For the second straight year, the Messalonskee field hockey team traveled to Topsham to compete in the first round of the Class A North playoffs. But this time the trip ended in heartbreak as Mt. Ararat prevailed 2-1 in double overtime.
The fifth-seeded Eagles, which finished the season 9-6, had faced the same opponent a year ago in the quarterfinals but came away with a 6-2 victory on that occasion.
This time, though, Messalonskee had to rally to tie the score at 1-1 on a goal by Emily Crowell Messalonskee’s dominance over Mt. Ararat, a program the Eagles had beaten 17-straight games, came to an end late in the second overtime when Mt. Ararat scored on a breakaway shot.
Being the away team, at least in the initial round of the playoffs, remains a strange scenario for the Eagles, traditionally one of the top teams in Class A North and thus usually a squad that plays at home in both the quarter and semifinals.
“I think last year it was a really hard adjustment,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said, “in that we had never had to be on the road before.”
This year, however, the adjustment was not only about being on the road but suddenly slipping from being third to fifth ranked in the final week of the regular season, McLaughlin said.
But McLaughlin said dropping two spots in the rankings speaks to the parity of the conference.
“I think the KVAC conference is a lot stronger from top to bottom than in the past,” she said. “There’s a lot less of difference between the teams at the top and the teams at the bottom than ever before.”
Still, history suggested Messalonskee would fare well against Mt. Ararat. The Eagles 17-game winning streak against Mt. Ararat included a 3-1 victory in their lone regular-season meeting this fall.
At the same time, Messalonskee went into the playoffs coming off one of its worst defeats in recent memory: a 6-0 trouncing at the hands of perennial Class A powerhouse Skowhegan.
by Colin Hickey