Freeport’s field hockey team rushes to senior goalie Katelyn Rouleau at the conclusion of Wednesday’s 6-1 home win over Greely in the teams’ regular season finale.
Freeport senior Alexa Koenig battles Greely senior Maggie McCormick for the ball as Falcons senior Kerry Lefebvre looks on.
FREEPORT—As summer gave way to fall once and for all Wednesday evening at the Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field, Freeport’s field hockey team found another gear
And what a gear it is.
One which might just spark the Falcons on a deep playoff run.
Hosting Greely in the regular season finale on Senior Night, Freeport got off to a slow start and found itself down a goal in the fifth minute, when Rangers junior Megan Beaulieu scored on a rebound.
That goal then brought the Falcons to life and they drew even with 12:40 to play in the first half when sophomore Ally Randall rattled the cage.
The score was 1-1 at halftime, but as the second half began, an 80-degree day suddenly grew chilly as the autumn wind picked up and with that as a background, Freeport caught fire and scored a breathtaking five goals.
With 27:03 to play, senior standout Alexa Koenig put her team ahead to stay.
With 21:47 to go, senior Natalie Anderson doubled the lead.
With 13:17 remaining, sophomore Amelia Farrin scored on a penalty corner.
Five minutes later, Koenig scored her second goal, off a corner, when she somehow backhanded the ball through the defense and into the cage.
Then, with 4:25 left, sophomore Autumn Golding scored to bring the curtain down on emphatic 6-1 victory.
Freeport finished the regular season 11-2-1, its best record in 18 years, and ended Greely’s campaign at 10-4 in the process.
“Whenever we start scoring, we calm down, we start passing more and start feeling better,” said Koenig. “When we relax, we can do great things.”
Freeport and Greely have both done some great things they began their season against the other back on Aug. 30.
The Falcons won that day in Cumberland, 5-2, then, after a 2-1 home loss to Fryeburg Academy, defeated host Lake Region in a playoff rematch (2-0), downed host Cape Elizabeth (5-0), host Gray-New Gloucester (8-2) and visiting Traip Academy (8-0). Freeport then edged visiting St. Dom’s, the defending Class C state champion, in a 4-3 thriller. After a 2-0 loss at defending regional champion York, the Falcons blanked host Yarmouth (6-0), visiting Poland (4-0) and visiting Cape Elizabeth (7-0) and after playing host Fryeburg Academy to a 1-1 tie, they beat host Gray-New Gloucester, 5-1.
Greely bounced back from its 5-2 opening day loss against visiting Freeport by defeating host Gray-New Gloucester, 3-2, visiting Cape Elizabeth, 5-0, host Yarmouth (3-0) and host Poland (5-2). After a 2-1 home loss to Lake Region, the Rangers handed visiting Fryeburg Academy its first loss, 1-0, then downed host Traip Academy (4-0) and host Cape Elizabeth (3-1). After edging visiting York in a thriller, 1-0, Greely defeated visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-1) and Sacopee Valley (4-1), then fell at York, 1-0, in its last outing, last Thursday.
Since the teams began playing regularly earlier this decade, the rivalry has been very even, as each squad has taken four games and one other wound up in a tie (see sidebar, below).
Back on Aug. 30, Anderson’s three goals helped spark Freeport’s victory.
Wednesday, on a quintessential New England evening (if you don’t like it, wait 10 minutes and it will change), the contest began under 74-degree skies (just four degrees cooler than the Aug. 30 meeting), but the elements changed dramatically at the half and so did the contest, as the Falcons pulled away to prevail.
The Rangers started fast and in the fifth minute, they earned a penalty corner. After a blast by senior Courtney Rog was saved by Freeport senior goalie Katelyn Rouleau, Beaulieu pounced on the rebound and sent the ball into the cage for a 1-0 lead with 25:31 to play in the first half.
That goal not only put Greely ahead, it also awakened a sleeping giant.
Freeport began to press for the equalizer and after a cross by senior Kerry Lefebvre was blocked by a defender and after Koenig had a shot off a corner saved by Rangers sophomore goalie Cassie Ward, the Falcons got it.
After a Greely corner was cleared, Freeport transitioned to offense and the ball came to Randall in front of the goal and she put it into the cage to make it 1-1 with 12:40 left in the half.
Late in the half, Anderson took a pass from sophomore Aynslie Decker and was robbed in front by Ward and Koenig was denied off a corner, sending the game to the break still deadlocked at 1-1.
The Falcons had a 4-3 shots advantage in the first 30 minutes and took six penalty corners, but weren’t able to convert.
After the break, a chill wind began to howl and Freeport’s close calls began to turn into goals.
After Anderson missed just wide, Koenig put the Falcons ahead to stay, as she buried a shot from the top of the circle with 27:03 on the clock.
“The first half, we were really caught up in what could be,” Koenig said. “Them scoring first definitely set us back. At halftime, we talked about having fun. Once we settled down and started passing, it was like magic.
