CUMBERLAND—Greely’s field hockey team is running out of time to qualify for the playoffs, but if the surging Rangers get there, look out.
Two days after battling higher ranked Cape Elizabeth to a 1-1 tie, Greely welcomed another squad which resides above them in the standings, Freeport, for a pivotal showdown Thursday afternoon in a rematch of last year’s Western Class B preliminary round contest won by the Falcons.
The Rangers got the jump in the eighth minute when junior Kayla Barry scored and they took a 1-0 lead to halftime.
Then, at the start of the second half, Freeport produced an onslaught which featured penalty corner after penalty corner and a lot of good opportunities, but Greely’s freshman goalie, Lizzie Brown, and her defensive mates stood tall and kept the visitors off the board.
Then, with 16:48 remaining, senior Hogan Reed added a second goal and the Rangers never looked back, going on to a 2-0 victory.
Despite being outshot and having to defend 17 corners, Greely managed to improve to 4-7-1 and drop the Falcons to 7-5-1 in the process.
“It’s a big one,” said Rangers first-year coach Becki Belmore. “They’re worth a lot of Heal Points. The girls were fired up. There weren’t too many who played in last year’s playoff game. It might have come up among the girls. I didn’t bring it up. I tried to build on the momentum from Tuesday’s game. This is a big confidence builder.”
While Freeport is playoff-bound, Greely is running out of time to secure its 17th berth in 18 seasons.
Greely opened by falling at Lake Region and Poland by 3-2 scores (the loss at the Knights came in overtime). After a 1-0 home setback against Falmouth, the Rangers lost at York, 6-1, then fell at Cape Elizabeth, 1-0. Greely finally broke through with wins over visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-2, in OT), Lake Region (2-0) and host Waynflete (3-1) then lost at Kennebunk (4-1) and at home to powerhouse York (3-0) before playing visiting Cape Elizabeth to a 1-1 tie Tuesday.
Freeport lost its opener at York in a playoff rematch, 7-0, then dropped a tough 2-1 home decision to Kennebunk in overtime. The Falcons then won at Gray-New Gloucester (2-0) and Old Orchard Beach (7-1) and at home over Poland (3-0) and Cape Elizabeth (2-0) before finally falling to visiting Falmouth, 3-1. After bouncing back with wins at Lake Region (3-1) and Poland (2-1) and at home over Gray-New Gloucester (1-0), Freeport fell at Kennebunk (2-0) and settled for a scoreless home tie versus Fryeburg Academy Tuesday.
Thursday, the Falcons were hoping to make it two in a row over the Rangers, but their recent offensive frustration continued, while Greely proved opportunistic.
In the second minute, Freeport senior Dani Foster had a good look on a penalty corner, but her shot was tipped wide.
The Rangers’ first chance led to the first goal.
With 22:46 to go in the first half, Greely earned a corner and after it resulted in a scrum, Barry managed to get the ball past diving Falcons junior goalie Morgan Karnes for a 1-0 lead.
“Somebody hit it toward me and the goalie’s stick was on the ground, so I did a reverse hit and it went in,” Barry said.
“That rewarded our intensity,” said Belmore. “It’s been a struggle in previous games, to be first on the scoreboard.”
The Rangers almost doubled their lead two minutes later when senior Sophie McMonagle raced upfield, but her shot hit the side of the cage.
Freeport coach Marcia Wood called timeout to try to turn momentum and the Falcons would get some chances to answer.
After senior Abby Smith sent a shot on a corner just wide of the mark, senior Hannah Williams slipped a defender and sent a shot across the crease. It was untouched, but Smith ran the ball down and shot, but it was blocked.
Greely had a 6-4 edge in shots in the first half, but four Karnes saves kept Freeport alive.
Then, at the start of the second half, the Falcons lived in the Rangers’ zone, only to be frustrated time and again.
It took only a minute to earn a penalty corner and Freeport senior Taylor Schenker tried twice to beat Brown, but the goalie stopped both shots and a rebound from junior Bailey Karnes was saved as well.
In the first four minutes of the half, the Falcons earned five corners, but had nothing to show for it.
With 26:45 to go in regulation, Smith had two shots off a corner, but again Brown stopped both.
