FREEPORT—Falmouth and Freeport reached the midway point of the 2014 field hockey regular season Friday afternoon and while both squads have enjoyed their share of success in the first half of the season, both have bigger aspirations down the road and an interclass tilt served as a good barometer for both squads.
The Falcons were riding a four-game win streak, while the Yachtsmen have, at times, been close to unstoppable.
There wasn’t much separation between the teams in this one, most of the game, but in the end, Freeport simply had no answer for Falmouth’s super senior scoring machine Elle Fitzgerald.
After an even and scoreless first half, Fitzgerald broke the ice with a goal on a penalty corner with 24:27 to play.
That lead only lasted a little over three minutes, as Freeport senior Dani Foster scored on a rebound on a corner and it looked like the hosts might ride the momentum to their first win over the Yachtsmen in 14 years.
Fitzgerald had other ideas.
The tying goal awakened Falmouth and with 12:06 remaining, Fitzgerald scored on a rebound and the visitors were on top to stay.
Three minutes later, Fitzgerald finished off her hat trick and ended all doubt and the Yachtsmen went on to a 3-1 victory.
Falmouth is now 5-2 on the season, while the Falcons dropped to 4-3.
“I think Freeport’s very talented,” Fitzgerald said. “They’ve come a long way from last year, but we stuck it out. We’re very good about digging out of a hole.”
Freeport lost its opener at York in a playoff rematch, 7-0, then dropped a tough 2-1 home decision to Kennebunk in overtime. That loss awakened the Falcons, who won at Gray-New Gloucester (2-0) and Old Orchard Beach (7-1), then at home over Poland (3-0) and Cape Elizabeth (2-0).
Falmouth handled host Fryeburg 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). Wednesday, Falmouth got back on the right track with a 2-0 home win over Lake Region.
Entering Friday’s game, the teams, who were once upon a time rivals in Western Class C (meeting in the playoffs in 1987, 1991 and 2000), had only met sporadically in recent years.
Last fall, host Falmouth downed Freeport, 4-0.
Friday, the Falcons hoped to beat the Yachtsmen for the first time since they ousted them from the 2000 Western C quarterfinals (2-0), but Falmouth, behind its standout, had the answers.
Fitzgerald’s first good look came in the fourth minute of the game, but her shot trickled wide.
After Fitzgerald had a shot blocked by a defender, Freeport had its first chance, but a long shot from senior Abby Smith was denied by Yachtsmen senior Caroline Dyhrberg.
After Falcons senior Hannah Williams had a shot deflected wide and Foster missed just wide, Fitzgerald had a look on a corner, but Freeport junior defender Lexi Peacock blocked it.
With 13:08 left in the first half, the hosts almost took the lead, but a shot from Foster was saved by Dyhrberg and a rebound shot by Williams just went wide.
Late in the half, Falmouth sophomore Sydney Bell had a long shot saved by Freeport junior goalie Morgan Karnes and a good look from sophomore Kate Kelley just missed wide.
It didn’t take long for the scoreless tie to be broken in the second half.
After Foster deflected a Williams cross just wide, the Yachtsmen went on the attack.
Bell had a shot saved by Karnes and senior Morgan Allen had the same result, but Falmouth earned a penalty corner and Bell and Fitzgerald worked their magic.
The ball was inserted to Fitzgerald, who passed to Bell, who gave the ball right back to Fitzgerald, whose shot eluded Karnes for a 1-0 lead.
While Falmouth is used to playing on a turf field, Fitzgerald felt that she and her teammates had no trouble adjusting to the Falcons’ grass surface.
“Our grass field is about five times worse than this one,” Fitzgerald said. “This one’s quite nice, actually.”
Undaunted, Freeport roared right back.
After Foster had a shot blocked, the ball sat loose and Foster was able to get to the rebound and direct it into the cage to make the score 1-1 with 20:50 remaining.
That would prove to be the Falcons’ highwater mark, however.
Falmouth, as if it simply flipped a switch, would carry play the rest of the day.
