Belfast nips Oceanside in quarterfinal playoff overtime thrillerTwo-time defending regional champion Lions to face No. 1 Nokomis in semifinals
Rockland — The two-time defending Eastern Class B champion Belfast Area High School field hockey team is still alive.
Facing No. 4 Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston for the second time in seven days, the No. 5 Lions avenged their loss from one week ago — and did it in dramatic fashion in a regional quarterfinal playoff match on Thursday, Oct. 24 in bitterly cold, winter conditions.
Freshman Kylie Nelson had a wide open look and banged the back of cage with a shot with 4:36 remaining in the first overtime as the Lions (8-7) roared to a 2-1 win, which, ultimately, knocked the higher-ranked Mariners out of the regional tournament.
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Oceanside, which bested Belfast 4-0 in the two teams regular-season finale on Thursday, Oct. 17, ended the season 10-5.
The Lions next will face No. 1 Nokomis, which survived a scare in its quarterfinal playoff game with No. 8 Camden Hills, as the Warriors pulled out a 2-1 win in double-overtime on Thursday, in a semifinal playoff game on Saturday, Oct. 26 at noon in Newport.
Nokomis (15-0) beat host Belfast 1-0 in a competitive contest late in the regular season. Camden Hills finished the campaign 5-10.
In Rockland, Zoe Billington made five saves in the cage for Oceanside, while Maddie Littlefield made 10 saves in goal for Belfast. The Mariners outshot the Lions 12-6 and led 14-6 in penalty corners.
Nelson and Kristine Mehuren scored for the Lions, while Kelci Faulkingham and Hannah Bailey added assists for the visitors. Bekah Freeman scored the lone goal for the Mariners.
“We came out a little flat in that second half,” said Oceanside coach Joanna Hall. “I called a timeout and it didn't seem to change too much out there. We were still pretty flat.”
Oceanside seemed to take control in the early stages of the 7-on-7, 8-minute overtime, but Belfast found an opening up the left sideline and found daylight in the Mariner defensive zone.
The overlap in the Lion offense drew Billington out of the cage to defend and Faulkingham pushed the ball over to an open Nelson, who had a clear view on the goal.
Then, as Belfast coach Jan Holmes-Jackson said, her “freshman came through in a big way.”
“She [Billington] tends to come off her angle and we knew that after watching film from the previous [game],” Holmes-Jackson said. “We said, 'We've got to draw her out and dish it.' ”
“Kelci committed to the goalie and made her dive for the ball and then she went around her and passed to me,” said Nelson. “And I shot right through.”
Oceanside dominated play in the first half and held a 9-0 advantage in penalty corners before Belfast regrouped in the second half to edge the hosts 6-5 in that category.
Despite that, Oceanside led only 1-0 at halftime on a goal from Freeman off a penalty corner.
Littlefield came out to meet both Freeman and Mariner Mary Allen, but Freeman pushed it past Littlefield for the game's first score with 16:53 remaining.
“They did a really good job defending our corners,” said Hall. “We had a pile of corners [in the first half] that we could have converted. We had our opportunities.”
“At the half I said that we had to switch things and start playing some offense,” said Holmes-Jackson. “We have to start playing our game, beating them to the ball, working our passing game that we're very successful at and get some [penalty] corners.”
Even Nelson, the hero of Thursday's game, had her doubts if the Lions could rally to tie — and then go ahead — in the game.
“I really thought after the first half it was going to be over,” said Nelson. “But then we just pulled it off. It was great.”
It was the Lions' first penalty corner midway through the second half that seemed to breathe new life into the visitors when the ball got behind Billington, with Belfast's Kristine Mehuren and Oceanside's Krissy McNichol vying for the ball on the post of the cage before it trickled out of bounds.
Belfast had a few more penalty corners to follow, with one of them knotting the score.
Mehuren inserted on the play for the Lions and came out into play and accepted a pass back from Bailey and fired the ball past Billington and into the cage with 12:44 left in regulation.
The Lions also had a penalty corner after time had expired in regulation, though the Mariners quickly cleared the ball out of the circle.
Despite the loss, Hall was upbeat after the game.
“I'm proud of my girls,” she said. “We had a good season. Hats off to [Belfast]. They did a good job and they didn't give up.”
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. He has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School.
Mark is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox, fantasy sports, the AMC drama "Breaking Bad" and iced coffee.
He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn and sons Beckett and Austin.
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