The University of Maine field hockey team defeated the University of Vermont 2-1 on Friday afternoon. With the victory, the Black Bears picked up their second consecutive America East Conference championship, the first two in the program’s history. UMaine now has home-field advantage for the entirety of the conference playoffs.
The scoring started early with fourth-year forward Sydney Meader collecting a pass from third-year midfielder Bhreagh Kennedy and slamming it in for a goal. This was Meader’s eighth goal of the season and Kennedy’s second assist. This is where the score stayed for the remainder of the first half. Just three minutes into the third quarter, Vermont’s second-year forward Alina Gerke shot and got it past the reigning Goaltender of the Year and defensive player of the week, UMaine’s fifth-year netminder Mia Borley, who finished the game with nine saves. The game stayed at a draw at one until there was less than three minutes left, when first-year forward Mallory Mackesey scored unassisted to break the tie. After a furious scramble for the final minutes, UMaine was able to hold on for a massive win.
The win had the Black Bears locked up at the first seed, as well as moved to 12-4 and 6-0 in conference play. They currently are ranked No. 23 in the nation with two games remaining against Stanford and the University of California Davis, who sit at 6-7 and 2-11 respectively. Last season the squad won the America East tournament and qualified for nationals, where they lost to the University of Miami of Ohio in a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss in the opening round.
UMaine has roughly the same core roster from last year. After losing contributions from tremendous players including Abby Webber, Cassandra Mascharenas, Hana Davis, Britney Smith and Brooke Sullinski, who is now a member of the coaching staff, they have regrouped and had a very good recruiting class, with their younger players also maturing nicely. Mackesey has a very impressive 10-goal rookie campaign, which is good for second on the team. Fellow first-year midfielder Olivia Geniti has played the most minutes out of anyone in that class and has contributed very well on defense.
As for the older players, the leading goal scorer is third-year back Poppy Lambert. The New Zealand native has a commanding three-goal lead over the next closest player in the league. UMaine also has an additional three players in the top 10 in goals in the league. Mackesey ranks fifth, and fourth-year forward Chloe Walton is right behind her in sixth place with nine, and Meader comes in seventh with eight goals. In addition to a very potent offense, UMaine’s defense has also been stellar. Borely leads the league with 82 saves, with the closest behind her with 66. In addition to having the best goalie, the defense is anchored by fourth-years Madisyn Hartley, Hannah Abbot and junior Kristjiana Walker. Last season the Black Bears defeated the University of Albany in the America East championship game. With those two teams sitting at the top two seeds in the standings, we may see history repeating itself, and hopefully, for UMaine, the outcome of a conference championship can also repeat itself.