The 2011 field hockey playoffs are underway and one local team has already made quite a splash.
The Portland Bulldogs beat visiting Biddeford, 7-1, last Wednesday to wind up 9-4-1, their first winning mark since 2004. The Bulldogs got two goals from senior Kylie Dalbec (who was part of North Yarmouth Academy’s Class C state championship team a year ago) and one each from senior standout Raechel Allen, seniors Natalie Anderson, Cat Flaherty and Keisha Mundy and sophomore Katie Rutherford.
“It’s good because our hard work paid off,” said Allen, following the win. “We’ve really come together as a team. Passing-wise, we do very well on turf and on grass too. We had so many juniors last year. We thought this was our year. Kylie and (junior) Gabi (Cardona, who transferred from Cheverus) have really helped us out, both offensively and defensively. We can all pass the ball and we can all shoot. (Senior) Rachel (Waterhouse), our goaltender, has done very well this year. We want to win and have fun. It’s a long time since we’ve been in playoffs. It’s exciting.”
“We’ve come a long way,” added longtime Portland coach Beth Arsenault. “I may be a coach who appreciates each and every win more than some. I’ve never finished with this good of a record. It’s a great group. They’ve been very dedicated. We had a really tough start. Our worst loss, at least on paper, against Cheverus (5-0, Sept. 16), turned it around. It was the game when we played most like a team. We knew at that point if we played like that against everyone else we faced, we thought we could win out. We did, minus a tie. We’re not thinking, ‘Yay, we got to the playoffs.’ We’re thinking, ‘OK, this happened. Now we start fresh again.'”
The Bulldogs earned the seventh seed and took a six-game win streak and an eight-game unbeaten run into the preliminary round of the Western Class A playoffs Saturday against No. 10 Thornton Academy, a team they beat, 2-0, at home Sept. 19.
First half goals from junior Leanne Reichert (on a rebound of an Allen shot) and Allen (on a shot up top that the Golden Trojans’ goalie missed) gave Portland a 2-0 lead and seemingly put them in control, but the visitors pulled even in the second half on two goals from junior Michele Banville. With three minutes to go, on a penalty corner, Allen fired a shot that appeared ticketed for the cage, but it hit the post and it was on to overtime.
Two eight-minute “sudden victory” overtimes weren’t enough to decide the game, so the teams had to alternate taking penalty corners until one broke through. On the fourth set, Portland did, finally, as Dalbec took a pass from senior Eleni Anderson to score and give her team a 3-2 win. That Dalbec played the hero wasn’t a surprise. She had a goal in penalty corners in the Class C Final last year.
The Bulldogs (10-4-1) went to No. 2 Sanford (12-1-1) for the quarterfinals Tuesday. The teams didn’t play in the regular year. Portland hoped to keep the good times rolling and live to play another day.
Cheverus, the defending regional champion, finished its regular year 12-2 after a 3-2 overtime home loss to Sanford last Wednesday. Junior Emily Rodrigue and senior Ali Saxton had the goals, but the Stags fell short.
“Honestly, we’re excited to go to playoffs,” said Cheverus coach Amy McMullin. “Last year, we went in No. 4. We faced some strong teams and we ended up going to states. I’m a strong believer that in the playoffs, anything can happen. It doesn’t really matter where you go, as long as you get in there.”
The Stags finished third in the region and hosted No. 6 Westbrook (11-4) in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. Cheverus didn’t play the Blue Blazes in the regular season. The teams’ lone prior playoff meeting came in the 2008 semifinals (a 2-1 overtime win for Westbrook).
“At this point, I’m ready to take on anybody,” McMullin said. “We’d love to see (Sanford) again.”
If the Stags and Redskins survived their respective quarterfinals, they’d square off in the semifinals Saturday in Sanford.
Looking ahead, the regional finals are Tuesday of next week, at Thornton Academy. The state finals are Saturday, Oct. 29, at Yarmouth High School.
In Western C, Waynflete qualified for the postseason for the second year in a row with a 6-8 mark. The Flyers finished up last Wednesday with a 1-0 home loss to defending state Class C champion North Yarmouth Academy. Waynflete earned the No. 6 seed for the postseason and went to No. 3 Lisbon (11-2-1) Tuesday in the quarterfinals. The teams had no history. If the Flyers were able to spring an upset, they’d go No. 2 NYA (10-4) or host No. 7 Telstar (6-7-1) in Saturday’s semifinals.
McAuley wound up the last team out (12th in the Western A Heals) with a 3-10-1 mark. The Lions almost squeaked in, but lost a 2-1 overtime heartbreaker to visiting Westbrook in the finale last Wednesday. Senior Lulu Hawkes had the McAuley goal and senior goalie Jaime LaCasse had a sensational 28-save effort in her swan song.
Deering finished the season 2-10-2 after a 5-0 loss at Gorham in its finale last Wednesday. The Rams were 14th in the final standings.
Portland senior Raechel Allen unleashes a shot early in the first half of Saturday’s Western Class A preliminary round game against Thornton Academy. The shot found the goal and made it 2-0 Bulldogs, but the Golden Trojans rallied to tie. Portland finally prevailed, 3-2, on the fourth round of penalty corners.
Waynflete’s Jo Moore works her way around NYA’s Jen Brown during the Flyers’ 1-0 home loss last week. Waynflete did qualify for the playoffs and traveled to Lisbon Tuesday for the Western C quarterfinals.