Falmouth comes out sizzling, eliminates Gorham in quarterfinals

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Falmouth’s field hockey team celebrates at the final horn of Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Gorham in a Class A South quarterfinal. The Yachtsmen will host Massabesic in the semifinals Saturday.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—Falmouth’s field hockey team found itself in an unfamiliar spot Wednesday evening.

Wearing the bulls-eye as the top seed in the Class A South playoff field.

The Yachtsmen, ranked first in any class for the first time since 1977, could have been nervous hosting No. 8 Gorham, a team much better than its ranking, but they came right out and showed that they’re in it to win it and that they won’t be content until they attain their ultimate goal of a piece of hardware.

Falmouth, playing its first countable game in 13 days, wasn’t about to ease into this one as less than five minutes in, senior Devon Sarazin tipped home classmate Sydney Bell’s blast for a 1-0 lead.

The Yachtsmen couldn’t add to that advantage before halftime, but they kept the pedal to the metal in the second half.

With 21:34 to play, a pretty cross from sophomore Liberty Ladd, who excelled all over the field Wednesday, was directed home by senior Bella Libby and Falmouth had a little breathing room.

With 11:06 left, the Yachtsmen struck again, on a penalty corner, as Ladd backhanded the ball to senior Kate Kelley, who rattled the cage for a 3-0 lead.

The Rams managed one shot on goal all night and it did result in a goal, from senior Jamie Juskiewicz on a breakaway with 3:26 to go, but a mere 57 seconds later, Sarazin’s second goal ended all doubt and Falmouth went on to a 4-1 victory.

Three different players scored, the Yachtsmen stymied Gorham all over the field and they improved to 13-2 on the year, ended the Rams’ fine season at 10-4-2 and advanced to host No. 5 Massabesic (11-3-1) in the semifinals Saturday at a time to be announced.

“I’m thrilled,” said longtime Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “I really think scoring early helped settle nerves and I thought we played with confidence. The girls were really itching to play. They were hungry and I think it showed.”

No easy task

Generally when a team is the top seed and plays the No. 8 team in the quarterfinals, it’s a fairly lopsided matchup, at least on paper.

That wasn’t even remotely the case Wednesday, as Gorham produced a solid 9-3-2 record this season, losing only to No. 2 Marshwood, No. 3 Scarborough and No. 4 Westbrook and tying defending regional champion Thornton Academy and No. 5 Massabesic.

Saturday, in the preliminary round, the Rams ousted No. 9 Windham, 3-0.

Falmouth began the season with a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory over Yarmouth and closed with a 6-0 blanking of visiting Cape Elizabeth. The Yachtsmen stumbled just twice, each time to two-time defending Class B champion York (which has won 51 games in a row), and earned the top seed for the first time in any class since 1977.

The teams don’t play in the regular season.

They had met just once before in the playoffs, a 2-1 double overtime win for Falmouth in the 2004 Western B quarterfinals.

Wednesday, on a very comfortable mid-October evening (70 degrees at the start), the Yachtsmen proved they belong in the Class A postseason and that they deserve to be the top seed.

Falmouth possessed the ball most of the first half and got a good chance in the third minute, but stationed at the far post, Sarazin whiffed on a cross.

She wouldn’t miss the next time.

With 25:29 to play in the first half, Bell got the ball up top and rifled one of her patented blasts. Sarazin got a stick on it and tipped it past Gorham junior goalie Jessica Dusseault for a quick 1-0 lead.

“We’ve been waiting to play this game and we were hyped going in,” Sarazin said. “We came in ready to put it all out there. It’s always great to start the game off strong. We worked hard for that first goal and it paid off.”

“Devon has been great,” Haley said. “She’s played all positions during her career. It’s been great this year having her up on the offensive line.”

Later in the half, Bell’s backhanded shot which deflected off a defender was saved by Dusseault, a Sarazin tip of a Bell blast was cleared by a defender and the only semblance of a Gorham threat resulted in junior Grace DeWitt’s rush being broken up.

The Yachtsmen knew the game was far from over and at halftime, stressed stretching the lead.

