The Hampden Academy field hockey team is trying to make the most of its final season in the Penobscot Valley Conference – and improve on last year’s finish in the Eastern Maine Class A playoffs.
The No. 7 Broncos earned a spot in today’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal against No. 2 Oxford Hills of South Paris thanks to a 5-0 win over No. 10 Bangor.
Hampden, like Bangor and Brewer, plays a PVC schedule against mostly Class B teams with some Class C teams to round out the 14-game regular season. That means coach Deanna Hessert only knows about Oxford Hills from what she can read in the southern Maine newspapers.
“It’s really hard because it’s basically the same schedule we have as far as dates, so we could never get over there to take a look,” Hessert said. “[The Oxford Hills coach] was lucky enough to come over here.”
That will change next year as Hampden, along with Bangor, Brewer and Nokomis of Newport, which has been in Class B but will move up to Class A, all move over to the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.
It’ll be a huge change for all four teams. The KVAC – both in Classes A and B – is among the strongest conferences in the state. Class A Skowhegan is going for its sixth straight state title, while Class B Belfast has won two in a row.
The Broncos got a taste of it last year in the postseason. Hampden was the No. 5 seed and lost to No. 4 Messalonskee of Oakland 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
“We learned a lot down there last year and we know what we’re going to have to contend with,” Hessert said. “It’s fast-paced down there and they take the game really seriously. We do too, but we just don’t have the opportunities as often as they do. They’re so close to southern Maine that it makes it easier to get to camps and things like that. But it’ll be fun.”
Hessert said her team is excited for the switch in conferences. That may be because although she has nine seniors on the roster this year, there will be 10 in next year’s senior class, along with two current sophomores, 12 freshmen and 10 eighth-graders expected to play.
First though, the 9-4-2 Broncs have to get past 10-3-1 Oxford Hills.
Hampden’s top scorer is senior Alisa Hamilton, who has eight goals so far. The rest of the scoring has been spread out among a big group of midfielders and forwards.
“If they cover [Hamilton] we have somebody else who can step right in,” Hessert said. “It’s really nice. We’ve had our mids score, all of our forward line and our subs. It’s really hard to tag a specific person.”
The Broncos had a key stretch of wins at the end of September and the beginning of October in which they picked up wins over John Bapst of Bangor, Foxcroft and Nokomis, all of which made the Eastern Maine Class B playoffs.
“We’re really starting to peak at this point,” Hessert said. “[The mostly Class B schedule] makes it hard as far as Class A goes, for us to make it to the playoffs. You really have to win the bigger games.”
Hessert said the KVAC schedule is still being put together, so it’s undecided whether teams will just play once or twice during the season. There’s a chance the Class A teams could play some of the Class B teams.
Hancock County shines again
Once again, the southern part of Hancock County has turned out more than its share of stellar girls soccer teams.
Ellsworth and Bucksport in Class B and George Stevens of Blue Hill in Class C combined for a 33-4-5 record this year and all three finished in the top four in their respective Heal point standings.
“I think we get overlooked a little bit down here in Hancock County,” said Ellsworth coach Jen Myers. “[Bucksport coach Jack Gordon, GSA coach Steve Bemiss] and I, we all provide them other opportunities outside the regular season and I think the kids are taking advantage of it which is good for all of our programs.”
No. 4 Bucksport’s only loss came against No. 2 Ellsworth, which was undefeated, and the two tied in their second matchup.
Ellsworth beat No. 3 GSA twice, while Bucksport beat and tied GSA.
Myers said there’s been a big improvement in skills over the years.
“There’s a lot of good girls soccer going on here, and it’s not just kick and run anymore,” she said.
In previous seasons MDI has joined in on the county’s success, but the Trojans finished this season with a 1-13 record and didn’t make the playoffs. MDI won the Eastern Maine Class B championship in 1997.
Jessica Bloch can be reached at 990-8193, 1-800-310-8600 or email@example.com.