Falmouth's title dreams dashed in OT by Massabesic

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Massabesic junior Jacklyn  Bearse sends the ball past Falmouth sophomore goalie Caitlyn Bull to end the teams’ Class A South semifinal in overtime Monday night. The Mustangs advanced with a 2-1 victory.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—Arguably the finest field hockey team in Falmouth history won’t have an opportunity to play for an elusive regional title Wednesday night.

That’s because Monday evening, the Yachtsmen suffered one of the more painful defeats in their history in a thrilling Class A South semifinal.

Falmouth, the top seed, welcomed No. 5 Massabesic and as it did in a quarterfinal round win over Gorham last week, dominated the early going, but unlike that game, the Yachtsmen weren’t able to take the lead.

The Mustangs then went on top, 1-0, when junior Emma Rutledge battled through the defense and finished with 7:35 to go before halftime.

Falmouth still trailed for much of the second half until it finally drew even with 12:34 to play, when senior standout Devon Sarazin fired a ball into the cage to make it 1-1.

Sarazin almost gave the Yachtsmen the lead moments later, but a Massabesic defender saved the ball at the last second and the teams would go to overtime.

There, in the first of two possible eight-minute, ‘sudden victory” sessions, the Mustangs ended it, as with 2:45 remaining, junior Jacklyn Bearse buried a shot and just like that, Falmouth’s championship hopes were denied, 2-1.

Massabesic improved to 12-3-1, advanced to meet No. 2 Marshwood (14-2) in the regional final Wednesday evening in Waterboro and in the process, ended the Yachtsmen season at 13-3.

“Mustangs always bounce back,” said Bearse. “I knew we could do it from the start. We prepared really well. The intensity we had made the difference.”

“It’s painful,” said Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “In certain areas we were just a little off. I thought we played much stronger in the second half. Being able to score was great, but it just didn’t work out.” 

Uncharted territory

Both teams have been elite virtually all season.

Massabesic went 7-0 to start the year and looked for a time as if it would be at home throughout the playoffs (the regional final is on the Mustangs’ home field), but a 3-3-1 second half of the season dropped Massabesic to fifth in a deep and balanced Class A South. Wednesday, the Mustangs enjoyed a surprisingly easy 5-1 quarterfinal round victory at No. 4 Westbrook to advance.

Falmouth lost twice this fall to York, but beat everyone else to earn the top seed (for the first time in any region since 1977). The Yachtsmen then came out strong and ousted No. 8 Gorham, 4-1, in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round.

Falmouth didn’t play Massabesic this year.

The teams split two prior meetings, with the Yachtsmen winning a Western B quarterfinal in 1977 (1-0, in overtime) and the Mustangs prevailing, 2-0, in the 2013 Western A quarterfinals.

The game was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but the threat of bad weather pushed it back 49 hours.

It was chilly when the game started (50 degrees with a 15 mile-per-hour wind) and it only got cooler, but the Yachtsmen came out hot to start.

Less than two minutes in, senior playmaker Sydney Bell sent the ball in and senior Kate Kelley poked it toward Sarazin at the far post, but Sarazin couldn’t send the ball on target.

Falmouth then earned a penalty corner, but Bell’s shot was blocked.

After Massabesic sophomore goalie Madyson Pomerleau denied Yachtsmen senior Bella Libby’s backhanded shot, she robbed Sarazin’s redirect of a Bell shot as well. 

After being on their heels for several minutes, the Mustangs went on the attack and earned five penalty corners in five minutes.

Falmouth sophomore goalie Caitlyn Bull had to save shots from senior Emma Desrochers and senior Josie Ring and junior Logan Champlin sent a rebound wide.

With 14:10 remaining in the half, at the other end, Sarazin tried again, on a pass from senior Maddie Rouhana, but Pomerleau denied her once more.

The Yachtsmen then got another corner, but Bell’s shot was saved.

With 7:35 to go in the half, Massabesic broke through.

Rutledge got the ball on the right side, dribbled to the end line, then somehow got past two Falmouth defenders before shooting past Bull from a tough angle for a 1-0 lead.

Late in the half, the Yachtsmen’s frustrations continued, as Bell got a shot off while falling, only to have Pomerleau make the save, and a Sarazin shot off a Bell feed was also denied.

In the first half, Falmouth enjoyed a 9-4 edge in shots, but trailed, 1-0, due in large part to nine saves from Pomerleau. Massabesic had a 6-3 edge in corners in the first 30 minutes.

The Yachtsmen continued to be frustrated after halftime, but eventually produced the equalizer.

With 25:22 left in regulation, Sarazin had a shot deflected wide.

