SKOWHEGAN — Paula Doughty has had plenty of days worth celebrating over the years. Few, if any, have come together quite like this.

After school Thursday afternoon, birthday-hat wearing Skowhegan field hockey players greeted the team’s 43-year head coach with a confetti cannon in honor of her birthday. They would later win their 2023 season opener, claiming a 5-0 victory over Brewer.

It was no ordinary win, though; this was Doughty’s 600th career victory, and it came just a week after it was announced that she was being inducted into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Even for a coach who’s had her fair share of glory, the magnitude of the moment was something Doughty surely felt.

“It’s a lot,” an emotional Doughty said following the game. “Who ends up with a national award, a birthday and a 600th win on the same day? You just don’t do that. It’s special, there’s no two ways about it.”

The game went as so many Skowhegan games do; although Brewer stuck with the River Hawks for a few minutes, that would be short lived as the home team took firm control of the game. Goals from Ellie Quinn and Layla Conway in the first quarter and one from Kaylee Bruce in the second had Skowhegan up 3-0 at the break.

Sydalia Savage then effectively put the game out of reach with the lone goal of the third quarter midway through the period. Conway then twisted her way past Brewer goalkeeper Maci Morneau for a breathtaking behind-the-back goal three minutes into the fourth for the game’s final tally.


“On corners, we practice me staying up, so when we get that ball, it’s just a fast hit and a fast break,” said Conway. “I knew those defenders were covering, so I knew it was my chance with nobody on me, and I just dribbled in, twisted and took the shot.”

This game, though, wasn’t just about Skowhegan’s current players or staff or what was done on the field on this particular day; it was also about those who came before and are still to come. After the game, former, current and youth players gathered in the cage at the northeast end of the field for a group photo.

It was a moment that saw the generations of Skowhegan field hockey truly come together. One of the captains of Doughty’s first team in 1980 was present. Then, there were current stalwarts such as Conway, who took a moment to reflect on how the program’s streak of 21 straight regional titles began before she’d even been born.

“It’s awesome to be a part of this program and to be a part of this legacy,” Conway said. “There’s been so many players work so hard for years to make this happen, and to be a part of that and to help a great coach get her 600th win, I can’t even describe it. It’s just amazing.”

There were nerves before the game, Conway said, as the natural jitters that came with the first game of the season met the pressure that came with getting their coach a monumental victory. That showed early as Brewer possessed the ball in the Skowhegan half, but once the River Hawks settled in, they couldn’t be stopped.

The River Hawks’ top scorer on the day played a big part in making that happen. Conway’s second goal that put a cap on the special evening came after her initial tally in the second quarter, one in which she put an exclamation point on a breakaway with an inch-perfect snipe to the bottom-left corner.


“I think today, if I had to give a game ball to anyone, I would say it would have to be Layla,” Doughty said. “Layla just played her heart and soul out today. She’s a leader on the field and in the locker room. That shot she had on the one-on-one, that was just beautiful.”

Doughty was presented with flowers and a cake following the game. Even after the group photo, everyone from her current players to those of years gone by to her personal friends wanted their own picture with the Skowhegan head coach.

It was an evening that made her, like her senior captain, reflect on her program. Even if it seems like forever that Doughty has been a pillar of Skowhegan Area High School and field hockey statewide, the moment was one that, to her, made all the years come together.

“I look back at my life, and I think, ‘Here I am, and it feels like I just started,’” Doughty said. “It just goes by so fast, it really does.”

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