Karnes held the fort for awhile, denying consecutive Fitzgerald shots, but with just over 12 minutes left, after Fitzgerald had a shot saved and junior Keunjoo Kim just missed, Kelley sent the ball back in the direction of the goal and Fitzgerald was able to redirect it home for a 2-1 lead.
“It was kind of a scrum by the goal,” Fitzgerald said. “It was really a pass from Kate Kelley and I got a lift on it.”
Falmouth wasn’t content and after Kim had a shot saved, Fitzgerald rattled the cage one final time, this time redirecting a Bell shot, and the Yachtsmen had a 3-1 advantage.
“It was a nice drive from Syd and I just got my stick on it,” Fitzgerald said.
“Elle’s definitely our sparkplug,” said Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “Her offseason work has paid off. She’s a true competitor. She doesn’t like to lose. The others gravitate to that. She also creates a lot for the team.”
Freeport could only tip its cap.
“Abby (Smith) did a fantastic job marking (Fitzgerald), but she’s a fantastic player,” said Falcons coach Marcia Wood.
With 1:42 to go, Fitzgerald broke free and appeared en route to a fourth goal, but this time, she shot just wide.
The Yachtsmen then ran out the clock and put their 3-1 decision in the books.
“I’m really proud of how the girls came out in the second half,” Haley said. “Their determination and getting in a flow. It paid off. This was a good test. The girls showed some real tenacity that was exciting to see and they kept it up.”
Falmouth outshot Freeport, 11-2, in the second half and 15-7 for the game. Dyhrberg made two saves.
The Falcons got eight saves from Karnes, but it wasn’t enough.
“We just shot wide or didn’t have our sticks down today,” Wood said. “It just didn’t go our way.”
Freeport is happy to boast a winning record at this juncture.
“We had three tough games this week,” Wood said. “I was nervous we’d go 0-3 this week. The fact we won two, I’m pumped. I think we had a lot of opportunities to score.”
Each team had three penalty corners.
Freeport (now fifth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) hopes to bounce back next week, but it won’t be easy as the Falcons go to Lake Region Tuesday and Poland Thursday. Freeport still has home games remaining versus Gray-New Gloucester, Fryeburg and Yarmouth and faces trips to Kennebunk and Greely.
“We have to finish goals, finish games,” Wood said. “We play as a team, but I’m not sure if the girls are used to this much success. We have to keep our composure. We can’t get frustrated and have lapses. It’s a learning experience. It doesn’t get any easier next week. Our goal is to have more wins than last year and to stay out of a prelim.”
Falmouth (second to Scarborough in Western A) has a big test Wednesday, at defending Western C champion North Yarmouth Academy, then, two days later, will be challenged even more when it goes to York. The Yachtsmen also play at Cape Elizabeth and Gray-New Gloucester and have home tilts remaining against the likes of Fryeburg, Poland and Greely.
“We’ve got good, young girls,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re figuring it out and it’s starting to come together. We have to work on passing and give-and-gos. We still have tough games coming up. We hope to finish strong.”
“We’re coming along,” Haley said. “We have some tough games coming up. We’re looking forward to it. We’re hoping to put the pieces together to take us into playoffs.”
The unstoppable force known as Falmouth senior Elle Fitzgerald weaves her way through Freeport junior Lexi Peacock (left) and senior Abby Smith. Fitzgerald had all three of the Yachtsmen’s goals in the win.
Falmouth sophomore Sydney Bell fires a shot.
Freeport sophomore Bailey Coffin tries to get past Falmouth senior Meghan Darcy.
Freeport senior Dani Foster bats the ball toward the goal as Falmouth senior Erika Gardner defends.
Falmouth senior Kate Lannon tries to keep up with speedy Freeport senior Hannah Williams.
Freeport senior Abby Smith battles Falmouth senior Erika Gardner for possession.
Falmouth senior Dayna Vasconcelos brings the ball up the field as Freeport senior Dani Foster gives chase.
@ Falmouth 4 Freeport 0
@ Falmouth 2 Freeport 0
Falmouth 3 @ Freeport 0
Falmouth sophomore Sydney Bell (smiling) congratulates senior teammate Elle Fitzgerald after one of Fitzgerald’s three goals during Friday’s 3-1 win at Freeport.
Mike Strout photos
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