After Libby shot high and Dusseault broke up a rush by Sarazin, the second goal came, courtesy a great effort from Ladd.

Ladd won the ball, played it down the right side, then crossed it in front, where Libby one-timed it into the cage for a 2-0 lead with 21:34 to play.

“I’ve played primarily defense in the past, but being up there with the forwards and high mids is so much fun,” Ladd said. “It’s so exciting to see the ball go in. It was important to increase our lead, but we weren’t worried. We know we have what it takes to get the job done.”

“Liberty gives you everything she has,” Haley said. “We need everyone to do that to be successful.”

Rams coach Becky Manson-Rioux called timeout with 13:53, but her team wasn’t able to rally.

After Dusseault saved shots from Sarazin and Bell, Falmouth’s penalty corner team produced the third goal.

With 11:06 to play, after Kelley inserted the ball, it came to Ladd, who produced a gorgeous backhanded pass through two defenders back to Kelley, who finished to make the score 3-0.

The Yachtsmen’s one hiccup came with 3:26 to play, as Gorham finally produced some offense.

Senior Erin Esty sent a long pass ahead to Juskiewicz, who got behind the Falmouth defense and went one-on-one with sophomore goalie Caitlyn Bull, shooting the ball into the cage to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Any Rams’ hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed, however, as with 2:29 to play, Sarazin pounced on a ball in the box, spun and fired a shot which deflected off a defender and in for a 4-1 lead.

“It’s always the next couple minutes after a goal that’s important, whether it’s your goal or the other team’s,” Sarazin said. “You have to pick up the energy.”

Sarazin almost completed a hat trick with 13.8 seconds to go, but shot just wide and the Yachtsmen went on to the three-goal victory.

“(A third goal) would have been nice, but I’m happy with the win,” Sarazin said. 

“We’ve struggled with building on leads this year, but we didn’t this time,” Haley said. “We had one setback, but we rallied and regrouped and did what we needed to do.”

Falmouth outshot Gorham, 8-1, and took six penalty corners to none for the Rams. Gorham did get four saves from Dusseault.

The Yachtsmen’s defense, even from its midfielders and forwards, was exceptional.

“We have some great defensive players,” Ladd said. “We wouldn’t be there without them.”

“The defense did a great job,” Haley said. “They worked very well together with great communication. Defensively, we came up big in the midfield. (Senior captain) Mary Budri played her best game of the season. Sydney was super defensively too.”

New ground

Falmouth had reached the quarterfinals its first three years in Class A and now will take part in the semifinals for the first time since making the Class B semis in 2009.

Falmouth didn’t play Massabesic this year. The Yachtsmen split two prior meetings with the Mustangs, winning a Western B quarterfinal in 1977 (1-0, in overtime) and falling, 2-0, in the 2013 Western A quarterfinals.

Massabesic, like Gorham, is better than its seed, so nothing will come easily Saturday.

“There’s pressure, but it’s fun,” Ladd said. “We’re excited to be where we are, but we’re not taking it for granted. We’re working hard and we acknowledge that anything can happen. We’re going to keep our intensity going. We’ll get ready and practice hard. We’ll come out and hopefully get a win. We do have the opportunity to do something special. We have a lot of great players. I’m happy to be a part of it.”

“When you’re number one, everyone wants to take you down and seeing that we don’t play in Class A (in the regular season), people want to take us down even more, but this group is really competitive and I think they like the challenge,” Haley said. “We’re embracing it. We have to keep things in perspective and play our field hockey and not get fancy. We just have to try to shut them down.”

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

Falmouth senior Devon Sarazin races up the field with Gorham senior Moira Corbett in hot pursuit. Sarazin scored the Yachtsmen’s first and last goals.

Falmouth junior Brienn Douglas gets a shot off despite the defense of Gorham senior Jenna Webster.

Falmouth senior Bella Libby tries to knock the ball way from Gorham senior Karen Stemm.

Falmouth senior Kate Kelley is robbed by Gorham junior goalie Jessica Dusseault.

Falmouth senior Sydney Bell drives the ball past Gorham senior Karen Stemm.

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