TURNER — Leavitt was plenty motivated heading into Wednesday’s Class B North quarterfinal matchup with Gardiner.

It’s the postseason, so every game is win-or-go-home. The Tigers defeated the Hornets early this month. Add to all of that the season-long inspiration of late coach Wanda Ward-MacLean, who died of cancer during the summer after leading the program for the previous 34 years.

The Hornets also are seeking redemption against teams they might face in the upcoming rounds.

They’ll get their shot at those teams. Two goals from Maddie Morin and one by Ainsley Barry lifted fourth-seeded Leavitt to a 3-1 win over fifth-seeded Gardiner.

“We lost to them, actually, in our regular season in double overtime, so we were big on revenge,” Hornets goalie Emily Poland said, referring to Gardiner’s 2-1 win on Oct. 10. “We wanted this game. We knew if we didn’t (win), obviously, we were out, so we really were working all practice to get back. I mean, we just pushed at practice just to make sure we can have this game.”

The Hornets (12-3) will face No. 1 Belfast (a 7-1 winner over No. 8 John Bapst on Wednesday) in the B North semifinals later this week.


Leavitt was aggressive from the start. Most of the first half was played near the goals; the midfield was merely a transition area.

“We were ready to come out strong. This is our home field, we wanted to win it for Wanda,” Barry said.

The Hornets were particularly adept at quickly flipping the field back in their favor whenever Gardiner moved the ball near Poland and the Leavitt goal.

“Leavitt came to play,” Gardiner coach Jess Merrill said. “They kind of outworked us on the ball side and they always had another layer when we got past them.”

Leavitt set up more near-scoring chances than Gardiner, but not many real, quality opportunities.

“I think we just weren’t connecting,” Hornets coach Cathy Marston said. “I mean, we weren’t finding each other. Sometimes we just wait and settle and see what the other team’s going to do before we actually step up and play our game. I had to remind them, ‘OK, we’re not playing their game, we’re playing our game.’”


The Hornets, however, did seem to be on the verge of breaking through. They finally did in the final minute of the first quarter.

A long cross toward the goal drew Gardiner goalie Natasha Marshall out on the attack, but the ball bounced through to the left side of the goal. Barry gathered the ball and fired it into the goal for a 1-0 lead with 26 seconds remaining.

“When Emma (Beedy) is dribbling up the field, I can trust her, so I try to stay up on the stroke, and just hit it, whatever she has to give me,” Barry said.

Grabbing the early lead provided a boost.

“I feel like that gave us the motivation to keep pushing,” Barry said. “And this is what we wanted, we wanted to come out here and win.”

The Hornets offense kept attacking. Six minutes into the second quarter, the Gardiner defense denied Leavitt and knocked the ball away, but Morin took control of it and put it in the net.


“You just got to want to put it in,” Morin said. “That’s like the time to work the hardest. Like, this is the time to score, you want to make it count.”

Gardiner came alive in the final few minutes of the second quarter and controlled possession deep in Leavitt’s end of the field.

After a shot by Brianna Smith missed, the ball rolled out to Gabby Sousa, who fired a shot that sneaked through the Leavitt defenders and Poland, cutting Leavitt’s lead to 2-1 with 59 seconds left in the first half.

The Tigers maintained their momentum the first half of the third quarter, but weren’t able to even the score. Leavitt took it back in the latter end of the third and held it for most of the fourth quarter.

“Five minutes left in the second quarter and most of the third quarter, I thought we maintained play and we did really well,” Merrill said, “but they’re an aggressive team, they’re a physical team, and I think we just had a hard time adjusting to that.”

Despite strong efforts by Beedy, Morin, Barry, Katie Sirois and others, the score remained unchanged until Morin scored off a rebound on a corner with 1:18 remaining in the game.

Gardiner ends its first season under Merrill with a 9-6 record. The Tigers are a young team, with only three seniors and three juniors. Despite that, they were in the thick of the challenging Class B North race.

“And that’s typical of a young team: we’ve shown greatness and then we’ve shown our youth,” Merrill said. “So it’s just kind of building on that, getting more consistency. The girls have done really well this year.”

She added: “I think that they definitely didn’t show our youth today, for sure. But we’ve been kind of yo-yoing throughout the season. But this was great for them, just the experience, most of these girls have not even played in a playoff game, so to hold strong like they did, and I think Leavitt is playing great field hockey right now.”

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