Falmouth girls stay unbeaten after down-to-the-wire win at TA

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Falmouth junior Sydney Bell (center) is congratulated by freshman Kayla Sarazin, left, and junior Olivia Stucker after scoring one of her five goals in Saturday morning’s thrilling 9-8 victory at Thornton Academy. The Yachtsmen improved to 3-0 on the season.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Falmouth 9 Thornton Academy 8

F- 7 2- 9
TA- 5 3- 8

First half
24:35 F Bell (unassisted)
24:15 TA Sinclair (unassisted)
24:03 F Bell (unassisted)
23:37 F Stucker (unassisted)
18:23 TA LeBlanc (unassisted)
17:04 TA Cyr (unassisted)
16:27 F Stucker (unassisted)
15:34 TA Pettaway (unassisted)
10:10 F Bell (unassisted)
2:09 TA LeBlanc (free position)
45.8 F Bell (unassisted)
6.9 F Bernier (Stucker) 

Second half
15:16 TA Sinclair (unassisted)
13:51 TA Sinclair (unassisted)
8:03 F D. Sarazin (Bell)
4:57 F Bell (unassisted)
2:37 TA Sinclair (unassisted) 

Goals:
F- Bell 5, Stucker 2, Bernier, D. Sarazin 1
TA- Sinclair 4, LeBlanc 2, Cyr, Pettaway 1

Assists:
F- Bell, Stucker 1

Draws (TA, 10-9)
F- Bell 9 of 18, K. Sarazin 0 of 1
TA- LeBlanc 10 of 19

Ground balls (Falmouth, 33-27)
F- Bell 11, Bernier 6, Camelio, K. Sarazin, Stucker 4, D. Sarazin 3, Oakes 1
TA- McAlary 5, LeBlanc, LeClair, Sinclair 4, Bell, Grondin 3, Moskowitz, Paradis, Pettaway, Stephenson 1

Turnovers:
F- 12
TA-  9

Shots:
F- 18
TA- 28

Shots on cage:
F- 17
TA- 18

Saves:
F (M. Budri) 10 
TA (Stephenson) 8 

SACO—Elite teams don’t reveal how special they are in blowouts.

The sign of an elite team comes when it faces adversity, yet finds a way to overcome.

Saturday morning at Hill Stadium, Falmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team, coming off two easy victories to start the season, got pushed for 50 minutes by host Thornton Academy, but the Yachtsmen never allowed the Golden Trojans to take the lead and thanks to stellar play from several key individuals down the stretch, did just enough to stay unbeaten.

Early on, it appeared as if Falmouth would pick up where it left off from Wednesday’s 11-goal victory over Waynflete, as junior standout Sydney Bell scored twice and prolific scoring classmate Olivia Stucker added another goal for a 3-1 lead just 83 seconds in, but Thornton Academy tied the game at 3-3, then drew even again at 4-4 and 5-5. In the final minute of the half, Bell and senior London Bernier scored to give the Yachtsmen a 7-5 advantage at the break.

The second half was a completely different story, as Falmouth went nearly 17 minutes without a goal and the Golden Trojans pulled even behind a pair of unassisted tallies from senior Faith Sinclair.

The Yachtsmen probably should have fallen behind in that stretch, but junior Mary Budri made several big saves and when Budri made a save to preserve the tie with just over 8 minutes to play, Budri sparked an offensive resurgence, as she passed the ball to Bell, who ran into the offensive zone and found junior Devon Sarazin all alone in front to put Falmouth ahead to stay.

Bell added a goal with 4:57 left, but Sinclair answered, setting the stage for a nervewracking final couple minutes, where Thornton Academy got three good looks at the goal, only to see Budri keep the ball out and the Yachtsmen went on to a palpitating 9-8 victory.

Bell led the way with five goals, Stucker scored twice and Budri made 10 clutch saves as Falmouth improved to 3-0, dropping the talented Golden Trojans to 1-1 in the process.

“This is so good for us, especially early in the season,” said Yachtsmen coach Kait Johnson. “We’ll be facing high-intensity situations later in the season. The girls realized they had to come together and they did that.”

Worth getting up for

Falmouth had an explosive first week, scoring 33 goals in beating visiting Freeport (16-5) and Waynflete (17-6). 

Thornton Academy opened with a 16-2 win at Westbrook Thursday.

The teams also played close games the past two seasons, as Falmouth won, 8-6, in Saco two years ago, then held on for an 11-9 home triumph last spring.

Saturday’s game started early (10 a.m.), but both teams started fast.

Bell, who was sensational in the draw circle against Waynflete (winning 20 of 25 chances), got possession to start the game and 25 seconds in, cut through the defense and beat Golden Trojans junior goalie Meaghan Stephenson for a quick 1-0 lead.

Thornton Academy answered quickly, as junior Paige LeBlanc won the ensuing draw, then ball was picked up by Sinclair and Sinclair finished to tie the score with 24:15 to play in the first half.

The Yachtsmen roared back to retake the lead 12 seconds later, as off another draw win, Bell again finished.

With 23:37 to go in the half, the scoring-fest continued, as Stucker, who had a career-high seven goals in the win over Waynflete, finished unassisted to make it 3-1, but just as quickly as it looked like both teams were bound for double digits, the scoring slowed.

After Sinclair hit the post and LeBlanc shot wide on a free position, LeBlanc scored unassisted with 18:23 remaining and a little over a minute later, junior Amanda Cyr scored unassisted to tie it, 3-3, forcing Johnson to call timeout.

Falmouth went back on top, as Stucker scored unassisted with 16:27 left, but the Golden Trojans made it 4-4 when sophomore Anna Pettaway finished unassisted 53 seconds later.

