Falmouth goes overtime to edge Yarmouth in thrilling opener

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Falmouth senior Kate Kelley (6) is congratulated by classmates Isabella Libby (3) and Sydney Bell after scoring the first goal of the Yachtsmen’s 3-2 overtime home win over Yarmouth in the teams’ scintillating season opener Wednesday night.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—If Falmouth and Yarmouth’s field hockey teams look this good on the last day of August, imagine how formidable the Yachtsmen and Clippers could be by October.

Wednesday evening, in a delicious start to the fall sports season, 60 minutes weren’t enough to determine a winner between two of the best teams in the Western Maine Conference.

Falmouth carried play much of the first half and went on top, 1-0, in the game’s 14th minute when senior Kate Kelley tipped home a terrific feed from senior standout Sydney Bell.

Yarmouth drew even with just under 10 minutes to go in the half, as senior Eliza Lunt made a jawdropping move to set up senior Abby McDowell to score on a rebound.

With exactly 8 minutes to go before halftime, Yachtsmen senior Devon Sarazin put the hosts back on top, 2-1.

The game remained that way until 18:53 remained, when Clippers senior Ally McLeod put home a rebound.

Yarmouth had some chances to win it in regulation, but couldn’t convert and the game went to a 7-on-7, “sudden victory” overtime, where with 1:18 left, Bell sent a long pass ahead to Sarazin behind the defense and Sarazin managed to tuck the ball into the cage to end it and give Falmouth a stirring 3-2 victory.

“It was a great game,” said Yachtsmen coach Robin Haley. “The kids played hard. We fought hard. It was anybody’s game, but we did some nice things at the end.” 

Two of the best

Falmouth and Yarmouth are highly acclaimed as a new season dawns.

The Yachtsmen went 10-6 a year ago, losing an agonizing 1-0 decision at Scarborough in the Class A South quarterfinals. With an athletic, talented and senior-laden lineup this fall, Falmouth believes it make a deep run.

The Clippers were 11-2-1 in the regular season last autumn, but were upset by Spruce Mountain, 2-1, in double overtime, in the Class B South quarterfinals. Amy Ashley, the erstwhile Cheverus coach and current Yarmouth softball coach, replaced Mandy Lewis in the offseason and inherited a squad that also boasts an impressive roster. The Clippers are viewed as the team best equipped to end York’s long stranglehold on the region.

Last year, Yarmouth beat host Falmouth for the first time in a dozen years, 2-1, behind goals from then-juniors McLeod and Molly Wilson. The Yachtsmen then ruined the Clippers’ Senior Night, 1-0, on a goal from then-junior Lisa Smoluk with just 6.2 seconds to go.

Wednesday, on a pleasant 72 degree evening, the eagerly anticipated opener saw both teams demonstrate over 88 back-and-forth minutes why they’re so highly touted.

Falmouth moves the ball beautifully and is deadly in transition and Yarmouth learned that the hard way in the third minute, when Sarazin rushed into the offensive end and passed to Kelley, who fed senior Isabella Libby, who had a great look, but Clippers junior goalie Cate Ralph made the first save of her varsity career to keep the game scoreless.

The Yachtsmen earned the game’s first penalty corner in the seventh minute and Bell fired a shot which was deflected just wide by a Yarmouth defender.

After Ralph turned aside a shot by Kelley, Kelley broke through and scored the game’s first goal with 16:25 in the half.

On a corner, Bell got the ball up top and weaved through the defense before backhanding a shot that appeared to be going wide of the goal. Instead, Kelley, on the near post, was there to tip it in and the ice was broken.

Falmouth almost doubled its lead as Libby got a good look after a Kelley steal, but was denied, then Ralph saved bids from Kelley and Libby to keep it 1-0.

With 9:53 to go in the half, Lunt sparked the Yarmouth offense, rushing down the field, sending the ball through the legs of a defender at one point to keep possession, then passing ahead to McDowell, who had her initial shot saved by Yachtsmen sophomore goalie Caitlyn Bull. McDowell pounced on the rebound and sent a shot into the cage to make it 1-1.

Falmouth answered right back at the 8 minute mark, as Libby got the ball to Sarazin, who fought past the Clippers defense before beating Ralph for a 2-1 lead.

Late in the half, Bull denied a bid from Wilson to keep the Yachtsmen on top at the break.

Falmouth had an 8-5 edge in shots on goal in the first half. Each team earned three penalty corners.

Yarmouth turned it up a notch in the second half and was eventually rewarded with the tying goal.

First, the Yachtsmen almost went up by two, as Kelley set up Sarazin for a golden chance, but Sarazin shot just wide.

After Bull twice denied Lunt, McDowell looked to tie the score with just under 21 minutes to play, but with Bull out of the cage, senior defender Olivia Stucker made a critical save.

Then, with 18:53 left in regulation, on a penalty corner, McLeod was there to finish a rebound (junior Maggie Gunville was given the assist) to make it 2-2.

