Dealing with the growing pains that often accompany a youthful and inexperienced squad, the Maine-Endwell field hockey team suffered through an up-and-down regular season.
It took just one game for all of that to be forgotten, however.
The Spartans (8-9) earned a berth in the state Class A playoffs last weekend with a 3-0 victory over Marathon in the Section 4 final, earning the chance to host Section 2’s Saratoga at 3 p.m. Saturday as part of a regional final tripleheader at M-E.
Vestal will meet Section 2’s Burnt-Hills-Ballston Lake in a Class B regional final at 5, with Whitney Point facing Section 3’s Cazenovia in a Class C regional final at 7. Saturday’s winners advance to the state Final Four, which will be held at M-E on Nov. 15-16.
M-E avenged a 1-0 regular-season loss to Marathon with its Section 4 title victory, taking the lead for good late in the first half against the Olympians on Mary Trichka’s goal. Coach Heather Doyle feels like her team – which only has three seniors and includes several seventh- and eight-graders – is playing its best field hockey at the right time.
“Our division is very difficult,” Doyle said of Section 4 Division I, which includes Vestal and Whitney Point. “We struggled with that early in the season, but by the end of the season, we got a little stronger, we saw the success coming and it carried into the postseason.”
Saratoga (17-3) advanced to the regional final with a 2-1 victory over Section 3’s Cicero-North Syracuse on Wednesday. Carley Barnes scored the game-winner with 2:38 remaining in the second half.
Vestal (13-1) is seeking a second straight state semifinal appearance. The Golden Bears cruised to the Section 4 title with an 8-0 victory over Owego on Oct. 30 with Emilly Schutt scoring three goals in the victory.
BH-BL (16-4) reached the regional final with a 3-2 overtime victory over Section 3’s Camden on Wednesday, Amanda Daniels scoring five minutes into the first sudden-death overtime period to give the Spartans the win.
Whitney Point (17-1), like Vestal, is hoping for a second consecutive state semifinal berth when it meets Cazenovia (17-2-1). The Golden Eagles defeated Deposit, 5-0, for the Section 4 title on Oct. 30 behind a pair of goals from Elaina Burchell and a goal and an assist from Leanne Bough.
Both teams lost to eventual state champion Pierson/Bridgehampton of Section 11 in last year’s state playoffs. WP lost 2-1 in a shootout in the semifinals while Cazenovia succumbed, 1-0, in the state-title game.
Cazenovia cruised into the regional final with a 5-1 victory over Section 2’s Hoosick Falls, Ashley Kent scoring a pair of first-half goals to propel the Lakers to a 3-0 halftime lead.