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Freeport senior Brooke Toothaker fights York junior Ashley Carney for the ball during the Wildcats’ 1-0 victory in Wednesday’s Class B South Final.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
BIDDEFORD—A magical season won’t have its fairy tale ending.
Freeport’s field hockey team traveled to Biddeford’s storied Waterhouse Field Wednesday afternoon for the Class B South Final, hoping to make history, but it would be the York Wildcats, yet again, who took home the most coveted piece of hardware.
The third-ranked Falcons, coming off their best regular season in nearly two decades and riding the high from a pair of improbably glorious playoff wins, hoped to end the top-seeded Wildcats’ five-year reign as regional champions and Freeport had it chances to do so.
But the Falcons couldn’t quite capitalize.
Freeport nearly got the jump 40 seconds in, but sophomore Ally Randall’s shot hit the post.
And the Falcons never would be able to put the ball in the cage.
Freeport, thanks to strong defense and four timely saves from senior goalie Katelyn Rouleau, got the game to the half scoreless.
Not only were goals hard to come by in the second half, shots were nearly non-existent and after both senior Natalie Anderson and sophomore Anyslie Decker were denied by York senior goalie Julianna Kiklis, the Wildcats earned their eighth penalty corner and finally broke through.
With 4:12 left in regulation, senior Emlyn Patry sent a shot on goal, freshman Sage Works got her stick on it and the ball beat Rouleau to break the ice.
The Falcons weren’t able to answer and their season ended in agony, 1-0.
Freeport finished 13-3-1, its best record since 2000, while the Wildcats improved to 13-3-1 and advanced to face Gardiner (16-1) in the Class B state final Saturday at Husson University in Bangor at a time to be announced.
“I’m happy we made it this far,” said Falcons coach Marcia Wood. “It was just so exciting. To have a season with only three losses, I don’t know if (the girls) realize (what they accomplished). We’ll get a banner in our gym. We played to the last week of field hockey and that’s what we wanted.”
Freeport entered the season knowing it would be good, but the Falcons eclipsed expectations, posting their best record since 2000 and earning the No. 3 seed in Class B South (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories).
Freeport won its first two playoff games, but it sure wasn’t easy.
After rallying from a 2-0 deficit to knock off No. 6 Poland, 3-2, in the quarterfinals, on senior standout Alexa Koenig’s late goal, the Falcons outlasted No. 2 Fryeburg Academy, 1-0, Saturday in the semifinals, when Koenig scored in overtime.
York, meanwhile, has simply been the region’s gold standard for 15 years (winning 12 regional titles and four Class B state crowns in that span) and while longtime coach/dynasty creator Barb Marois stepped down after leading the Wildcats to the regional title a year ago, York didn’t miss a beat this fall under new coach Nora Happny, as its 10-3-1 record gave it the top seed in Class B South again.
After edging Yarmouth, 2-1, in the quarterfinals, the Wildcats ousted No. 4 Lake Region, 2-0, in Saturday’s semifinals.
The teams met just once this year, Sept. 20 in York, where the Wildcats prevailed, 2-0.
York had won both prior playoff meetings (see sidebar, below), by a combined 12-0 margin and had beaten Freeport in all eight encounters (by a composite 40-0 margin) since the Falcons moved up to Class B in 2013.
The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but forecasted bad weather moved it to Wednesday afternoon.
Under 44-degree skies (with a brisk 14-mile-per-hour wind factored in), in front of a vocal crowd, Freeport hoped to author one more inspirational and triumphant chapter, but it wasn’t to be.
The Falcons weren’t nervous in the championship setting, transitioning to offense immediately and when senior Kerry Lefebvre crossed the ball to Randall just 40 seconds in, they nearly got the all-important first goal, but Randall’s shot rang off the near post.
Freeport then earned a penalty corner opportunity, but the ball hit a Falcons’ attacker’s foot.
With 22:20 left in the first half, York got its first of three straight corners, but Rouleau saved a bid by junior Bailey Oliver and Koenig cleared the ball out of harm’s way before Patry sent a shot just wide.
With 8:20 on the first half clock, Freeport got its second corner, but Koenig’s shot was blocked in the circle.
After another Falcons’ corner didn’t result in a shot, the Wildcats got two more chances off corners, but the only shot, by Patry, was deflected out of bounds by Koenig.
York got one more corner opportunity with 1:40 remaining before halftime, but Rouleau denied Patry, then dove to rob Oliver before turning aside Oliver’s rebound shot as well to keep the game scoreless at halftime.
In the first 30 minutes, the Wildcats had a 4-3 edge in shots and a 6-3 advantage in corners, but Rouleau’s four saves kept the game 0-0.
It would stay that way deep into the second half as well before York’s championship experience proved to be the difference.
Each team had a penalty corner early in the second half, but the Wildcats couldn’t produce a shot and on what proved to be the Falcons’ final corner opportunity, Koenig’s shot rolled through the circle untouched.