The Yachtsmen retook the lead, 5-4, with 10:10 showing, when Bell returned the scoring column, unassisted, but again, Thornton Academy answered, as with 2:09 to go before halftime, LeBlanc beat Budri on a free position to make it 5-5.

Falmouth scored in the final minute of the half the way had the first, as Bell finished unassisted with 45.8 seconds showing and Stucker, from behind the goal, fed Bernier for a one-timer with 6.9 seconds left to put the Yachtsmen on top by two at the break.

The Golden Trojans enjoyed an 18-14 edge in shots in the first half, but Budri made six saves.

Thornton Academy would control possession most of the second half and the game would come down to the wire.

It took almost 10 minutes for a goal to be scored before Sinclair scored unassisted with 15:16 left, cutting the deficit to a single goal. 

Sinclair then tied the score with 13:51 remaining, again finishing unassisted.

Sinclair almost gave her team the lead with 9:21 to go, but her free position shot went wide.

A little over a minute later, Budri made a save, then passed ahead to Bell, who found space in the midfield, raced into the offensive zone, then spotted Sarazin in front. Sarazin caught Bell’s long pass, then shot past Stephenson for an 8-7 advantage.

It was just Falmouth’s second shot of the half.

“I noticed on the clears that sometimes the midfield was open,” Bell said. “I’ve been playing with Devon since we were like six. I know when I look up, she’ll be open. I tried to run down the field and there she was.”

“We knew we needed that goal,” Sarazin said. “We like to have someone down there. It’s not always me. Stucker and (sophomore) Chelsey (Smithwick) are also down there. We know that position will be open sometimes. Syd knew where to pass.”

“We couldn’t find our groove,” Johnson added. “We were in a funk. It took a great goalie save to turn it around.”

Thornton Academy appeared to pull even with 7:13 to play, when Sinclair scored, but she was ruled to be in the crease and the ball went back to the Yachtsmen.

After running some time off the clock, Bell found some room and finished unassisted with 4:57 to go, pushing the lead to 9-7.

The Golden Trojans weren’t done, however, and with 2:37 to go, after Stephenson denied Bell’s bid for a clincher at the other end, Sinclair again scored unassisted to cut the deficit to 9-8.

LeBlanc won the ensuing draw to Sinclair and Thornton Academy had a chance to draw even.

Except Budri wouldn’t let the Golden Trojans do so.

With 1:49 to go, Sinclair earned a free position, but Budri saved her shot.

With 1:21 left, sophomore Hannah McAlary had a look, but bounced her shot over the cage.

The hosts’ final opportunity came with 45.8 seconds showing, as Sinclair tested Budri, but Budri stopped the shot.

Falmouth ran out the clock from there and held on for a 9-8 victory.

“That was really scary,” Budri said. “They really wanted it, but we picked it up the last few minutes to get the win. We came out with a lot of energy. The defense picked it up toward the end. They were talking. They got the ground balls and that helped us win.”

“I think (in the second half) some of the calls were getting in our head,” Bell said. “It was getting a little messy. We started to drop the ball a little and that’s when they took over. We held them off, so it was OK.”

“It could have gone either way,” Johnson added. “It was a gut-check game. Things weren’t going our way. Calls weren’t going our way. We weren’t catching or executing, but it was a team effort and we pulled it together.”

Bell continued her early season onslaught with five goals, giving her 17 in three games. She also had an assist. Stucker had two goals and an assist, while Bernier and Sarazin both scored once.

“We play as a team,” Sarazin said. “We have a lot of threats. It’s nice to use all of our attackers.”

Budri stole the show with her 10 saves.

“Mary is unbelievable,” Bell said. “She’s worked so hard. She’s worked in the offseason. She came up big and saved us. We wouldn’t be this team without Mary, for sure. She’s amazing.”

“Mary was awesome,” Johnson said. “I knew she’d have a good game during warmups. Her energy has been great. She’s stepped into her role as a leader. She has a huge voice. She did so well today. We wouldn’t have won this game without her.”

Bell had a game-high 11 ground balls, helping Falmouth to a 33-27 advantage in that important category. She also won nine of 18 draws.

The Yachtsmen only turned the ball over 12 times.

Thornton Academy was paced by Sinclair’s four goals. LeBlanc had two, while Cyr and Pettaway finished with one apiece. Stephenson made eight saves. McAlary had a team-high five ground balls. LeBlanc helped the Golden Trojans win the battle in the draw circle, 10-9.

Thornton Academy had a 28-18 shots advantage (18-17 on cage) and only committed nine turnovers.

Road warriors

Thornton Academy will be tested next week when it hosts Gorham and visits Massabesic.

Falmouth, meanwhile, has two more tough road games upcoming, at York Wednesday and at rival Cape Elizabeth Friday.

The Yachtsmen hope to continue to improve.

“This helps us a lot,” Budri said. “It motivates us. Now we know we have to work hard all the time. We’re really young, but we want it. We really do. I know we have it in us.”

“We’re a young team, but we’re starting to connect,” Sarazin said. “We have a lot of potential. We want to keep getting better.”

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

Falmouth freshman Christina Oakes fires a shot through traffic.

Falmouth junior Olivia Stucker is chased by Thornton Academy junior Shannon Moskowitz.

Falmouth senior London Bernier is watched by Thornton Academy senior Rachel Richard.

Falmouth junior Sydney Bell tries to elude Thornton Academy junior defender Shannon Moskowitz.

Falmouth junior Devon Sarazin brings the ball into the offensive zone. Sarazin’s goal with 8:03 to play gave the Yachtsmen the lead for good.

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