Sanford Coach Diana Walker talks to her players before the final game of her 39-year career at Sanford. The Red Storm lost to Biddeford 5-2 in a Class A South playoff game. Mike Lowe photo

BIDDEFORD — Diana Walker tried to keep everything as normal as possible. And for 60 minutes she did just that, instructing and encouraging her Sanford High field hockey players as she had for every game in the last 39 years.

But when it was over, after third-seeded Biddeford defeated the 14th-seeded Spartans 5-2 in the opening round of the Class A South field hockey playoffs at Waterhouse Field, reality struck. It was Walker’s final game as Sanford’s head coach. She announced her retirement earlier this year.

Pulling her team together one last time, Walker broke down in tears in the huddle.

“Didn’t hit me until the end when I wanted to say something to them,” she said. “I thought I was going to be all set. And I will be.”

Walker retires with a 375-191-23 record. Her teams won back-t0-back Class A state titles in 1999 and 2000 and two other regional championships, losing to Skowhegan in the state final in 2001 and 2007. At one time, Sanford won 50 consecutive games.

Walker said the program is in “great shape” and she wouldn’t change anything.

“It was a great run,” she said. “It was amazing. There was something great about each team every year.”

Her final season ended with a 2-11 record. Two games in the final week of the regular season were canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the school, and she was still missing some players on Saturday.

Biddeford won its 12th consecutive game to improve to 13-2 and will play No. 6 Gorham at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Junior forward Cece Keller scored three goals, setting the school single-season record with 29.

The Tigers struck quickly on a rebound goal by Ayla Lagasse just 2:16 in. After Sanford’s Audrey Payeur tied it on a penalty corner, Jayme Walton scored to give Biddeford a 2-1 lead after one quarter.

Keller scored all her goals in the second quarter, the first two on penalty corners when she redirected hard drives by Kiki Jackson. Her third goal was on her own rebound after she dribbled through the Sanford defense.

“I just try to be right there all the time,” said Keller.

Biddeford Coach Caitlin Tremberth added, “She’s just hungry on the pads. She’s definitely tough to defend because she’s so active, not reactive.”

Sanford’s Ellecia Davis got the only goal of the second half, in the fourth quarter.

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