Falmouth, Westbrook settle for hard-fought tie

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Falmouth and Westbrook’s field hockey teams do battle during the teams’ 1-1 tie Saturday afternoon.

FALMOUTH—Just about every game is expected to be a struggle this fall in Class A South field hockey and that was illustrated Saturday afternoon when 76 minutes couldn’t determine a winner between defending regional champion Westbrook and host Falmouth in an early season showdown.

The Yachtsmen, playing their second game of the season, came out strong in the first half, but were stymied on several occasions by Blue Blazes senior goalie Kimmy Goddard.

Falmouth managed to break through with 21:07 to play when senior Emma Cohen rattled the cage.

Momentum then changed when the Yachtsmen went down a player and seconds later, junior Kaitlin Talbot scored out of a scrum to pull Westbrook even with 16:26 on the clock.

The Blue Blazes, in their first countable game, had ample chances to win the game late in regulation, none better than with 1:18 to go, when senior standout Avery Tucker took a penalty stroke, but she bounced it off the near post and the teams went to overtime.

Sixteen minutes of seven-on-seven OT couldn’t produce any separation either and the teams settled for a 1-1 tie.

Falmouth is now 1-0-1 on the young season, while Westbrook begins 0-0-1.

“Both teams had chances in overtime,” said Yachtsmen coach Robin Haley. “Both groups really put forth a great effort. We’ll take the tie. This will help us down the road.”

“It’ll be fun all around this year,” said Blue Blazes coach Theresa Hendrix. “Every game will be a battle for everyone. I don’t believe there are top teams and bottom teams, it’ll be who shows up to play.”

Same start

A year ago, Falmouth began the season at Westbrook, in its first-ever Southwestern Maine Activities Association contest and lost, 4-1.

The Yachtsmen went on to make the playoffs before losing to Scarborough in the Class A South quarterfinals. Falmouth kicked off the 2018 campaign Thursday with a 4-0 victory at Windham behind a pair of goals from Cohen.

Westbrook, meanwhile, went on a spirited run all the way to the Class A state final before losing to perennial champion Skowhegan, 2-1.

This fall, both teams are expected to make a run at a regional title and on a pleasant Saturday afternoon (68-degrees at the start), each squad had an opportunity to earn the victory, but in the end, they split Heal Points.

The Yachtsmen nearly scored in the first minute, as they earned a quick penalty corner and senior Liberty Ladd managed to unleash a rocket that forced Goddard to make a kick save and a rebound trickled just wide, setting the tone for a frustrating half for the hosts.

After Falmouth senior goalie Caitlyn Bull denied Westbrook’s first shot, by Tucker, Cohen sent a cross through the crease that went untouched, another Ladd blast on a penalty corner was saved by Goddard, freshman Chloe Bush missed wide, Ladd was denied by Goddard and the Blue Blazes’ goalie robbed junior Isabella Roy and junior Sarah Wentworth in succession.

As time expired, the Yachtsmen were awarded a penalty corner and by rule, were allowed to play it out to its conclusion, which was nearly a goal, but after Goddard saved an initial shot by Cohen, she stopped two rebounds before the ball trickled out ending the first half with the score still 0-0.

Falmouth had an 8-3 edge in shots on frame and a 4-0 advantage in corners, but Goddard’s eight saves kept Westbrook in the game.

“I was really pleased in the first half,” Haley said. “We moved the ball well. Their goalie did an excellent job. We just needed to be a little stronger finishing. The heart was certainly there.”

The Blue Blazes earned their first corner early in the second half and with 22:49 to play in regulation, in transition, the visitors nearly took the lead as junior Morgan LeBeau set up Talbot, but Bull made a clutch save.

Finally, with 21:07 on the clock, the ball came to Cohen in the circle, who whacked a shot that Goddard couldn’t reach and the Yachtsmen had a 1-0 lead.

Westbrook then dominated the rest of regulation.

The Blue Blazes nearly drew even with 19:37 on the clock, when Tucker got the ball past Bull, but senior defender Caitlyn Hanley was there to sweep it off the line.

After Bull denied LeBeau and Tucker, Wentworth was given a yellow card for pushing and had to sit for five minutes.

Westbrook took advantage immediately, as with 16:26 to go, out of a scrum, Talbot finished to make it 1-1.

“That was certainly frustrating for us, but I was proud that we stepped up from there and covered for each other,” Haley said.

Late in regulation, Bull dove to rob Tucker and saved a follow-up shot by freshman Lily Ranco, then Bull denied LeBeau, senior Abby Symbol and Talbot.

With 1:35 remaining, the Blue Blazes earned a penalty corner and during a scrum, play was halted by the officials and a penalty stroke was awarded with 1:18 to go.

Tucker stepped the line with a chance to put her team on top and essentially win the game, but her low shot to Bull’s right rattled off the post.

“The way the game was going, I had full faith in my goalie,” Haley said. “That’s a tough shot. I started breathing again when I heard the clink. The post was our friend.”

The contest would then go to overtime.

In high school field hockey, teams play up to two eight-minute, “sudden victory” overtimes with seven players taking the field for each side.

As it turned out, all 16 minutes would be necessary and no one could rattle the cage.

Falmouth found itself a player down again just 34 seconds into OT when junior Sammy Means was sent off five minutes for pushing, but the Yachtsmen dug deep and didn’t allow a shot.

With 4:33 left, Wentworth almost won it for the hosts, but Goddard made the save.

Goddard then broke up a rush by Roy. 

Ladd dribbled up the field to start the second and final overtime and got into the box before senior Alexis Witham knocked the ball away.

With 5:34 left, LeBeau set up Tucker for a nice look, but the ball rolled just wide.

In the final minute, the Blue Blazes earned a corner, which led to a shot by Symbol that Bull denied.

Then, with 16.5 seconds remaining, Bull denied Witham and stopped Tucker’s rebound and that did it.

The final horn sounded and the teams settled for the 1-1 tie.

“We were a little nervous since we were playing the team that went to states last year,” Haley said. “They’re a strong team.”

“Falmouth will beat some good teams, so it was a good learning experience for us.” said Hendrix. 

Westbrook ended with a 13-11 edge in shots and a 9-5 advantage in corners. Goddard stopped 10 shots.

Bull made 12 saves for the Yachtsmen.

Next on the slate

Westbrook plays at home for the first time Wednesday when Sanford pays a visit. The Blue Blazes go to Portland Friday.

“We lost most of our defense and a key midfielder who’s now playing in college, so it’s on all the girls to work together,” Hendrix said. “We’re transitioning as a team.”

Falmouth, meanwhile, hopes to bounce back Wednesday when it has a pivotal game at Scarborough. The Yachtsmen are back on their home turf next Saturday versus Deering.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.