BIDDEFORD — Down a goal, less than 15 minutes remaining? No problem.

At least not for the University of New England field hockey team. Late-game comebacks have become a thing for the Nor’easters lately and the trend continued Wednesday night in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

UNE scored twice in the final 15 minutes to defeat St. Joseph’s 2-1, the winning goal scored by Brooke Lemerise with 1:35 left.

The Nor’easters controlled territorially and statistically but needed to dig deep again to advance.

“For the last couple of games we’ve been coming from behind so we know what it’s like,” said midfielder Olivia Madore. “Even when we get scored on first we don’t put our heads down and we light the fire. You’ve got to just come out harder.”

The Nor’easters (18-4), ranked 19th in the nation, will be at second-ranked Middlebury in the second round at 11 a.m. Saturday.

UNE came back in the second half to win in the semifinals and championship game of the Commonwealth Coast Conference playoffs. On Wednesday night, a Monks team with just two seniors pushed the Nor’easters hard from the start.

“It was definitely a battle,” said UNE Coach Danielle Collins. “St. Joe’s came out ready to go … I think their speed and eagerness kept them in the game with us. It took us a bit of time to get into the swing and get the ball into the back of the cage. Once we did it, I knew that the momentum would be a big shift for us.”

Monks Coach Rupert Lewis said his team certainly played its best.

“Overall I was very impressed and proud of how we competed,” he said. “Surely we competed against a more experienced UNE team. A team had to win and unfortunately we weren’t on that end.”

The Monks got the first goal when Libby Pomerleau scored 1:37 into the second half, taking a pass from Kayla Kelly and getting her 22nd goal of the season.

From there it was a matter of the Monks’ defense, led by Hayley Winslow and Kayla Veilleux, holding off the Nor’easters. And they did it for a while. UNE had 13 penalty corners and didn’t score on any.

“We maintained our marks that we had to on our forward line,” said Winslow. “And we shut them down for a long time.”

But with 13:28 remaining, UNE’s near-constant pressure paid off. Kersey Boulay had the ball on the right and pushed ahead to Vonde Saunders in the middle of the circle. She spun around and swiped a reverse hit inside the left post, and it was 1-1.

“When you’re playing a team that puts 10 in the circle, you’ve got to take your shot quick,” said Saunders. “That’s what was in my head.”

St. Joseph’s had another nice bid, a tipped ball by Kelly that just went wide right with just under eight minutes left.

The Nor’easters didn’t miss on their final bid. Brenna Sicard sent a free hit into the circle and Saunders touched it to Lemerise who, said Saunders, “finished it perfectly.” Lemerise, to the left, managed to swat a bouncing ball out of the air back inside the right post.

She stood there for a second – “I was still in shock that it hit back corner” – then Lemerise turned and was swarmed by teammates. “I was screaming, I was just so happy,” she said. “We all worked so hard … It’s just a great celebration because you get to celebrate with everyone.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH