Jun. 8—LEWISTON — Paige Pomerleau uses more than a few words to describe Lewiston starting goalie Emma Begin.
"Emma has come a long way. She's like our support back there on (defense)," Pomerleau, a defender, said. "She guides us and is kind of like our quarterback. She's just really useful, makes a lot of great saves and she keeps us in many games."
Begin, though, is quick to attribute her success to her teammates.
"Our forwards are fabulous, but if our defense can't be good, too, then we are going to get scored on ... no matter what," Begin said. "It's very important to have a good defense."
Strong communication is crucial to Lewiston's defensive success. Begin appreciates how the defenders relay information to her, and they are equally impressed with Begin's dialogue with them.
"Communication is a really big thing because as long as we are talking, we are always picking up the (opposing) players, make good passes and know where everyone is," defender Leah Dube said. "But when we aren't talking, it's this big, whole chaos."
Begin, a senior, has been like a sponge in her first season of guarding the net for Blue Devils, who were 7-5 in the regular season. They earned the fourth seed in Class A North, and will host No. 5 Portland (6-6) on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
"We had a starter that was with us (Ceci Racine), who had three years of experience, and Emma didn't have that transition," Lewiston coach Tracey Blaisdell said. "She had to jump right in after missing last year (because the season was canceled because of the coronavirus). We would have worked hard to transition her last year (to get her some games in), but we didn't have that luxury."
Blaisdell said Begin has a strong mental game — she doesn't let goals affect her, focuses on the next shot, and is coachable and willing to try new things.
Begin and Blaisdell agree that one skill Begin has improved during her short experience in goal is clearing the ball to the Blue Devils' midfielders and attackers.
"I think my clears are pretty good," Begin said. "They aren't always the best when the other team plays good defense or man-on-man (defense). When we can get those little openings, it works pretty well."
Blaisdell said that, like any good quarterback, Begin knows her teammates' strengths and weaknesses.
"What we have done is you have to know your players, and she knows who's (out) there, depending who's playing which positions," Blaisdell said. "We rotate a lot because the depth, depending who's there, she can clear short or is she going to clear long. Maybe a team is covering pretty well, and she has to come out (of her crease). She has this nice ability to evolve over the season. We worked on it as a team, but she has been an integral part of that."
Blaisdell said Begin also is good at reading the situation to make the right play.
The Blue Devils had a daunting stretch near the end of the regular season, playing six games in eight days. Begin said that stretch, during which Lewiston went 3-3, was a grind.
"In the running aspect, I am not running a lot. It's not too demanding, but it's just mostly my arms because the (goalie) stick is very heavy, especially consistently doing all those passes," Begin said. "But it's not too bad."
The team gives credit to Begin for keeping the Blue Devils in the game in a late-season loss to Oxford Hills.
"She had a high save percentage in that game," Pomerleau said.
Begin made 18 saves on 29 shots for a 0.62 save-percentage in the 11-10 overtime loss against the Vikings. There were six other games during the season that she had to stop 10 or more shots.
"It can get a little boring in the slower games," Begin said. "The less shots I see means the better my team is. I am thankful for what I get."
Blaisdell credits Begin's endurance during the second half of the season, when the grueling schedule took its tool on the Blue Devils.
"In that stretch, Emma had to really step up her game because our players were physically exhausted," Blaisdell said. "That meant (opposing) players were going to slip through and she was going to be facing more shots than we anticipated or what we would like in any given game. She was able to help support her team and she was able to step up in those moments. It made all the difference. It kept our games tight."
Begin's performance this season has given her an opportunity to play in college next year. She was interested in attending Husson University in Bangor, so she reached out to the Eagles coaching staff.
"I pretty much knew what school I wanted to go to. It was just a matter (of) if (Husson's) coaches wanted me," Begin said. "I reached out, and (coach Dorian Gilmartin-Dzitko) saw a little bit how I played and said, 'All right, we will take you.'"
She plans to study Health Sciences. She is one of three Blue Devils players who will be playing college lacrosse, along with teammates Charlotte Gastonguay, who will be attending Rollins College in Florida, and Shauna LeBlanc, who is heading to St. Joe's.
"Emma is extremely coachable, so any coach would love to have her because she's only going to get better," Blaisdell said. "She's willing to play. ... Emma will do well there."