Minutes earlier, her Portland High field hockey team had beaten Westbrook 2-1 to advance to the Western Class A championship game for the first time. Yet Beth Arsenault’s thoughts were with the Bulldogs’ next opponent, Marshwood High.

“I’m thrilled for them,” she said. “We shared a lot of basement seasons where we fought to see who would not be in last. For the two of us to be where we are right now is pretty amazing.”

In the Year of the Upsets in Western Class A field hockey, Portland and Marshwood are certainly the feel-good stories of the playoffs. After years of futility, they will meet in the regional final at 7:30 p.m. today at Saco’s Thornton Academy, the last of a regional title game triple-header.

The Class C game between top-ranked Sacopee Valley (13-2-1) and second-ranked North Yarmouth Academy (12-4) will go first, at 3:30 p.m. The teams split in the regular season.

The Class B game between top-ranked York (15-1) and seventh-ranked Mountain Valley (11-4-2) will be next at 5:30 p.m. York has won the last three regional titles and six of seven.

And then there is the nightcap.

Both teams take long unbeaten streaks into the game. Marshwood (14-3) has won eight in a row; Portland (12-4-1) is unbeaten in 11 games (10-0-1). Coincidentally, the last loss for both teams came against Cheverus: Portland fell 5-0 Sept. 16 and Marshwood 1-0 Sept. 20.

But there are differences. The Bulldogs have 15 seniors. Marshwood has eight sophomores and two freshmen. In fact, all the Hawks’ playoff scoring has been done by sophomores and freshmen.

Both coaches — Arsenault and Marshwood’s Lisa Truesdale — substitute liberally. They both lack true stars, but both have, in Arsenault’s opinion, “kids who love to play field hockey.”

The teams played in the season’s second game, with Marshwood winning 3-1 on Sept. 6. Portland’s home field is turf. Marshwood played at Thornton Academy on Sept. 26.

For both coaches, it is a simple game.

“Marshwood is just solid from start to finish,” said Arsenault. “They stay in their positions watching them is like a clinic. They don’t wander or get bunched up in the field. We’re happy to be on turf.

“But it’s going to be a huge challenge. It’s going to be about us playing within ourselves and playing smart field hockey.”

Marshwood’s Truesdale said much the same.

“We haven’t altered or changed anything all year,” she said. “All the girls are involved. We play as a team. We play with heart, passion and drive. We don’t want this ride to stop.”

IN CLASS B, York Coach Barb Marois said playing an unfamiliar opponent presents “a new challenge for us.”

But York has faced plenty of challenges all season. The Wildcats lost several good players from last year’s regional champs and stayed on top with a strong defense and clutch scoring, led by Cari Posternak.

IN CLASS C, Sacopee Valley will face NYA on turf again. NYA, which has played in the last three regional title games, beat the Hawks 4-1 on its home turf in the season’s first game. Sacopee Valley beat NYA 4-3 later on grass.

“We’ve got to overcome that (turf) disadvantage and make it our advantage,” said Terry Barnes, coach of the Hawks.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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