“I was at the top of the circle and I had a clear shot. I thought about driving it, but then I realized I wanted more control, so I aimed for the empty spot by the goalie and luckily it had enough force to get there.”
That goal opened the floodgates.
After Anderson missed just wide, she got on the score sheet with 21:47 to play, as off a corner, sophomore Hannah Groves fed Koenig, who passed to Anderson, who one-timed a shot past Ward for a 3-1 advantage.
“Once we scored, we wanted to do it again,” said Anderson. “I wasn’t on my game tonight, so it felt so good to score.”
“Natalie missed a few in the first half,” Wood said. “She wanted to capitalize in the second half and she got one.”
Greely coach Chelsea Morley called timeout and her team responded with a couple of chances, but sophomore Delia Knox sent a backhander just wide and Rouleau kicked away a bid from senior Wren Payne.
With 13:17 on the clock, off another corner, Farrin scored out of a scrum to extend the lead to 4-1.
With 8:20 remaining, Koenig scored for the second time, in memorable fashion.
Off another corner, Groves passed the ball to Koenig to Ward’s right and Koenig, who takes great pride in her ability to drive the ball with her backhand, not only backhanded her shot through a couple defenders, but she managed to beat Ward and place it just inside the far post as well for a 5-1 advantage.
“I love reverse shots,” Koenig said. “Sometimes I’m not the luckiest with them, but when I do get one like that, I get really excited.”
“Watching (Alexa) grow over the years, she wasn’t all about field hockey when she was younger, but she grew into it after freshman year when she realized she was pretty good,” Wood said. “She’s just awesome. We get stuck watching her sometimes because the way she plays is so pretty.”
The final goal came with 4:25 on the clock, when Golding finished and Freeport went on to celebrate its 6-1 victory.
“We had motivation and we knew we could do it,” Anderson said. “Getting this (new turf) facility is amazing. It’s the first Senior Game we’ve had here.”
“The chemistry has been consistently there,” Koenig said. “We’ve worked really hard. It’s clicking. We all trust each other on the field.”
“Every game that I know will be a close game, the girls just come out and perform,” Wood added. “It might not be right away, but once we get a goal, we just perform. They’ve just been doing that. I was nervous about their focus since we’ve had a lot of down time the past two weeks, but they were fabulous.”
The Falcons finished with a 11-4 advantage in shots on cage and a 13-2 edge in corners. Rouleau made three saves.
The Rangers got five saves from Ward, but couldn’t respond to Freeport’s second half surge.
“Some days we just can’t finish,” said Morley. “Freeport has some phenomenal forwards and if the ball gets sent to them, they’ll finish. They make it challenging. They’re a super-talented team. I’m very proud of my team for putting up an amazing first half battle.”
And now, everything the teams have done the past six weeks is put on the back burner, as they look ahead to the postseason.
Unlike many recent seasons, when York was the clear favorite, Class B South is wide-open and Freeport and Greely each believe they can go all the way to the state final Oct. 27 in Bangor.
The Rangers will be the No. 5 seed in the region and will visit No. 4 Lake Region (9-5) in next week’s quarterfinal. Greely lost the regular season meeting, 2-1, at home Sept. 18.
The teams have played two prior playoff games with the Lakers taking them both: 1-0 in the 2004 Western B semifinals and 2-1, in double-overtime, in the 2005 Western B semifinals.
“We just have to play a full game and going into playoffs, that’s what we need to focus on,” Morley said. “Wins are nice, but the biggest thing I care about is how much our team has improved. I want the program to grow every year and we’re getting there.
“We have to remember is that playoffs is a new season. We just need to play with heart, have confidence and I think we’ll see some big things next week.”
The Falcons, after their best regular season since 2000 (the last time they played in a state final) finished third, their highest ranking since 2002. They will host No. 6 Poland (7-7) Tuesday in the quarterfinals.
Freeport blanked the visiting Knights, 4-0, Sept. 24. The teams have no playoff history.
“Last year totally snuck up on us and we didn’t have a level head going into postseason, so this time, we have to be ready for our first game,” Anderson said. “I can’t imagine a better team. I’m stoked we get a couple more weeks.”
“I’m lucky I’m with the group of girls I’m with,” Koenig said. “We have to remember to calm down on the field. We need to remember that we’re good and that we can win. We have to stay level-headed. We’re having so much fun.”
“Last year happened so fast and we can’t let that happen again,” Wood added. “It was the blink of an eye and we were done.
“Poland beat St. Dom’s this year, so we have to come to play. It’s going to be an exciting postseason. I really hope we can do it. This is a very special group.”
Freeport 3 @ Greely 2
@ Greely 2 Freeport 0
Greely 2 @ Freeport 1 (OT)
Western B prelim
@ Freeport 1 Greely 0
Greely 6 @ Freeport 2