Both defenses then took over, as Freeport sophomore Rianna Tomm broke up a rush by York junior Ashley Carney, senior Reilly Lefebvre broke up a Carney chance in the circle and Falcons senior captain Kelsey Williams came up big in several situations to frustrate the Wildcats.
“Kelsey played a great game defensively,” Wood said. “That was fitting for her last game.”
Freeport nearly got the goal is so desperately sought with 8:05 remaining in regulation, when Anderson managed to get a stick on a Koenig shot and sent it on goal, but Kiklis made the save.
Wood called timeout with 6:04 on the clock, hoping to inspire the winning goal, but it wasn’t to be.
The Falcons had a great chance with 5:26 to go, but Kiklis came way out of the cage to make a kick save on a shot by sophomore Aynslie Decker, then she kicked away a possible rebound.
“Julianna made some big saves coming out,” Happny said. “She’s been strong all year. She’s quite the leader.”
The Wildcats then transitioned to offense, earned a corner and found a way to get the ball in the cage.
With 4:12 left in regulation, after Oliver inserted the ball up top to Patry, Patry fired a shot that Works managed to get part of her stick on and that was enough to redirect the ball past Rouleau and into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
“It came from the top from Emlyn,” Works said. “It went straight and was going to the goalie’s pads. I put my stick in and (the ball) went right over. It’s the best feeling ever. We practice that all the time and I usually stop it dead, or the ball goes somewhere else.”
“I knew it would be a tight game and I was really, really hoping to not go into overtime, because they’re quite strong in overtime,” Happny said. “I just told the girls to go hard. I could tell they were tired, but Sage was able to find the back of the net. She’s been huge and she’s a defender. For her to have the confidence to come in on attack was huge. I’m so proud of her.”
“I saw some of my starters were getting tired and I wanted to give them a break, then have them go hard at the end,” Wood said. “To have a blip with five minutes left, it was sad. We pressured, it just didn’t fall our way. All you need is a tip off a corner and kudos to them.”
Freeport hoped to answer, but the Falcons couldn’t produce another shot and at 4:10 p.m., arguably the best season in program history ended with a 1-0 setback.
“I feel like we controlled a lot of that game, so it’s hard,” Wood said. “We had our chances. I’m disappointed for the girls. They worked hard and really wanted it. They played wonderful. They stayed together as a team. As the game went on, I thought we were going to do it. We pressured, but it just didn’t fall our way.”
Each team finished with five shots. Kiklis made five saves to Rouleau’s four. York had eight corners to four for Freeport.
The Wildcats might be used to winning regional titles, but this one was especially sweet.
“The Greely loss was a big turnaround for us,” Happny said. “The girls needed some losses early on and learn from them and turn it around. Had we not lost, we wouldn’t have fought as hard today.
“Freeport had some good possession, especially at the start of either half. They’ve got a strong roster. They have players who are good on turf. They have good stick-handlers and pass well. They played hard.”
York and Gardiner have squared off two previous times in the state final, with the Tigers winning, 2-0, in 2009, and the Wildcats prevailing, 2-1, in 2014.
York will seek its fifth championship Saturday (weather permitting)
“It’s amazing,” Works said. “I couldn’t be happier that we’re going back to states and that the season isn’t over yet.”
“It’s exciting,” Happny said. “For me, it’s my first time. For Julianna and Emlyn, it’s their fourth year in a row. They didn’t want to be the seniors who didn’t bring the team to states.”
Freeport stole headlines for weeks with its penchant for big wins and stole hearts with its infectious style of play.
While the Falcons weren’t able to reach their ultimate goal, this season was one for the ages and one that will hard for future squads to duplicate.
“We just needed a big win and St. Dom’s was the first one and then they kept surprising me,” Wood said. “My seniors were fabulous. Most of them were on the team since freshman year. It wasn’t an urgency thing until they were seniors. Kerry lit it up and hyped up the team. Everyone fed off that. ‘Lex played fabulous all year. It will be hard to replace all of them.”
Now that Freeport has had a taste of success, the 2019 Falcons, even with a lot of new faces in new places, hope to remain a top contender.
“We have a big sophomore class and they play year-round,” Wood said. “We’ll have to work hard next year and we hope to get back here. Now I have something to compare to. I can’ say, ‘Remember when we (got to the regional final).”
Freeport junior Rachel Harmon dives at the ball in front of the goal.
Freeport sophomore Ally Randall tries to get the ball away from York junior Ashley Carney.
Somewhere in this celebratory mass is York freshman Sage Works, who scored the game’s lone goal with 4:12 to play.
Freeport senior captains Alexa Koenig, left, Reilly Lefebvre and Kelsey Williams receive the runner-up trophy.
2016 Class B South quarterfinal
York 8 Freeport 0
2013 Western B quarterfinal
York 4 Freeport 0