Ten senior starters help Mattanawcook succeed

This story was published on Oct. 16, 2007 on Page C1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

LINCOLN – It’s been a record-setting season for the Mattanawcook Academy field hockey team.

Although the No. 1 Heal point ranking in Eastern Maine Class C went to Foxcroft Academy – which had a record-setting season itself as coach Gene Philpot picked up her 300th coaching victory – the Lynx went 13-1, winning the most games in school history and saw Michelle Paul set the MA record for career goals with 29.

The Lynx will settle for No. 2 in the standings, which matches them up in a quarterfinal game against No. 7 Boothbay Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.

Now in his 30th year, coach Dean Libbey’s previous best regular-season finish was 1996, when the Lynx went 11-1-2. They’ve never made it past the semifinal round.

“We’ve talked about that. We want it, too, but we kind of want to win it for him, too,” said senior right wing Deni Nicasto.

This year Libbey had the benefit of a whopping 10 senior starters with experienced players in every starting position.

“Every day we come off the field and we think, senior year is our year,” senior goalie Sarah French said.

Paul, a left wing who has 14 goals and two assists this season, is one of those seniors, as are Nicastro (eight goals, three assists), inner Bree Souers (three assists), and goalie Sarah French (six shutouts).

Inner Brooke Hanscom (six goals, team-best seven assists) is just a sophomore. She has been around field hockey for a long time, however – her sister is senior midfielder Brianna Hanscom.

The Lynx have scored 33 goals this year, about 2.3 per game, which is up from previous years.

“The teams I’ve coached have always had difficulty scoring, but this year we’re scoring goals,” Libbey said. “That has paid dividends. We’ve had the ball in our [offensive] end of the field a lot more than in the defensive end.”

Senior midfielders are Kristy Burleigh, Brittany Piche and Brianna Hanscom, who sometimes plays defense depending on the strength of the opposition’s forwards.

The Lynx have been focusing on stick skills.

“We’ve been working a lot on things like dribbling and dodging and doing things like back passes and crosses,” Burleigh said. “We haven’t really ever done back passes before. This is the first year we’ve really worked on it.”

The defensive starters are Jess McIntyre, Lauren Broderick and Katie Lindquist. It’s a group, along with French, that has allowed just 12 goals, about 0.85 per game. It’s a group that works well together.

“I think we’ve been strong both ways because technically that’s how it should be,” French said. “You’ve got to have a strong defense yet in order to win you have to have a strong offense. I think we’ve put that together this year.”

The only non-starting senior is Brianna DeRaps, who is in her first season in the sport. Key backups include juniors Renee Libbey and Kamryn Knott and freshman Rianne Gardner.

MA’s record is even more impressive because of the fact that perennial powerhouse Foxcroft Academy moved from Class B to Class C this season.

And there’s always a lot of competition in Eastern Maine Class C with two-time defending state champion Central of Corinth, Dexter and Stearns of Millinocket all proven postseason threats. Mattanawcook fell to Stearns in the regular season, but beat Foxcroft twice.

Libbey admitted he wonders at times how his team survived.

“There were times I found myself berating them at halftime and after the game, saying, Geez, I don’t know how you did it. You stepped up, made the play when you had to. I don’t think we’ve played exceptionally well. We’re just doing what we have to do to get the ‘W.’.”

No matter what happens in the field hockey postseason, the Lynx feel they can also have strong seasons in basketball and softball. A lot of the girls play at least two sports.

MA lost in the Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinals in softball, a team Libbey has coached since 1979, and also in the semifinals of the basketball tournament.

“Libbey always tells us if we come out strong in field hockey It’s going to carry over to everything else,” Burleigh said.