FALMOUTH—Greely’s field hockey team was desperate for a victory, but it had no answer for”Syd the Kid” or the “Scoring Machine” Monday evening at Falmouth High School.
The Rangers, needing a win in their penultimate regular season game to secure a playoff spot, never could get into a consistent offensive rhythm and fell behind in the 11th minute when senior Elle Fitzgerald, the aforementioned scoring machine, struck on a penalty corner for the only goal the Yachtsmen would need.
Not much happened for a long time after that, other than the game turning so physical that the officials had to stop it at one point to talk to captains from both teams.
Then, with 6:52 to play, after a long rush from sophomore Sydney Bell, her cross was redirected home by Fitzgerald to clinch it.
Falmouth stymied Greely the rest of the way and went on to a 2-0 triumph, improving to 9-4 on the season and dropping the Rangers to 4-8-1 in the process.
“We knew (Greely would) come out hard and that’s exactly what they did,” said Yachtsmen coach Robin Haley. “What I’m happy about is that we were able to maintain our composure. We knew if we moved the ball well, we’d have success and that’s what happened. We kept the pressure on and stayed in the moment.”
Greely opened by falling at Lake Region and Poland by 3-2 scores (the loss at the Knights came in overtime). After a 1-0 home setback against Falmouth, the Rangers lost at York, 6-1, then fell at Cape Elizabeth, 1-0. Greely finally broke through with wins over visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-2, in OT), Lake Region (2-0) and host Waynflete (3-1) then lost at Kennebunk (4-1) and at home to powerhouse York (3-0) before playing visiting Cape Elizabeth to a 1-1 tie and beating visiting Freeport Thursday, 2-0.
Falmouth handled host Fryeburg Academy in its first 2014 outing, 5-1, then lost at home to Cape Elizabeth, 2-1. The Yachtsmen then won at Greely (1-0) and at home over Kennebunk (2-0) before falling at home to York (6-0), Falmouth got back on the right track with a 2-0 home win over Lake Region and won at Freeport, 3-1. A 1-0 victory at North Yarmouth Academy was followed by a 5-0 setback at York. After outlasting visiting Fryeburg Academy in overtime, 3-2, the Yachtsmen fell at Cape Elizabeth, 2-0, then downed visiting Poland, 3-1.
Greely went 8-2-1 against Falmouth between 2001 and 2007 (see sidebar, below), but since then, the Yachtsmen have had the better of the series, going 7-3-2 in the past 12 meetings.
Falmouth won both meetings last year: 1-0 at home (on a Bell goal in a game shortened by poor weather) and 2-0 in Cumberland.
Monday, in a game preceded by a ceremony to honor seniors from both squads, Greely was hoping to beat the Yachtsmen for the first time since Sept. 23, 2011 and more importantly lock up a playoff berth, but Falmouth made it four straight wins over its rival instead.
The Rangers had a couple chances to strike first, but could do nothing with an early penalty corner and then, with 21:02 to go, senior Mikela Nolin’s feed to classmate Sophie McMonagle resulted in a shot which was turned aside by Yachtsmen senior goalie Caroline Dyhrberg.
Falmouth then generated an attack and earned a penalty corner which resulted in the first goal.
The ball was played in to Fitzgerald, who made a move around a defender, found some room, then fired a shot past Greely freshman goalie Lizzie Brown to make it 1-0.
“They have a fast flier and I just pulled around, pushed the shot and hoped it went in,” Fitzgerald said.
“The work Elle put in during the offseason has paid off tremendously,” Haley said. “She’s super-competitive and is driven and I think that shows out in the field. I think the other girls rise to meet that level of play. This is a good time for that to happen.”
The rest of the half saw the Yachtsmen trying to double their lead, but failing to do so.
Three minutes after the goal, senior Dayna Vasconcelos had a backhanded bid blocked by a Rangers defender.
With 9:26 to go, Bell set up Fitzgerald, but she shot just wide.
Two minutes later, Bell had a look, but Brown made the save.
With 4:07 remaining, Fitzgerald had a shot saved and the rebound sat free momentarily, but the Greely defense cleared it out of harm’s way.
The Rangers came up big defensively when the half ended as Falmouth earned a penalty corner and by rule, got to play it out even after the horn had sounded. The Yachtsmen didn’t get a shot, but earned another corner, only to see the ball get cleared out of the circle, sending the game to halftime.
Falmouth had a 7-1 edge in shots and five corners to one for Greely, but only held a 1-0 advantage.
Early in the second half, the Rangers pressured for the equalizer, but Nolin tipped a feed from junior Danita Storey just wide, a McMonagle rush was broken up and a corner didn’t yield a shot.
Things then turned physical, as in a 14-second span, Greely junior Alyssa Casarez and Fitzgerald each got yellow cards (and had to sit for five minutes) due to physical play.
“It was a very rough game,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve got a turf burn to prove it.”
With 14:58 left, after a collision which sent several players sprawling to the turf, the officials stopped play and spoke to captains on both teams and there were no further incidents.
After Bell shot wide, then Vasconcelos (who took a pass from Bell) did the same, the Rangers had a good look to tie it, but McMonagle shot wide.
With 8:21 remaining, a long shot from Greely junior Kayla Barry was tipped and rattled the cage, but luckily for Falmouth, it hit the outside.
Bell then put on an individual show and helped put it away.
After stealing the ball on the Falmouth end of the field, Bell raced up the right flank, into the circle, then crossed the ball in the direction of Fitzgerald.
