PARIS — Oxford Hills’ 5-1 loss to Messalonskee two weeks ago at Thomas College in Waterville was tough for the Vikings to take. But the loss also came with the knowledge that they had gained some valuable experience on the turf field and that they would get another crack at the KVAC foes on their own grass field at the Gouin Athletic Complex.
Messalonskee prevailed again in Tuesday’s field hockey rematch, 2-1. This time, the scoreboard reminded the Vikings’ they’ve come a long way, but still have more work to do.
Lydia Dexter’s goal with 16:09 left broke a 1-1 tie. The Eagles dominated possession in the second half, holding the Vikings without a shot on goal to finish the game with a 19-4 advantage in shots.
“Their ball-handling skills are very good,” Oxford Hills coach Cindy Goddard said. “Once you can go by someone, then all of a sudden your defense has to scramble.”
The Vikings’ defense, led by backs Emma Davidson, Maegan Hewey and Emily Huff, and mids Alicia Albert, Arianna Greene, Erin Morton and Haley Wakefield, usually recovered quickly.
When they didn’t, junior goalie Anna Huff was usually in position to make the save. She finished with 17 saves.
“We’re a lot faster on turf,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said, explaining one of the reasons for the score difference from one game to the next. “I think they played a really strong defense. They really slowed down our forwards in the scoring circle, and their defensive corners did a great job against us. Their goalie, I have to give her all the credit in the world, she does a great job in there.”
Huff made a trio of diving saves, including one on an untimed corner, in the final moments of the first half to keep the game deadlocked at 1-1. Messalonskee continued pressuring from the start of the second half but didn’t get the game-winner until Dexter’s unassisted goal midway through the half.
The Eagles had 11 penalty corners in the second half and 19 for the game, compared to one for the Vikings. They only converted one into a goal. On their fifth of the first half, Autumn Littlefield’s missile beat Huff to the far post for a 1-0 Messalonskee lead with 4:52 left in the first half.
“We just need to finish in the circle more,” McLaughlin said. “That’s been kind of the name of the game for us this year. We’re working on it.”
The Vikings went to work on tying the game two minutes later. Arianna Greene fed fellow senior Bailey Wood for the equalizer with 2:37 to go in the half.
The Eagles, playing their first game with their entire squad available after losing key players to injuries, improved to 6-2. The Vikings dropped to 4-4, but are hoping a tough first half of the schedule will lead to them playing their best field hockey in the second half.
“We’ve played Messalonskee twice in two weeks. We’ve had Mt. Blue. We’ve had Cony. We have Skowhegan (Wednesday),” Goddard said. “It’s been a tough run where it gets a little frustrating because you’re not in the win column, but today I think is a step better.”