Lori Smith looked at her Thornton Academy field hockey players before Tuesday night’s Class A South championship game against top-ranked Cheverus and knew they were ready.

“They were almost calm,” she said, noting that the Trojans had played through some tight games in recent weeks, winning each one. “They learned to mentally prepare.”

And they learned how to win. The Trojans won their first regional field hockey championship, beating Cheverus 4-1 at Fitzpatrick Stadium for the Class A South crown. Taylor Ouellette once again led the offense with two goals and junior goalie Isabella Capozzi made several pivotal saves.

Thornton Academy (15-2) will play North champion Skowhegan – making its 15th consecutive appearance in a state title game – for the Class A state title at noon Saturday at the University of Maine in Orono.

“This is just huge for us,” said Grace Pickering, a senior midfielder. “It’s every athlete’s dream to get to the championship game.”

To get there, the Trojans had to get past the Stags, who had beaten them 3-2 in overtime on Sept. 10. That game was played fast, and this one started the same way.

Cheverus (14-3) came out quickly but Capozzi dived to her right to smother a shot by Colleen Slattery on a penalty corner about seven minutes into the game. Just over a minute later, Ouellette put the Trojans in the lead.

Isabella Robinson sent a pass from the right side to Ouellette at the left post. She redirected it in with 22:13 left in the first half. Cheverus came back about three minutes later when Becca Archer scored in a scramble.

But Thornton converted its first penalty corner into a goal by Emma Dutremble with 14:29 left in the first half. Dutremble inserted the ball from the left of the goal, then took a pass back from Libby Pomerleau to score at the left post.

Capozzi then came up with a couple of one-on-one saves, both late in the first half and early in the second, to keep the Trojans in the lead.

“It seemed they converted and we didn’t on our chances,” said Stags Coach Amy Ashley. “They were a little more clutch than us tonight and in a finals you have to be.

“It stings a lot, it hurts, but in the end you’ve got to be proud of what we accomplished.”

It was still close until Pomerleau – the Trojans’ all-time leading scorer – scored an unassisted goal with 20:31 left. She carried down the right wing and, after looking to cross a pass to Ouellette on the left, ripped a hard shot inside the right post.

Ouellette scored with 15:02 left, again converting another cross-pass from Robinson on the right to make it 4-1.

“She’s in the right place at the right time,” said Smith. “We work on it. We work on crossing balls and tip-ins all the time.”

The Trojans were expected to be among the better teams in the region this year. Their ability to pull together at the end of the season has lifted them to another level.

“We had a lot of tough games and what our coach loves to say is it strengthened our mental toughness,” said Pickering. “Just that fight towards the end of the game, when you’ve got to give it your all and really leave it all out there.”

Ouellette said Picking and Pomerleau are perfect examples of that approach. “You look at them and they seem tired and then two minutes later they’re full at it, they don’t give up,” she said.

Smith called this the closest team she’s ever had.

“This is like no other team I’ve ever had,” said Smith. “They’re just great kids.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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