Mt. Ararat’s Phoebe Fitzpatrick is defended by Greely’s Meredith Brubaker and Daphne Campo (right) during the Eagles’ 1-0 victory Thursday.

CUMBERLAND—Scoring goals the traditional way wasn’t working for Mt. Ararat’s field hockey team Thursday afternoon, so the Eagles, who failed to convert on 10 penalty corner opportunities in the first of half of their game at Greely, tried a different approach in the second half.

Get the ball to junior Paige Witwicki on a breakaway and let her do her thing.

With the Eagles and Rangers mired in a scoreless tie late in the third period, Witwicki broke free and finished and that proved to be lone goal in the teams’ first-ever countable meeting.

Mt. Ararat’s 1-0 victory was its sixth in seven games this fall and the Eagles handed Greely its first setback in three outings in the process.

“It was a great day to come down here and play Greely, who’s a great program that we never get to see,” said Mt. Ararat coach Krista Chase. “It was a lot of fun to play them.”

Greetings

Greely, of the Western Maine Conference, and Mt. Ararat, from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, have each played field hockey for decades, but never against the other in a countable game.

Thursday’s meeting came about due to alterations made to the schedule due to COVID-19, which has teams playing squads in geographic proximity, regardless of conference affiliation.

Each squad has made the most of the abbreviated campaign to date.

Greely, which missed the playoffs a year ago with a 5-9 record, welcomed new coach Burgess LePage, a one-time standout player with the program, with home wins over Cape Elizabeth (3-1) and Gray-New Gloucester (5-1), but a couple of different rainouts versus Yarmouth left the Rangers idle for almost two weeks heading into play Thursday.

Mt. Ararat, which had a fine season a year ago, going 11-5 and getting to the Class A North semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Skowhegan, 10-0, won its first five outings: 5-2 at Morse, 1-0 at home over Freeport, 5-1 at Lisbon, 1-0 at Brunswick and 2-0 at home over Morse. Wednesday, the Eagles finally fell from the undefeated ranks with a 2-0 setback at Freeport.

Thursday, on another terrific autumn day (66 degrees and windy at the start), goals were at a premium, but Mt. Ararat finally found a way to break through in the second half.

In the first 15-minute quarter, Witwicki missed wide and so did Charlie Smith on a rebound. The Eagles had four penalty corners in the frame, but couldn’t convert any of them.

Greely also had its lone corner in the first period, but couldn’t score.

In the second quarter, the Rangers had a chance to go on top, but after a rush, Ellie Newton’s shot was saved by Mt. Ararat goalie Piper Cohen.

The Eagles then had six corner opportunities, but only managed one good look, by junior Greta Marchildon, which was denied by Greely goalie Savanna Harvey.

“So I’m not the greatest penalty corner coach,” said Chase. “Not this year anyway. Penalty corners were the last thing we worked on this year. I have players in new roles and none of them had major roles on corners last year. It’s hard to score on them. The defense seems to always have the energy and momentum on them.”

“Our defense is really reliable and they play steady,” LePage said. “They pushed through all of those corners.”

Greely held its own in the third period and later in the frame began to gain possession in the Mt. Ararat zone, but Newton couldn’t quite reach a long feed from Delia Knox.

The Eagles then turned momentum for good in stunning fashion, as the ball was played ahead to Witwicki, who got the ball past the defense, then went one-on-one with Harvey. After whiffing on an initial shot, Witwicki sent the ball into the far corner past the diving goalie and Mt. Ararat was on top, 1-0.

“I first had to figure out how I would get past the defense and once I did that, I said to myself, ‘It’s your time, Paige. You have to get it in,'” Witwicki said. “I looked up and the goalie was right on me, so I shot and it barely went in. It was very scary, but it was a good feeling.”

“It’s hard to score goals in a cluttered circle, so sometimes a breakaway situation is exactly what you need,” said Chase. “Paige saw that corner and I think she had a pretty good angle on that.”

“We tried to make an adjustment to get back,” LePage said. “Savanna couldn’t do much in that situation.”

The Rangers had one good chance to draw even in the fourth period as with four minutes to play, during a scrum in front of the Eagles’ goal, the ball ricocheted into the cage, but the goal was immediately waved off as the ball was ruled to have hit a Greely player’s foot.

“(The ball) hit a shin pad or something like that,” said LePage.

Mt. Ararat then ran out the clock from there and celebrated a 1-0 victory.

“I think everyone was frustrated after we lost last night, our first loss, so we really wanted it today,” said Witwicki.

Mt. Ararat finished with a 5-1 edge in shots on cage, got one save from Cohen and had a 10-1 advantage in corners.

Greely got four saves from Harvey, but tasted defeat for the first time.

“We’re playing out of our class and we wanted to win,” said LePage. “The girls are bummed about it, but they are super-proud of how they played.”

Playing out the schedule

Mt. Ararat has two scheduled games remaining, at home versus Brunswick and Lewiston next week.

“Our goal this year is to do the best we can,” Witwicki said. “We don’t have playoffs, but we want to win.”

“We have two games next week and hopefully we’ll get a 10th game,” Chase said. “We lost a big, important senior group from last year, so this is a year of not knowing and a year of having freshmen and sophomores in some pretty important roles. It’s felt like a safe, fun season so we want it to go as long as possible. We want to win games, build for next year and finish strong for my five seniors.”

Greely is scheduled to visit Freeport Saturday (although another weather postponement is possible). The Rangers host Scarborough Tuesday of next week, then has games at Cheverus, at home against Yarmouth, at Yarmouth and at Scarborough.

“It’s a very different year,” said LePage. “We’ve really focused on mental health and happiness permeating everything. We try to remind everybody that we’re lucky to be here and to have fun. We don’t want to lose, but we’re enjoying every moment we’re out here.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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