FREEPORT—This time, Freeport wasn’t about to allow Greely to steal the show.
Eight days after allowing the Rangers to tie the score on a penalty corner goal after time had expired in regulation, then win it in overtime, the Falcons played host to Greely in a Western Class B preliminary round playoff contest Saturday morning.
History would repeat itself for much of the day, as once again, Freeport took an early lead, as junior Abby Smith finished senior captain Megan Peacock’s feed for a goal off a penalty corner in the 13th minute and once again, the Falcons couldn’t build on their lead and had to hold on in the second half.
While Freeport’s sophomore goalie Morgan Karnes stood tall throughout, she got plenty of help from her defenders, who frustrated the visitors on each of their 13 corners and didn’t allow any of the Rangers’ 12 second half shots to rattle the cage.
This time, as time wound down, Greely wasn’t able to pressure the Falcons’ zone and Freeport was able to finish off a 1-0 decision for its first playoff victory since 2002.
With the win, the Falcons improved to 6-9, ended the Rangers’ season at 4-10-1 and advanced to meet top-ranked, 14-0 York in the quarterfinals Tuesday at a time to be determined.
“It’s a very nice win and the girls deserved it,” said first-year Freeport coach Marcia Wood. “If today was a Friday, it would have been exactly like last time. Last time, we scored before the half and had to hold on. Thank God it went the other way this time, because it definitely felt like deja vu. We absolutely wanted another shot at them. We needed to redeem ourselves. It got a little intense, but it was a playoff game. I’m glad there was some intensity and we held our own.”
Freeport, which moved to Class B this fall, had a brutal draw in its opener and fell at home to York, 6-0. After a 3-0 home loss to Kennebunk, the Falcons fell at Fryeburg, 8-1. Freeport got in the win column with a 5-1 home victory over Gray-New Gloucester (the game was played on Falmouth High’s turf), then beat host Poland, 5-2. After losses at Cape Elizabeth (2-0) and Falmouth (4-0) and a 2-1 home setback to Lake Region, Freeport edged visiting Poland, 1-0. A 4-1 setback at Kennebunk followed, but the Falcons then stunned visiting Yarmouth, 3-2, and prevailed at Gray-New Gloucester, 3-1. The 2-1 overtime home loss to Greely was followed by a 3-1 setback at Yarmouth to close the regular season. Regardless, Freeport earned the No. 8 seed.
Greely, which missed the playoffs in 2012 for the first time this century, opened with a 5-0 home loss to Lake Region, downed visiting Poland, 5-0, then lost in a weather shortened game at Falmouth, 1-0. After a 2-1 overtime home loss to Cape Elizabeth, the Rangers won at Gray-New Gloucester, 4-1. Losses to visiting York (5-0) and host Lake Region (5-0) followed. Greely then beat visiting Waynflete, 4-1, and tied visiting Kennebunk, 1-1. Losses at York (7-0) and Cape Elizabeth (2-0) ensued, but the Rangers punched their playoff ticket with the win at Freeport before closing with losses to visiting Falmouth (2-0) and host Fryeburg (3-1). Greely wound up the ninth and final team in the regional playoff field.
The teams had no postseason history prior to Saturday.
The Rangers were seeking their first playoff win since 2011, while the Falcons were hoping to break through for the first time since downing Lisbon, 3-1, in the 2002 Western C quarterfinals.
For the second time in nine days, there was virtually no separation between the squads, but this time, the home team was celebrating at the end.
Greely had the better chances early, but a timely clear from Smith broke up a good scoring chance.
In the 10th minute, the hosts got their first good look, but a shot from senior captain Olivia Bubar was turned aside by Rangers sophomore goalie Sabrina Thompson.
Then, with 17:50 left, the Falcons earned their first penalty corner opportunity and 12 seconds later, it resulted in the game’s lone goal.
The ball was inserted to Peacock, who passed to her right to Smith up top, who made solid contact with a shot which got past Thompson and rattled the cage to make it 1-0.
“It was a great pass,” Smith said. “I just had an open shot. I knew I hit it well.”
“We practice corners all the time,” said Wood. “Abby wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so I was nervous about her status today.”
Late in the half, Greely turned up the pressure, as junior Sophie McMonagle had a shot kicked away by Karnes, a bid from senior McKenzie Brooks on a corner was saved and a shot from senior Cassie Demick, who tied the regular season meeting, went just wide.
Freeport then had its opportunities to double its lead, including a turnabout-would-have-been-fair-play corner after time expired, but Bubar’s shot was saved by Thompson and the score remained 1-0 going into the break.
In the first 30 minutes, Greely enjoyed a 5-3 edge in shots, while the Falcons had a 7-5 advantage in corners.
Both teams would have ample opportunities in the second half as well.
Just 45 seconds into the second half, a Demick one-timer went just wide.
The Rangers then had five penalty corners in just over five minutes, but none resulted in a good shot.
With 21:47 to play, Greely senior Kristin Dugas sent a shot on goal, but Karnes made the save.
Freeport then earned four straight corners, but only had one shot to show for it.
With 17:40 showing, Karnes kicked away a cross.
Four minutes later, Demick shot just wide.
With 12:48 to play in regulation, Falcons sophomore Lexi Peacock cleared the ball out of the circle on a Rangers’ corner.
A minute later, a blast by Greely’s Kayla Berry resulted in a Karnes save.
With 9:49 left, McMonagle had a shot saved by Karnes, then fired the ensuing rebound wide.
The Rangers came oh-so-close to tying the game with 8:51 remaining, but Lexi Peacock made a defensive save and Karnes stopped two shots on a corner. The ball remained in the circle and Demick fired a shot which hit the outside of the cage with 8:19 showing.
