Though a rematch against Bonny Eagle loomed ahead, the Westbrook field hockey team could not afford to look past Monday’s preliminary tournament game. The Blue Blazes topped Portland during the season by a single goal and it would be a mistake to take them for granted now.

The visiting Bulldogs (5-9-1) played hard and fought back from a two-goal deficit, but Westbrook (11-4-0) hung on, 2-1, to advance to the Class A west regional quarterfinals.

“We knew this would be a battle,” said Blazes coach Beth Murphy. “Portland’s improved a lot. Their goalie had some great saves. They stuck it to us, all the way through the end.”

Sixth-seeded Westbrook controlled the action in the first period, tallying eight penalty corners and forcing Bulldog goalkeeper Maja Reinhartsen to make 10 saves.

Moments after Reinhartsen made several stops right in front of her net, Blazes forward Vanessa Enman came charging down the middle with the ball on her stick.

“I was dribbling down and one of my teammates yelled, ‘Shoot it!'” the senior said, “so I did and it went through the goalie’s legs.”

Enman’s shot, from 10 yards out, came with 5:30 to go in the half and made it 1-0.

When intermission came, Westbrook found themselves with just a one-goal lead despite 30 minutes of dominance. However, it didn’t take long to add to that margin when play resumed.

Just over a minute into the second half, Blazes forward Meaghan Murphy knocked the ball diagonally across the front of the net. Enman couldn’t handle it, but teammate Erin Knott was standing right next to the post and she whacked it in.

“If you’re standing in the right spot, you just have to stay where you are and hope that the ball gets to you,” Knott said. “You trust that your teammates will get it to you and it usually works.”

That second goal would be huge, but at the time it only seemed to enliven the opposition. Portland stepped up their intensity. They had seven penalty corners in the second half to Westbrook’s one, and they put some pressure on Blazes keeper Katie Lybrand.

Midway through the period, the Bulldogs’ Melanie Toner found the back of the hosts’ net with a shot from 10 yards out, cutting the lead in half. Westbrook seemed a bit flustered and Portland continued to press them, but the Blazes regained their composure and held off their rivals.

Westbrook defenders Aly Bourgoeis, Molly McDonough and Alicia Wescott repeatedly hampered many of the attacks that their opponents tried to get going, allowing only four shots on Lybrand.

“It’s disappointing to lose, but I’m not at all disappointed in how they played,” said Bulldogs coach Beth Arsenault. “It would have been easy as the 11th seed to mail it in after being down 2-0.”

With Portland out of the way, the Blazes were ready to focus on third-seeded Bonny Eagle (12-2-0). Just two weeks ago the Scots shut down Westbrook, 2-0.

“Their defense played unbelievably last game. We didn’t get a shot on goal,” said Coach Murphy. “I think I’ve got one of the strongest offensive forward lines in the league, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to make it a game.”

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