YARMOUTH – When North Yarmouth Academy’s field hockey team gathered for the first time in August, senior Katherine Millett looked around and wondered how the season would unfold.

The defending Class C state champs had a new look. Not only had six players graduated, but six others had transferred. Freshmen and sophomores were going to make up the bulk of the team.

And yet, for the fourth consecutive year, NYA will play for the Class C state championship. The Panthers will take on Winthrop at 1 p.m. today in the first of three games at Yarmouth High’s turf field.

York will take on Belfast in the Class B final at 3 p.m., followed by the Class A game between Skowhegan and Marshwood at 5 p.m.

“This shows the type of kids who I go to school with,” said Millett, who led the Panthers in scoring for the second consecutive year, this time with 21 goals and 13 assists. “Anybody who’s on my team, I know that they’re playing as hard as they can. And they’re playing for their teammates.”

The Panthers (13-4) have come together by blending what little experience they have — back Katie Cawley is the only other senior — with some skilled and hard-working underclassmen.

“There’s some pressure on us to be leaders,” said Cawley. “I think we’ve done OK so far.”

And the younger players had a great role model in Millett.

“She’s an incredible role model in the way she plays,” said junior midfielder Jen Brown. “And it’s not only her skills, but her knowledge of the game. She’s coaching out there a lot of times.”

First-year coach Tracy Quimby said the Panthers are very fortunate to have Millett.

“A lot of kids said to her, ‘Geez, is your team going to be any good this year?’ ” said Quimby. “But she stuck with it and the other kids came through. She works with everyone and is pretty straight-forward, telling them what needs to happen on the field.”

And the younger players stepped up. No one has been more visible in the playoffs then freshman goalie Elizabeth Coughlin, who made several stunning saves in the regional final against Sacopee Valley.

Winthrop (13-2-2), which last won a state title in 1989, comes in off its upset of top-ranked Dexter in the Eastern Maine final. The Ramblers played an exceptional defensive game, led by goalie Alyssa Arsenault and senior backs Nikki Burgess and Paige Wood.

Lauren Kaiser leads Winthrop with 13 goals while Rachel Ingram has 12. 

CLASS A: Skowhegan (17-0) is making its 11th consecutive appearance in the state title game — having won nine of the previous 10 — while Marshwood (14-3) is making its first appearance. But Indians Coach Paula Doughty still sounds like a newcomer to the big game.

“We’re just thrilled to be there,” she said. “It’s an honor, win or lose, to be here. Of course I want to win, but just to make it to the state game is big for the girls.”

Doughty’s team has scored over 100 goals, led by a trio of snipers: Jess Skillings and Nicole Sevey, who are both heading to the University of Maine, and Makayla Fitzmaurice, who will attend Bryant. They are as skilled as any players in the state.

The defense is strong as well, as Doughty rotates in seven players to keep them fresh.

Marshwood, which didn’t make the playoffs a year ago, similarly has a strong defense in front of Jacque Tworkowski, who has 11 shutouts and has given up just eight goals.

The offense is led by senior midfielder Natalia Bachelder with 10 goals, but six others have at least four goals.

“We’re not going to change our tactics,” said Marshwood Coach Lisa Truesdale. “The kids have nothing to lose, they already know well ahead that (Skowhegan) is an amazing program. And their success is not to be discounted.

“But I believe field hockey is a sport where you can never guarantee what’s going to happen. If we have that mind-set, get focused and ready to play, anything can happen.” 

CLASS B: The state final matches two schools, York (16-1) and Belfast (13-1-3), who played three classic championship games from 2004-06. Belfast won all three, each by a goal.

“Bad memories?” asked York Coach Barb Marois. “Yeah, I guess a little.

“But we’re there, we’ve gotten to where we want. And whoever is on the other side is on the other side.”

York, playing in its fourth straight state title game, has a balanced offense. Cari Posternak has 20 goals and 14 assists, Taylor Simpson has 14 goals and five assists, and Shelby Spencer has five goals and nine assists. The defense, meanwhile, got better and better every game in front of junior goalie Amanda Kasbohm.

Belfast Coach Allen Holmes said he’s just grateful to be in the state final. The Lions, he said, could have easily lost every playoff game. Belfast beat favored Nokomis 1-0 in the regional final with great help from back Katrina Lapham, who twice made defensive saves at the goal line.

Then the Lions scored on a corner after time had expired in the second overtime.

“We feel very fortunate,” said Holmes, who will be missing one of his top scorers, Kristi Osgood (concussion), as well as back Kaysea Harford (knee).

But, said Holmes, the Lions know what to do.

“The kids have trust in each other,” he said. “That goes a long way.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH