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Falmouth knocks off Fryeburg in final minute

Sports

Falmouth knocks off Fryeburg in final minute

FALMOUTH—Nobody does a dramatic finish like the Falmouth field hockey team.

Wednesday evening, with the wind howling and temperatures feeling more like November than October, the Yachtsmen once again saved their best for last.

Hosting top-ranked Fryeburg, a squad which handed Falmouth a decisive loss just two weeks ago, the Yachtsmen fell behind in the first half before drawing even early in the second half on a goal from senior Megan Fortier.

Then the fun really began.

With 7:45 to go, the Raiders were awarded a penalty stroke, but Falmouth sophomore goalie Hillary Nash was up for the challenge, easily turning it aside to keep the game tied.

Then, with 53.2 seconds showing, sophomore Jillian Rothweiler tapped home Fortier's cross and the Yachtsmen had their second last minute victory of the season, 2-1.

"Near the end of games, we get excited and fired up and that's when we do our best," Rothweiler said. "I think it was our time. We were all ready to play. We were all looking forward to this game. Fryeburg's a good team and we knew it was worth a lot of points."

Steady improvement

Falmouth has been on a roller coaster much of the season. The Yachtsmen went 4-0-1 in their first five contests, highlighted by a 4-3 home win over Greely Sept. 7, a game which saw the winning goal delivered by sophomore Mikey Richards with only three seconds on the clock. After failing to hold a lead and losing to nemesis York in overtime Sept. 17, Falmouth lost its next three as well: 4-1 at Fryeburg, 1-0 at Greely and 1-0 (naturally, in overtime) at York. The Yachtsmen turned things around last Thursday when they dominated visiting Gray-New Gloucester, 10-0. Monday brought another easy home shutout win, 5-0, over Wells.

Fryeburg, meanwhile, has been the story of the region this fall, winning 10 of its first 11 (falling only at Greely, 1-0), a stretch which included a rare victory at York (2-1) Sept. 9. The Raiders were riding an eight-game win streak Wednesday.

It wouldn't reach nine.

Fryeburg senior standout Sage Hennessy made her presence felt less than six minutes in, eluding a defender before firing a shot that Nash had to kick aside. Moments later, the ball got behind Nash on a penalty corner, but senior Steffi Rothweiler was there to clear it.

Falmouth's first good chance came with 22:48 to go in the 30-minute first half as Jillian Rothweiler was denied on the doorstep by Raiders senior goalie Brittany Fox.

With 10:55 left before halftime, Fryeburg struck. The ball was played into the goal area and a scrum ensued. Somehow, Hennessy found a way to get her stick on it and she sent it into the cage for a 1-0 advantage.

Hennessy almost doubled the lead with 5:21 left when she broke in, but shot wide. Two minutes later, Hennessy passed to junior Christina DiPietro, whose shot again forced Nash to make a kick save.

The Yachtsmen would push for the equalizer early in the second half as Fortier's pass to Rothweiler resulted in a shot that went just wide. Sophomore Leika Scott then had a shot from the side, but it was saved by Fox.

Finally, with 22:51 left in regulation, Falmouth earned a penalty corner and drew even.

The ball was inserted to Scott, who passed to Fortier, who unleashed a one-timer that barely got inside the left goalpost, tying the contest, 1-1.

With 11:35 remaining, Scott again set up Fortier on a corner, but Fortier's shot just missed.

With 7:45 to go, the Raiders appeared primed to regain the lead. Off a penalty corner, the ball wound up in front of the goal and got lodged under a prone Nash, meaning the visitors earned a penalty stroke, allowing a chosen player a chance to go one-on-one with the goalie with everyone else on site watching intently.

Fryeburg chose junior Ellen Bacchiocchi to do the honors. Nash was the only thing that could prevent a deficit and she came through as she coolly turned the shot away.

"I told myself that I could do it and I stopped it," Nash said, of the game's critical play. "My team was supporting me. They usually go for the corner (on penalty strokes), so I was ready to jump up there, but it was right to the cage. I had two last year and it was nervewracking, but this year I felt more confident."

"That save was incredible," Rothweiler said. "My stomach was in knots. We owe it all to Hillary. I knew she would save it. She's getting really good."

"Hillary came up big," Falmouth coach Robin Haley added. "(Penalty strokes are) something she works on daily. She's really put in a great effort and it paid off big-time tonight."

With all the momentum, the Yachtsmen looked to win it, but once the game got to the final minute, it appeared overtime was imminent.

The cardiac kids had other ideas, however.

The ever-dangerous Fortier got the ball up top, toward the right of box and launched a blast that Rothweiler tipped home.

Falmouth 2 Fryeburg 1.

"It was a cross from Megan to the opposite side of the goal and all I had to do was tip it in," Rothweiler said. "This was my first game winner. It was definitely memorable."

"I thought (Jillian) had tremendous composure," Haley said. "She was in the right place at the right time. She's taking it all in and wants to get better. Kudos to her."

The Raiders pushed to try and force overtime, but the Yachtsmen defense held and they celebrated their biggest victory to date.

"I was a little nervous, but I told myself our team was good enough and if we had good teamwork we could do it and we did," Nash said.

"It's really funny because before the game we talked about how the energy felt the same as the Greely (win)," Haley said. "We've learned a lot and focused on the little things that made a big difference today. We had a couple letdowns, but we regained our focus. We really worked at finishing off by the goal and it paid off. I certainly think it helped playing on turf.

"We weren't pleased by how we played (at Fryeburg). We knew we had a lot more in us. We've been hungrier in practice the last four or five days. We're putting things together. People are stepping up. Confidence is becoming better. We knew it would be a close game since (Fryeburg's) exceptionally fast and has a lot of talent."

Finish strong

Falmouth (now 7-4-1 and seventh in the Western Class B Heal Points entering the contest, but due to move up) ends the regular season with games at defending Class C state champion North Yarmouth Academy Friday and Cape Elizabeth Tuesday.

If the Yachtsmen win out, it's likely they'll get at least one home playoff game.

They certainly appear to be hitting their stride at the optimal time.

"(This win) definitely gives us much more confidence," Rothweiler said. "It really puts us up there. Our team's really coming together."

"I think we can play with anyone," Nash said.

"As long as we stay with the basics, we'll be competitive," Haley added. "(NYA and Cape Elizabeth) will both be difficult games for us. They'll be good games to prepare for playoffs. Homefield is huge. That's what we're hoping for and that's why tonight's game was critical. It's definitely a lot of Heal Points. It helps our confidence. The biggest thing is that it validates all the work."

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

Photo: Courtesy Peter Serunian

The winning sequence started with Falmouth senior Megan Fortier playing the ball into the circle.

Photo: Courtesy Peter Serunian

With sophomore Mikey Richards waiting by the post, sophomore Jillian Rothweiler fires a shot that eludes Fryeburg goalie Brittany Fox to put Falmouth ahead for good.

Photo: Courtesy Peter Serunian

The scoreboard tells the story as the jubilant Yachtsmen celebrate their biggest win of the season.