Greely got one final corner with 7:30 to go and McMonagle had a good look, but Karnes made her final save to preserve the lead.
With 5:04 remaining, Wood called timeout to get her charges in the right mindset for the final push.
“I told them they had to give me everything they had,” Wood said. “That it was a five-minute sprint.”
Whatever was said by the veteran coach, who has guided the Scarborough girls’ lacrosse team to four Class A championships, worked like a charm, as the Rangers never got the ball in the attacking zone again.
In fact, Freeport almost scored with 2:58 left, but a bid from Bubar off a corner was saved by Thompson.
The Falcons defense smothered Greely from there and this time, when the final horn sounded, the game was indeed over and at 12:19 p.m., Freeport celebrated its long-awaited 1-0 victory.
“It was amazing,” said Karnes. “Considering how we lost last time, we knew we had to keep playing hard and hold them off.”
“It means a lot,” said Megan Peacock, who has suffered her share of postseason disappointments. “It was a tough game and Greely played really well, but it’s nice to win. It was brutal, but all of our hard work paid off and I’m excited to go to the next round.”
“I think we were prepared,” Smith said. “We knew how they played. We came in ready to take them. We knew what would happen if we let ourselves get comfortable, so we played hard until the end.”
“We got the ball up the field,” Wood added. “Abby’s hits were amazing today. Megan had solid hits. That’s the style we play. When we have fast wings like (junior) Hannah (Williams) and Olivia, they can run onto the ball, get the first touch and carry it through.
“Every year, these girls were out in the first round and I think they’ve grown accustomed to it. I told them they could get past that round. We had to get it out of our minds that we were a one-game playoff team. Beyond winning, we just wanted to hang out again. If winning didn’t motivate them, at least hanging out and having fun motivated them.”
Greely, which enjoyed a commanding 17-5 shots advantage and also had 13 futile penalty corners, could only lament its missed opportunities.
“We had many chances,” said Rangers coach Kristina Lane Prescott. “We kept losing the ball over the end line every time. We had nothing to show for our corners. It’s what’s plagued us all season, not being able to score. You can’t rely on defense to win a game and you can’t win without scoring. It was intensity in the offensive end, you have to have it and we just don’t. “
The Falcons wound up with 14 corners and got 11 crucial saves from Karnes, who just took up the sport in August.
“I was totally in the zone,” said Karnes. “I can’t think about anything but stopping the ball. I let my teammates know who to mark up. It’s been an amazing learning experience. I know I’ve gotten better with help from Coach and my teammates.”
“It’s (Morgan’s) first year playing field hockey period,” said Wood. “She’s been amazing. She’s actually really good on the field too. In the preseason, she said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to play. It’s not the sport for me.’ I said, ‘I think you should change your mind and I think we should put you in goal.’ She was splitting time at first, so it was a confidence thing. Game after game, she’s making 15 to 20 saves. She really felt the pain of the last (Greely game). She didn’t understand overtime, which was partly my fault for not familiarizing her with overtime. Ever since then, you can see her emotion. She’s been playing amazing.”
Greely got back to the playoffs this fall, an impressive feat considering all the new faces at the start of the season.
“Making playoffs is a positive,” said Prescott, who missed a game early in the season after giving birth to her daughter, Audrey. “It’s been a good season. It’s an awesome group of girls. That makes it all worthwhile. We lost 14 seniors, so it wasn’t a very experienced group. I think we did well. We improved a lot. Most of all, we had a good time.”
The Rangers will have their work cut out again in 2014.
“We are graduating 10, so it will be right back to where we started, trying to get experience up the best we can,” Prescott said.
Freeport will be a decided underdog when it goes to York (which outscored the opposition, 66-1, this fall) Tuesday. The Wildcats handled the Falcons in the regular season opener, 6-0, at Freeport, way back on Sept. 5.
The teams have no playoff history.
The Falcons will go in with a nothing-to-lose attitude and the belief that they can shock the world.
“With a new coach, we weren’t used to her, she wasn’t used to us, but now, the whole team has come together,” said Smith. “We’ve come a long way.”
“We have to keep up our intensity, play the whole game through and prove people wrong,” Peacock said. “We want to come out on top.”
“We have nothing to lose,” Wood added. “We’re a different team now, with a different goalie. We just want to make it a game. We’ll make them work. We’ll try to tire them out and surprise them. Who knows? I’m a firm believer anyone can win on any given day.”
Freeport sophomore goalie Morgan Karnes makes one of her 11 saves Saturday. Karnes never even played field hockey prior to this fall.
Freeport junior Abby Smith (left) is congratulated by junior Hannah Williams after scoring the game’s lone goal in the first half.
Greely junior Maura Perry knocks the ball away from Freeport senior captain Megan Peacock.
Freeport senior captain Emily Sturtevant pokes at the ball as Greely sophomore Charlotte Benoit possesses.
Senior Kristin Dugas plays the ball forward.
Freeport senior Lee Brown and Greely senior Cassie Demick lunge for the ball.
Freeport junior Abby Smith fights through Greely junior defenders Maura Perry (right) and Lucy Wetzel.
Freeport junior Dani Foster plays the ball away from Greely junior Maura Perry.
Freeport junior Chloe Whittaker is slowed by Greely senior Mimi Lyon-Edmondson.
Freeport sophomore goalie Morgan Karnes is joined by (from left) senior Olivia Bubar, junior Chloe Whitaker, senior captain Emily Sturtevant and senior Lee Brown after the Falcons’ 1-0 win over Greely in Saturday’s Western Class B preliminary round playoff game.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.