“We’re well conditioned and in the second half tonight, we played our game,” Ashley said. “It was nice to see we had a surge in the second half. We played as a team. It was beautiful to see passes connecting. The kids are buying in.”

Yarmouth nearly took the lead with 17:38 showing, but a backhanded shot from junior Emilie Martin was saved.

With 11:19 to go, McDowell had shot saved and Wilson sent the rebound just wide.

Wilson shot wide again with 3:58 to go.

With 2:53 remaining, Falmouth got its last chance of regulation, but Libby sent her shot just wide of the far post.

In Maine high school field hockey, if a game is tied after 60 minutes, teams go to seven players per side and play two eight-minute overtimes and if no one scores, a tie goes in the books.

This one was too good to not for there not to be some resolution and the hosts made sure they sent their fans home happy.

In the second minute of the OT, the Clippers earned a corner, but senior Nicole McDowell shot just wide.

“We were sure we were going to get a corner and score, that’s why we were so excited when we got the corner,” Ashley said. 

Bell then had a pair of chances to end it, but her first shot was just wide and Ralph saved the second.

Then, with 1:18 remaining, the game came to a sudden, dramatic conclusion.

After Yarmouth had the ball, Falmouth won it back and Bell raced across midfield before sending a long pass ahead to Sarazin. With Ralph out to challenge the play, Sarazin found room and one-timed a shot into the cage.

“I saw a gap and I yelled, ‘Cut!'” Bell said. “I’ve played with Devon and she knows what that means. I drove the ball to the gap and she was there.” 

“Syd made the big play,” Sarazin said. “When I turned around, the goalie was diving, so I knew I had a lot of the net. I just focused. I did what I could to help my team.”

“That’s what (Sydney) does, she’s a great player,” Haley said. “She makes things happen on the field. She goes 100 percent and never gives up. She’s such a valuable piece to our team. Devon has played defense, midfield and now forward. They’re a great combination.” 

“We lost a scrimmage the other day in the same situation,” Ashley said. “When we have the ball in the offensive end, we assume the ball will go in, but we got caught on our heels. That was just a beautiful run and a finish. We had beautiful runs too, but we couldn’t finish. That’s the difference.”

At 8:28 p.m., the Yachtsmen were able to celebrate their 3-2 victory.

“When they scored that tying goal, it got us nervous and we played as if we were down when it was tied,” Bell said. “We regrouped and played back at our level. This is a huge win. This will be huge for us when playoffs come.”

“This was fun,” Sarazin said. “We got eight seniors out there and we all love the sport. We want to have fun as long as we can.”

“We had to settle down a little bit and get comfortable with each other,” Haley added. “We talked yesterday about needing to win important games because we’re in the SMAA playoffs. Any loss could set us back in terms of playoff positioning.”

Falmouth got 13 clutch saves from Bull.

Yarmouth got eight saves from Ralph.

“I don’t think people would know it was her first varsity game,” Ashley said. “She’s a competitor and she’ll only get better. A few weeks ago, we were teaching her angles. Today, she made unbelievable saves. She’ll be motivated to get even better and help her team even more.” 

The Clippers enjoyed a 9-4 edge in corners and a 15-11 shots advantage, but fell agonizingly short.

“I’m thrilled with the way we played,” Ashley said. “It’s nice to see the girls step up and play the way we wanted them to. Yes, we lost, but we had opportunities to stick one in. A few weeks ago, the girls weren’t in those spots. Today, they were there and they missed. Hopefully in the future, they’ll put those in. Falmouth is great. They capitalize on everything. If you look at missed opportunities, we had more.” 

More heavy lifting

Yarmouth looks for its first win Friday when Poland pays a visit. The Clippers then visit Lake Region and Wells before hosing York in an early season showdown Monday, Sept. 12.

“The girls are proud of themselves,” Ashley said. “This was a step in the right direction. We want to play our best at the end of the season. The girls just want to learn. They’re like sponges and they soak up so much. You can’t ask for anything more as a new coach.”

Falmouth goes to dangerous Kennebunk Friday, then visits Fryeburg Academy Tuesday.

“Eight of us seniors out there have played together since seventh grade,” Bell said. “We have veteran players and this is our last shot so we’re going for it.’

“We can be great,” Sarazin said. “We have a lot of talented girls. We have a deep bench. We can put people in and rely on them. If we work hard, we can do great things.”

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

Falmouth senior Mary Budri and Yarmouth senior Abby McDowell fight for possession.

Falmouth senior Sydney Bell launches the ball upfield as Yarmouth senior Taylor Robison defends. Bell had two assists, including one on the winner in overtime.

Yarmouth senior Taylor Robison tries to keep the ball away from Falmouth senior Kate Kelley.

Yarmouth junior Sophie McGrath sends the ball up the field.

Yarmouth senior Eliza Lunt races up the field as Falmouth senior Mary Budri gives chase.

Yarmouth senior Ally MacLeod, left, leaps and celebrates her tying goal in the second half. Junior Maggie Gunville and senior Nicole McDowell join in the celebration.

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