UMaine field hockey loses in overtime in first NCAA tournament game

Garland resident Webber a member of the Black Bears squad

By Larry Mahoney, Bangor Daily News Staff

The 21st-ranked University of Maine built a 2-0 lead on goals from sophomore center back Poppy Lambert, but Miami University’s RedHawks rallied for two goals 2:02 apart in the third period and completed the comeback in overtime for a 3-2 win in an NCAA Tournament first-round game in Oxford, Ohio on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

Miami, 12-10, advanced to take on No. 2-ranked University of Michigan, 15-4, in a second-round game in Ann Arbor, Michigan. UMaine, making its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, concluded a 15-7 season after having a six-game winning streak snapped. Five of the Black Bears’ losses were in overtime, including four to nationally ranked teams. 

The Black Bears had entered the game with 14 wins in their previous 15 games. All four goals in regulation came off penalty corners, including Lambert’s team-leading 16th and 17th goals of the season.

UMaine had two glorious chances to win it in the seven-on-seven overtime off a penalty corner, but goalkeeper Isabelle Perese stopped another Lambert blast from the top of the circle and then kicked out Chloe Walton’s rebound attempt.

Just moments later, Miami sent a long pass up into the UMaine circle and Black Bear goalie Mia Borley came racing out to beat a RedHawk forward to the ball. She slid and kicked the ball away with her pads but it landed on the stick of senior midfielder Noor Breedjik of Miami, who deposited it into the open cage for her first goal of the season.

UMaine carried the play in the first period and was rewarded when Lambert converted a penalty corner 10:50 into the game. Brittany Smith made the insertion pass to Madisyn Hartley, who set the ball for Lambert to rip it past Perese, extending Lambert’s goal-scoring streak to five games.

The RedHawks began generating chances in a more evenly played second period and had an edge in play although they failed to score.

Miami continued to press for the equalizer in the third period but it was the Black Bears who scored as Smith, Hartley and Lambert teamed up again 6:34 into the period. It was another bullet from the top of the circle from Lambert. 

But Miami quickly responded.

Just 1 minute and 56 seconds later, Lexi Nugent pulled Miami within one with her seventh of the season. She was positioned to the left of Borley on a penalty corner and was set up nicely by Morgan Sturm and Luli Rosso for a re-direction that nestled high in the cage.

Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year Claudia Garcia Negrete tied it with her 18th.

Off a penalty corner, the Black Bears were able to get their stick on the initial shot but the ball deflected across to Garcia Negrete in the middle of the circle and she swept it past Borley.

Both teams had chances in the fourth period with Walton having her long shot from the left side of the circle kicked out by Perese.

UMaine had an 11-10 advantage in shot attempts and a 7-5 edge in shots on goal. The Black Bears also had an 8-6 advantage in penalty corners.

Perese finished with five saves and Borley was credited with two.

The Maine team was understandably elated after Nov. 7’s shootout win over Albany in the America East championship game that earned the Black Bears their first league tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth.

It was UMaine’s 14th consecutive trip to the America East playoffs under 15th-year head coach Josette Babineau and the first time it hosted the tournament.

Nobody was happier than the nine in-state players on the UMaine roster who have followed the Black Bears ever since they could pick up a stick.

“It means everything to bring the trophy home,” said UMaine senior back Hannah Abbott from Portland and Cheverus High School. “We have always known that we’re a great program and this really shows that we can do it. It puts Maine on the map once again.

“This is everything. It doesn’t feel real right now,” said graduate forward Brooke Sulinski, who grew up in Old Town and dreamed of playing at UMaine. “I’m just really proud of this team. I knew we could do it. I’m proud of what we accomplished and I’m really thankful.”

Graduate student midfielder Abby Webber from Garland and Dexter Regional High School called it a “huge accomplishment.” She also said the crowd was the biggest she had ever seen at a UMaine game.

The other six in-state players are junior forward Madisyn Hartley of Pittsfield, senior forward Sydney Meader of Boothbay Harbor, sophomore midfielder Bhreagh Kennedy of Skowhegan, senior midfielder Claire Scobie of Hampden, senior midfielder Kelsey Mehuren of Searsmont and freshman forward Meaghan Caron of Bangor.

UMaine senior goalie Mia Borley was chosen the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and she was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Hana Davis, Poppy Lambert and Cassandra Mascarenhas. UMaine junior forward Julia Ross from Vancouver earned the league’s Elite 18 Award with her 3.98 grade-point average in biomedical engineering.

Ross and Chloe Walton scored in the shootout to complement Borley’s goalkeeping. Borley, from England, allowed just one goal on Albany’s five shootout attempts after making seven saves, including several gems, during regulation and the two 10-minute seven-on-seven overtime periods. She had three saves in a 2-1 semifinal win over California.

Sophomore back Lambert, from New Zealand, scored the game-winner against California and converted a penalty stroke in the first half of the title game. She had 11 shots on goal vs. California and two against Albany.

British Columbia native Davis, a midfielder, scored the game-tying goal against California and was a two-way force in the midfield, making several crafty runs to generate scoring chances and penalty corners.

Mascarenhas, who is from Ontario, used her quickness and stick skills to make several critical defensive stops and triggered offensive attacks.

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