PORTLAND—After winning a combined total of two games in 2010 and 2011, the Deering field hockey team is on its way back.
The 2012 Rams have responded well to new coach Liz Koharian and now have a winning record at the midway point after blanking visiting Bonny Eagle, 3-0, Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Field.
After numerous close calls, Deering took the lead for good with 4:44 to play in the first half when senior Kiana DiBiase set up junior Amanda LeMoult for a goal on a penalty corner. DiBiase scored a goal of her own on a corner with 19 minutes to play and for good measure, sophomore Rylie Turner scored on a rebound during yet another corner with 1:47 to go, as the Rams improved to 4-3, dropping the Scots to 1-4-1 in the process.
The girls in purple and white clearly have a new winning attitude and the good times have returned.
“It’s definitely different and rewarding,” said DiBiase, now in her third varsity season. “It’s new because we have such a young team, but we have a lot of talent. We’re just more confident in ourselves and the new coaching has helped a lot. Overall, we’re just happier and more bonded.”
Earlier in the century, Deering was a perennial title contender. After reaching the Western A Final in 2001 and 2002, the Rams got to the state game in 2003, only to lose to Skowhegan. Deering won 14 games in 2004, 11 in both 2006 and 2007 and even had a winning mark in 2008 and 2009, but longtime coach Andrew Gordon stepped down after that season and the past two years have been a challenge, to say the least.
The Rams didn’t win a single game in 2010 and went 2-10-2 last fall.
This season has been another story, however.
Deering opened with a confident-inspiring 1-0 overtime victory over visiting Windham. After falling, 5-0 at Cheverus and 1-0 at Biddeford, the Rams matched last year’s win total with a 1-0 home victory over Kennebunk, before exceeding it with a 7-0 romp at McAuley, Deering’s highest goal total since Oct. 2, 2009 (a 7-2 win at Massabesic).
A 3-1 home loss to Sanford Saturday sent Deering into Wednesday’s contest at .500, needing a victory to stay in the top 11 of the Western Class A Heal Points standings for playoff positioning.
Last year, the Rams and Scots tied, 1-1, in Standish.
Wednesday, Deering carried play for most of the 60 minutes.
The hosts had seven first half penalty corners, but couldn’t capitalize until 4:44 was left before halftime when LeMoult (from DiBiase) broke the ice.
The Rams carried that momentum into the second half.
With 19:05 left in regulation, DiBiase got in the scoring column on a corner, finishing a pass from Turner for a 2-0 lead.
“We work on corners,” DiBiase said. “We make sure they’re one shot and right in.”
Turner then ended all doubt and accounted for the 3-0 final score when she scored on a rebound off a corner with 1:47 remaining.
Deering ended with an 8-5 advantage in shots on frame. Both Rams junior goalie Bri Delano and Bonny Eagle keeper Alexis Thomas made five saves.
Deering finished with a 13-7 advantage in penalty corners.
“We’re more spread out this year,” said DiBiase. “We’re doing more passing and talking. We came into this game thinking we had to win to stay in the playoff hunt. We gave our all, especially in the second half.”
“We played very well in the second half,” said Koharian. “I think it’s finally coming together. It was just (the girls) believing they could do it. I’ve seen them do it, so I know that they can. I think it’s more mental. The switch comes on when we score a goal and they think, ‘We can do this.’ It’s exciting to see not just the scoring, but the passing and the flow of the game. They’re starting to believe they can win. (Assistant coach) Courtney (Rague) and I know they can win. We’re constantly reinforcing that. I think it’s finally starting to sink in.”
Koharian praised her team’s work ethic and devotion to the season.
“When I first took over in summer practice, they were there at 7 a.m. on Friday mornings in July, so I knew they wanted to play,” Koharian said. “They bought in since Day 1.”
Deering has several hurdles to leap in the second half of the season.
Friday, the Rams (now ninth in the Western A Heals) are at Westbrook. Monday, Deering goes to rival Portland. The Rams also have games remaining at defending regional champion Marshwood and at home versus powerhouse Scarborough.
They have a simple goal this season and it appears tangible.
“Our goal is to make it into the playoffs,” DiBiase said. “Coach said she’d dye her hair purple if we make the playoffs. We need to keep the mentality we can play with all the other teams.”
“I feel like making playoffs for us this first season would be like going to states,” said Koharian. “We need to communicate on the field, stay spread out and play field hockey that’s pretty to watch.”
So far, so good.