By Ryan McLaughlin of the BDN Staff: DEXTER — Over the years, defense has been the trademark for playoff supremacy for the Dexter field hockey team.
That, coupled with an efficient offense could be a recipe for another such run for veteran head coach Margaret Veazie's team this fall.
The Tigers didn't allow any shots or penalty corners while Jordyn Bell and Darcy Perkins scored second-half goals as Dexter blanked rival Foxcroft Academy 2-0 in a battle of Class C powers on Monday.
Dexter (11-1) the reigning state champions, all but clinched the top spot in the Heal point rankings with two regular-season games remaining while Foxcroft (7-3-1) entered Monday's play in second.
Even though the Tigers controlled play throughout the first half, they couldn't take advantage of 10 penalty corners – they had 14 in the game – while Ponies' goalkeeper Cassie Curtis defended the cage well.
"It was a slow start, we've kind of had that problem all season where we don't play as well as we should in the first half, but we got it going," said Bell.
Bell opened the scoring three minutes into the second half, controlling a loose ball near the goal and slipping it past Curtis. Libby Kain and Shelbee Lancaster were credited with assists.
"It was on a corner, I think Shelby hit it to Libby, and Libby had it on her stick, it came off a little, we both caught it, I just got it (on my stick) and popped it in," said Bell.
Bell set up Perkins with 8:16 to go, stopping a loose ball with a reverse-stick move and subsequently crossing it to the unmarked Perkins.
"I saw that she was open," Bell said.
The Tigers' defense showed why they've only allowed four goals all season, three coming to Class B John Bapst in their only loss, as whenever the Ponies managed to get the ball into the circle, Dexter goalkeeper Maicee Gustin was quick to kick it away.
"Maicee's a great goalie, she always talks and tells you when you can go up," said senior back Chelsea Crane, who anchors the defense along with Lancaster, Devyn Bell and Mika Cookson.
Even though the Ponies couldn't generate a shot, Veazie was happy that Gustin was able to get some action, as she never touched the ball in a 4-0 win over Stearns on Saturday.
"She's very, very athletic, probably my best athlete on this field, and she's in the goal," said Veazie. "She can move with those pads on. She runs all the drills with pads on."
Dexter is also deep and quick with a 20-player roster, and the Tigers started to wear down the Ponies as the game wore on with multiple substitutions, especially offensively.
"We still can sub a lot, in the second half, teams wear out, they're not quite as crisp as they are in the first, a lot of times that makes us look like a second-half team," Veazie said.
The Tigers also marked the Ponies well and had most every angle on the field covered, thus making it difficult for Foxcroft to have any clean looks at the cage.
"We worked as a team, we really talked and had people going forward and going to the ball," said Crane. "Everyone just has their mark and stays to them, if someone's not there then Maicee just tells them."
The scoreless first half woke the Tigers up somewhat.
"We all realized we had underestimated Dover, they're a great team, so we just stepped to the ball and we all started working together," Crane said.
Curtis finished with eight saves on 10 shots for Foxcroft.
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