigo came out rejuvenated and controlled play for the remainder of the second quarter and most of the third. Yet even though MCI was on its back foot and didn’t register a shot on goal in the second half, the Huskies defended valiantly to maintain the shutout and repeat as C North champs.

Dirigo, known for its speed, was able to use that quickness to push forward through that late-game stretch. Although MCI wasn’t able to match the Cougars on every stride, the Huskies were able to outrun their opponents in key situations with surges inside the Dirigo 25.

“They’re fast, and they’re a great team that has great stick skills,” Wilkinson said of Dirigo, which had won eight straight games entering Wednesday. “Sometimes, we can come out a little flat, so it was good to have that knowledge that the other team was going to come out fast. That kept us on our toes.”

Dirigo captains Grace Robbins, left, and Jayce Brophy hold up the Class C North runner-up plaque after they lost 2-0 to MCI on Wednesday at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

MCI entered the season facing a few question marks after the departures of longtime head coach Nancy Hughes and 40-goal-scorer Gracie Moore. But the Huskies found continuity in Wilkinson, who coached most of the current squad in middle school, and a core returning defense that has conceded just 0.7 goals per game against class C opposition.

“She’s a good coach, so we’re all very well-known with her, and she also coached with us under (Coach Hughes),” Leavitt said of Wilkinson. “They’re very similar in coaching styles, so that made it a lot easier. … We knew we could be a good team again this year, and we came back and did that. It’s a great feeling.”

Vivian Walker was credited with the assist on Bernier’s early goal before Leavitt’s unassisted tally in the second. The two goaltenders, Dirigo’s Ellis and MCI’s Chi Chi Rivera, recorded three saves apiece for their respective teams.

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