The hosts then got successive corners and on the second, Sarazin’s promising shot was kicked aside by Pomerleau at the last second.

“Their goalie had some great saves,” Haley said. “We’d been successful on corners during the season, but she was in the right place at the right time. We got shots off, we just couldn’t put the ball into the net today. They pack the circle defensively. They play low with their sticks on the ground. It’s hard to get the ball through.”

Haley took a timeout with 17:12 to play and less than five minutes later, Falmouth was on the board.

The goal came with 12:34 to go in regulation and was produced by Sarazin, who got past a defender and launched a shot Pomerleau couldn’t stop, making it 1-1.

With 10:37 left, Sarazin almost struck again, as she got the ball past Pomerleau, but junior back Lydia Wasina swept the ball off the line to keep the game tied and perhaps save the Mustangs’ season.

Late in regulation, Rouhana had a shot blocked on a penalty corner, Yachtsmen senior Mary Budri broke up a Massabesic corner and after a long Bell hit to Sarazin produced a corner, Bell’s shot was blocked, sending the game to overtime.

In the playoffs, like the regular season, teams play up to 16 minutes of overtime.

The difference in the postseason, is that if the contest remains deadlocked, instead going in the books as a tie, teams alternate penalty corners until someone breaks through.

Those dramatics wouldn’t be necessary Monday, as the Mustangs were the dominant squad in the extra session.

Massabesic almost won it 18 seconds into OT, but Rutledge had a promising shot blocked.

The Mustangs then got a corner, but Bearse’s shot was stopped. After a second Massabesic corner was broken up, Falmouth had its one chance, but a Bell rush was broken up.

The end came with 2:45 to go, as Champlin got free in the circle and with Bull focusing on her, she got the ball to Bearse, who was unmarked. All Bearse had to do was bang the ball into the cage and at 6:58 p.m., after 65-plus minutes of high drama, Massabesic had a 2-1 victory.

“We moved the ball well,” said Bearse. “Logan sent it across the goal, the goalie went after Logan and I just sent it in. I heard it smack and I knew it was the winner. It’s a thrill.” 

The Yachtsmen were left stunned.

“We had experience in overtime, but they put a nice sequence of passing together and they were able to finish it off,” Haley said. “You hope to get the coin toss to get the ball first, but we didn’t. They executed really well.

“They’re in the same boat we are not seeing each other (in the regular season). Quite frankly, it was two teams on a field and the team that executed came out with the win. It’s a clean slate come playoffs.”

Massabesic had a 9-8 edge in corners and got 12 saves from Pomerleau and a huge one from Wasina. Bull made four saves for Falmouth.

Massabesic moves on to play in the regional final. The Mustangs beat the visiting Hawks, 2-1, on Sept. 13. The teams will meet again on the same field Wednesday. 

“I’m more excited than ever,” said Bearse. “We know we can play with them. We have to bring the intensity and momentum and play together.”

Perspective

There were a lot of tears in the aftermath of the Yachtsmen’s defeat, but they had a season to remember, one that will long be hailed in program lore.

“I’m not sure (the girls will) necessarily digest it, but the point remains that we came in with the first seed and it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do that and it’s something to be proud of,” Haley said. “This loss is bitter, but we had a stellar season and we gave our all today.”

In addition to Bell, Budri, Kelley, Libby, Rouhana and Sarazin, Falmouth graduates Lisa Smoluk and Olivia Stucker. All eight girls made an impact in their time with the program.

“This class reminds me a lot of my 2008 class, the last time we went to the regional final,” Haley said. “They’re tenacious and competitive. They have great spirit and they’re a lot of fun. They’ve made a significant impact. It’s been an amazing group to coach for four years. I wanted to see them go further. They’re deserving of that. They’re great people and great athletes.”

The Yachtsmen will have holes to fill in 2017, but have the pieces in place to compete again.

“I’m hoping this year’s experience pays off for (the younger kids),” Haley said. “Knowing we’d lose key players, it was important for the younger kids to get opportunities going into next year. They’ll be ready.”

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

Falmouth senior Maddie Rouhana drives the ball.

Falmouth senior Sydney Bell tries to get past Massabesic sophomore Grace Tutt.

Falmouth sophomore goalie Caitlyn Bull robs Massabesic junior Emma Rutledge.

Falmouth senior Devon Sarazin has a shot saved by Massabesic sophomore goalie Madyson Pomerleau. Sarazin did score the Yachtsmen’s goal in the second half.

Falmouth senior Mary Budri plays the ball.

Falmouth senior Bella Libby knocks the ball away from Massabesic junior Libby Beals.

Falmouth celebrates Sarazin’s second half goal.

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