SACO — Despite losing its previous game and then trailing 1-0 at halftime against undefeated Massabesic, the Thornton Academy field hockey team continued to hold its heads high.

The Golden Trojans parlayed that confidence into one of their best games of the season, knocking off previously undefeated Massabesic with a 4-1 victory at Hill Stadium.

The Trojans (6-4) outplayed Massabesic (8-1) in the opening 30 minutes but still trailed.

Undeterred, Thornton quickly tied the game on Olivia Lambert’s unassisted goal just two minutes into the second half, then grabbed the lead six minutes later.

“They had confidence after the first half because they were playing with (Massabesic),” said Thornton Coach Lori Smith. “We’ve been talking about beating teams to the ball and it’s been a weakness of ours. I think tonight we did a better job of that.

“I think the kids have more confidence in each other (the past couple games). Our defense is getting better.”

Jenica Botting made 12 saves for Thornton and was at her best late in the second half.

A little more than five minutes after sophomore Lily Stark scored the tiebreaking goal off a pass from Lambert, Botting made a tough pad save off Emma Rutledge, who scored in the first half. It was the Mustangs’ first sustained pressure of the second half, with about 15 minutes remaining.

Botting then made two spectacular kick saves on Rutledge, one of Massabesic’s top scorers, with a little under five minutes left. Those stops came less than a minute after Cat Henaire stretched Thornton’s lead to 3-1.

“We were pumped for this game; we knew Massabesic is a really great team,” said Botting, who missed a couple games earlier this season because of an injury but has been solid since. “We wanted to be better at beating them to the ball. We just wanted it more.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking back there, but I have confidence I can do it. They are great team and had great shots on goal. I just managed to get a pad on them.”

Paige Boudreau helped Botting when she cleared the ball from near the goal line late in the first half. Abby Pomerleau and Annie Duong also were strong defensively.

Henaire controlled the middle of the field, a result of a tactical change. Smith moved Henaire to center midfield, and Stark took her place at center forward.

Taylor Ouellette scored the final goal with 2:47 left.

Massabesic Coach Michele Martin-Moore hopes the defeat will be akin to a loss to Westbrook last season that preceded Massabesic’s run through the Class A South playoffs.

“(After) the loss against Westbrook we had our come-to-Jesus moment where they realized, wait a minute, this is not what we are about,” Martin-Moore said. “And we turned it (up) and made a run through the playoffs.

“(When you are undefeated) you have a target on your back. Every time you move forward with one more win, the target gets bigger. Everyone gets up for the game more, and my girls did not match the intensity TA had. And that was the difference there.”

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