On Thursday, third-seeded Dexter traveled to second-seeded and defending D-I state champion Ann Arbor Pioneer. The Pioneers had beaten Mercy 5-0 in their first-round game while Dexter won 4-0 over Marian.
During the regular season in early September, Dexter beat Pioneer 2-1 at Ann Arbor, ending the Pioneers’ 36 consecutive home-game winning streak.
The playoff game started off with both teams showing high energy and a desire to get the first goal on the scoreboard. The skills being displayed on the field demonstrated why both of the teams were considered one of the top teams in D-1 this season. For the first 30 minutes each side moved back and forth but neither could find much room against their opponent’s defense.
The game was being played between the 35-yard lines with few opportunities found for either side. When halftime arrived, the game was scoreless and shaping up to be a very intense final 30 minutes.
The second half started with both teams continuing their battle back and forth. Dexter found some energy and was getting further into Ann Arbor’s zone but could not get any solid shots towards the Pioneer goal cage.
As the time started to pass on, Pioneer began to turn the tide of the game flow. The Dreadnaughts were finding themselves having to defend more Ann Arbor rushes towards their zone.
With just over 12 minutes remaining in the game, Pioneer got the big break everyone was looking for as Meghan Foster found an opening around Dexter goalie Anna Love to give the defending champions a 1-0 lead.
The pressure was squarely upon the Dreadnaughts. Then following a timeout, disaster struck the Dreadnaughts less than a minute later as Pioneer got another fast break onto goal and during the ensuing scramble in front of the net, Ann Arbor Mack Stoy collected a rebound and sent it back past Love to give Pioneer a 2-0 lead.
That was all Ann Arbor needed as Dexter could not get anything going during the final 11 minutes as Pioneer held on for a 2-0 win.
“That one minute in the second half was a back-breaker,” said Dexter coach Craig Flocken. “We played them as tough as anyone for 59 minutes, but it is a 60-minute game. A one-goal deficit we could have had time to manage a comeback. Two goals down, though, against Pioneer at their place, was too much for us to overcome.”
Flocken said “Pioneer is the standard of field hockey success.”
“They have a great tradition of winning and that is something we here at Dexter are working upon building,” he said. “Though we didn’t quite accomplish our championship goal, we showed everyone that we belong in Division One. The players represented Dexter proudly this season. There was nothing to hang their heads about.”
Dexter finished its first season in D-1 after winning the D-2 state title last season with an 18-3-2 overall record.
“A lot of great things are happening with Dexter field hockey,” Flocken said. “Though it is never a good feeling ending the season on a loss, we know that we can learn from it. For the players returning next season, we hope they will remember this and that it will drive them as they look to return Dexter to another State Championship game.”
Prior to the game against Pioneer, Flocken met with the team and told them he was proud of their effort and showing this season.
“I wanted them to know that no matter what happened in this semifinal game, I was going to walk off that field proud of them,” Flocken said. “I am, and I did.”
Photos by Joanna Zabriskie