FREEPORT—Not much attention was paid to the Freeport field hockey team entering the season.
But as we near the midway point, it might be a smart idea for people to start giving the Falcons their due.
Wednesday afternoon, Freeport continued its turnaround from an 0-2 start with its most impressive victory yet.
Hosting talented Cape Elizabeth, the Falcons held their own in an even first half, then controlled play in the second.
With 24:28 remaining in regulation, Freeport got the only goal it would need when senior Hannah Williams, in her first game back from a concussion, scored on a rebound.
Instead of sitting back and protecting their lead, the Falcons kept the pressure on and were rewarded with 3:03 to play, when freshman Chloe Davidson scored on a penalty corner to ice it.
Freeport went on to a 2-0 triumph, improved to 4-2 with its fourth straight victory and dropped the Capers to 4-3 in the process.
“This is a huge achievement,” said Williams. “We’re pretty stoked. We just pulled it together in the second half. We got our heads in the game. We really wanted it.”
Both teams have played very well over the past week or so.
Cape Elizabeth opened with a 1-0 home win over Gray-New Gloucester, then sprung a minor upset with a 2-1 victory at Falmouth. The Capers weren’t able to enjoy prosperity, however, losing at home to Poland (2-1) and at Fryeburg (4-0) before bouncing back Saturday with a 2-1 home win over Lake Region and holding off visiting Greely Monday, 1-0.
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 was painful, but it awakened the Falcons, who won at Gray-New Gloucester (2-0) and Old Orchard Beach (7-1), then at home over Poland (3-0).
Entering the contest, the teams had little history. They did meet a year ago in Cape Elizabeth, a 2-0 Capers victory.
Wednesday, the Falcons made some history as they continued to turn heads.
Williams first made her presence felt in the eighth minute, as she produced the game’s first good scoring chance. Williams raced up the right sideline, blew past a defender, then went one-on-one with Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Mary DiPietro, but her shot hit the side of the cage.
Midway through the half, the Capers had their first shot, but a bid from senior Julia Ginder on a corner was blocked by a Freeport defender.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Hannah Bosworth, who has been no stranger to clutch goals this autumn, then was denied twice by Falcons junior goalie Morgan Karnes.
Late in the half, Capers senior Taylor Herrera had a back-handed blast tipped just wide.
With just over a minute to go, Williams took off on another rush, but had her shot saved by DiPietro, sending the game to the half still scoreless.
Cape Elizabeth had a 4-3 edge in both shots and penalty corners in an even first half, but play would turn decidedly in Freeport’s favor over the final 30 minutes.
With 27:25 to play in regulation, DiPietro hit the ground in an effort to prevent the ball from going in the goal after a scrum. She made the save and more impressively, avoided trapping the ball under her body in the process, which would have resulted in a penalty stroke.
DiPietro then saved a shot from Falcons senior Abby Smith three minutes later, but that only delayed the inevitable as the rebound came to Williams, who wouldn’t be denied, one-timing the ball into the cage for a 1-0 lead.
“That first goal really helped,” said Williams. “I just tipped it in on the rebound. It felt good.”
“Hannah isn’t playing a ton yet, but her intensity is huge,” said Freeport coach Marcia Wood. “She’s a veteran and a captain and she’s aggressive. It’s nice having her back.”
Cape Elizabeth coach Darci Holland called timeout to try and rally her troops, but the Capers couldn’t muster a rally, due in large part to the Falcons’ ability to stop them from getting the ball past midfield.
DiPietro prevented Freeport from building on its lead, as she robbed sophomore Bailey Coffin on a rush, turned aside a Williams in front and saved a shot from Smith (with freshman Maya Bradbury sending the rebound just wide).
Holland took her final timeout with 6:48 to play, but again, Cape Elizabeth just couldn’t get the ball into the offensive zone.
“We tried to recover and get back on defense in the second half,” said Williams.
The Falcons put it away with 3:03 to play.
On a penalty corner, senior Dani Foster inserted the ball to Smith, who crossed the ball to Davidson, who one-timed a perfectly placed shot past DiPietro for a 2-0 advantage.
“That was beautiful,” Wood said. “We’d been working on that exact play. We connected. I told the girls to remember Kennebunk and going into overtime with them. We had a lot of regrets against them, but we weren’t going to feel like that again.”
Freeport put the finishing touches on its victory from there and celebrated its biggest triumph to date.
“This was a tougher game,” Williams said. “It’s huge for confidence.”
“Beating Cape in anything is exciting,” Wood said. “I was nervous going in. I wasn’t sure we had it in us. We wanted to hang with them, get one in and hold them. We were fortunate to get a second goal. We’ve played very well and put it together.
“York was really humbling and frustrating, because going in, I thought we’d be fantastic. When you have that as your opener, then lose a heartbreaker to Kennebunk, it’s tough. I’m still not sure the girls know how good they are. We’ve worked really hard. The five seniors have stepped up and have gotten everyone at their level. Once we get the brand new players up to speed, we’ll do great things.”
Freeport finished with six penalty corners to four for Cape Elizabeth. Karnes made three saves.
DiPietro stopped four shots for the Capers, but it wasn’t enough.
“We played OK in the first half and we didn’t bring it in the second half,” Holland said. “They outhustled us, bottom line. We couldn’t even get the ball past midfield. It was partly the grass (the Capers are a turf team). We don’t get as low as we should and we don’t pass as hard as we should.”
The regular season is already at its midway pole and while both squads appear playoff-bound, they both have work to do.
Cape Elizabeth hosts Kennebunk Friday, then has a showdown at Western C power Yarmouth Tuesday.
This team has proved to be resilient and that should continue.
“I feel like we keep starting over,” Holland said. “I’m not making excuses, but we’ve had a rugged schedule. It’s been a tricky two weeks. We need some time off to regroup. Girls are getting sick. I’m still very hopeful. I know we can play well when we want to.”
The Falcons will be tested again at home Friday when Western A contender Falmouth pays a visit. Freeport goes to Lake Region Tuesday of next week, then plays at Poland two days later.
The Falcons aren’t satisfied with four in a row and still want more.
“I think we’ll go far,” Williams said. “We still need to improve communication and trusting each other. We have a lot of skill.”
“We still need to finish more,” Wood said. ” Falmouth’s a very good team, but Cape beat them. We hope to keep it going on Friday. We’ve stressed how big this week is.”