A defender got a piece of the ball, but it deflected right on target to Fitzgerald and she beat Brown for her 16th goal of the season (out of the Yachtsmen’s 24 this fall) and a 2-0 lead.
“The ball ricocheted off someone’s stick, so I knew I just had to get the ball,” Bell said. “(Junior Keunjoo Kim) was there and she told me that I had time. I took it, passed it to Elle, my wingman, and she scored.”
“It was a perfect pass,” Fitzgerald said. “It got a little bit of a deflection and I just tipped it in.”
The Bell-Fitzgerald combination has been as dynamic as any in the league this fall and it’s due largely to mutual admiration.
“(Elle’s) awesome,” Bell said. “She pushes me to be better. Anything I do is because of her. She coaches me on and off the field. She makes me a better player and that’s reflected in my play.”
“I love Syd and she’s always there,” Fitzgerald said. “She’s my anchor. She makes me look good.”
“They’re good buds, both on and off the field,” Haley added. “If you have that chemistry off the field, it’s bound to pay off on the field. They know their strengths and they capitalize on them together. I’m glad I have both of them.”
To their credit, the Rangers didn’t fold and almost cut the deficit in half less than a minute later, but senior Hogan Reed was denied in front by Dyhrberg.
A late Greely corner was cleared and the Yachtsmen went on to the 2-0 victory.
“They kept us on our feet,” Bell said. “We struggled with them being physical and us trying to retaliate. We had to huddle, take a deep breath and let it go. We played our game. We knew they’d come in strong because they needed a win, but that made us want to play harder and it pushed us to play how we did. We made sure we blocked up the middle and that we had everyone covered and that we got on top of every loose ball and beat them to it.”
“We shifted our starting lineup a little bit, but we did a nice job making nice stops and clearing the ball out of the circle,” Haley said. “Communication has been really important for us. It’s a close-knit group and I think it really shows.”
Falmouth had a 10-6 advantage in shots and a 4-3 edge in corners. Dyhrberg made two saves.
“I love Caroline and I love it when she doesn’t get many shots,” Fitzgerald said.
Greely got six saves from Brown and just couldn’t generate a consistent attack.
“We let some emotions and frustrations come through, but the girls didn’t give up,” said Rangers first-year coach Becki Belmore. “The girls believed they were in it until the end. We were a step behind, but we didn’t take quick shots. That second goal was deflating.”
Greely (10th in the Western Class B Heal Points standings, where only nine teams qualify for the playoffs) has one final opportunity to make it 17 postseason trips in 18 years. The Rangers must beat visiting Fryeburg Academy Wednesday and hope the final standings go their way and allow them to play a preliminary round playoff game Saturday.
“We haven’t seen Fryeburg yet., so we don’t have any expectations,” Belmore said. “(A win) could swing it enough. It’s going to go down to the last game. In a way that’s good, because the girls will take it seriously. They know they have a chance if they come out on the winning end. They’ve worked so hard, but our win-loss record doesn’t show it.”
As for Falmouth (fifth in Western A), it finishes at Gray-New Gloucester Wednesday. The Yachtsmen are ready to take their chances in the postseason.
“I’m a little sad because this was my last home field hockey game,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ll probably play (on the road) on grass. We’ve been pretty successful on grass. I think we’ll adjust well. We’ll give it our all. We’re not ready to stop now. We hope to have a nice run.”
“We need to play our game and keep our heads,” Bell said. “Last year, we made it pretty far. We didn’t make it as far as we wanted, but we hope we can go farther this year.”
“I wish we could get a couple of those (losses) back, but our league has really prepared us well,” Haley added. “We know a little more what to expect this year. We’re looking forward to it. We’re glad we’re still playing.”
Falmouth sophomore Sydney Bell tries to poke the ball away from Greely senior Maura Perry.
Falmouth senior Morgan Allen plays the ball up the field.
Falmouth senior Elle Fitzgerald tries to get past Greely junior Alyssa Casarez. Fitzgerald scored twice in the win.
In an example of just how physical Monday’s game became, several players hit the turf after a collision. The officials then stopped play and spoke to captains from both teams in an attempt to calm things down.
Falmouth senior Morgan Allen and Greely junior Kayla Barry fight for a loose ball.
Falmouth whoops it up following its victory.
Falmouth coach Robin Haley congratulates her players after the victory.
Falmouth 1 @ Greely 0
@ Falmouth 1 Greely 0
Falmouth 2 @ Greely 0
Greely 2 @ Falmouth 1 (OT)
Falmouth 2 @ Greely 2 (tie)
@ Falmouth 5 Greely 1
Falmouth 2 @ Greely 1 (OT)
@ Greely 2 Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 3 Greely 0
Greely 1 @ Falmouth 0
@ Greely 1 Falmouth 0
@ Greely 2 Falmouth 1 (OT)
@ Falmouth 3 Greely 1
@ Falmouth 2 Greely 2 (tie)
Falmouth 4 @ Greely 0
@ Greely 2 Falmouth 1 (OT)
Greely 3 @ Falmouth 0
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 2 (Western B quarterfinal)
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 0
Greely 1 @ Falmouth 0 (OT)
Falmouth senior Elle Fitzgerald leaps into the arms of sophomore Sydney Bell as senior Kate Lannon joins in the celebration and Greely junior Alyssa Casarez looks away in dismay during the Yachtsmen’s 2-0 victory Monday night.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.