“That was honestly the biggest part of the game,” Brown said. “Ive never had anything like that. It was crazy. I trusted everyone to help me out. There’s so much support. The group environment with the team is so amazing. Coming from middle school where I barely had any shots to this level, it’s been a hard adaption, but I’ve worked hard to earn the girls’ trust. I tried to watch the ball and not get in my head since it’s a mental thing back there.”
Brown’s play certainly impressed her teammates and coach.
“I’m really happy she’s on our team,” Barry said. “We went to UMO camp over the summer and she played goalie. She got more practice. She’s gotten a lot better.”
“She’s so improved,” Reed said. “It’s so impressive. I trust her so much.”
“Lizzie stepped in there and got the job done,” Belmore added. “She can make a big save when it’s needed. She’s learned a lot this year. She didn’t have much experience in middle school.”
After Greely survived with its lead intact, it went back on offense and doubled its lead.
With 16:48 to play, McMonagle set up Reed, who finished and momentum had swung for good with the Rangers now on top, 2-0.
“Sophie actually hit he ball toward me and I just put my stick it,” Reed said. “It’s a tip we practice every day.”
Freeport wasn’t finished and kept pressuring.
With 15:42 remaining, Foster sent a blast on a corner just wide.
Two minutes later, on another corner, Smith shot wide.
With 5:03 to play, Greely senior Clara Hayes cleared the ball on a Falcons’ corner.
Schenker then shot wide out of a scrum and with 3:37 to go, Williams’ shot on a corner was denied by Brown.
Seconds later, junior Danita Storey cleared a corner and that slammed the door as the Rangers went on to prevail, 2-0.
“It makes me really happy,” Barry said. “I played in the playoff game last year. We were really disappointed after we lost.”
“We have a lot of team spirit,” Reed said. “We stayed intense and went out and did it. I’m really excited. We’re getting some pep.”
“This is a big win,” Brown said. “We knew this was a pivotal game in our season.”
Freeport had a 17-11 advantage in shots (9-7 on frame) and had 17 corners to only four for the Rangers, but couldn’t rattle the cage.
“It was very frustrating,” Wood said. “We haven’t scored a goal in three games. I have no idea why not. We had two weeks of success with things going our way. Now, we’re in a rut and we need to get out of it. We’re not used to success. People want to beat us and now we don’t know what to do.”
Brown made nine saves for Greely, while Karnes stopped five shots for the Falcons.
Freeport (now sixth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) has just one game left and it’s a big one. Wednesday, the Falcons host Western C powerhouse Yarmouth, which will be worth a ton of Heal Points. Win or lose, that showdown will be a great launching pad for Freeport’s playoff run.
“We beat them last year,” Wood said. “It’s our Senior Night. Hopefully the girls will get amped up.”
Greely is now 10th in Western B, but is closing fast on ninth place Lake Region for the final playoff spot. The Rangers have another golden opportunity for Heal Points when they visit rival Falmouth Monday night in a game played on turf under the lights.
“If we come out with the intensity we came out with in this game and Cape, I think we can beat them,” Brown said.
“We’ve played well on turf,” said Belmore. “We had a great game at Cape Elizabeth. I don’t think the turf scares the girls. We can certainly maintain the speed of the game with the athleticism we do have. We’re not scared of going there.
The Rangers then close at home versus Fryeburg Academy Wednesday. A loss to Falmouth and a win over the Raiders might be enough to do the trick.
“This is the time to do it, I’ll stress that,” Belmore said. “This is when you need to peak. We have a saying, ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’ They truly believe that. The win-loss record hasn’t shown our level of play. We can be dangerous if we get in. It’s anybody’s game in the playoffs.”
Greely junior Alyssa Casarez sends a powerful shot up the field.
Freeport freshman Chloe Davidson and Greely senior Juliette Cavanaugh fight for the ball.
Freeport freshman Chloe Davidson shoots the ball.
Freeport senior Dani Foster races up the field as Greely senior Maura Perry gives chase.
Greely senior Madlen Guild gives the ball a whack.
Greely senior Ciara Hayes splits Freeport defenders senior Hannah Williams (left) and junior Lexi Peacock.
Freeport senior Abby Smith lunges as Greely senior Maura Perry plays the ball.
Greely senior Lucy Wetzel tries to slow the rush of Freeport senior Abby Smith.
Freeport senior Hannah Williams keeps the ball away from Greely senior Danielle Rice.
Greely 6 @ Freeport 2
Greely freshman goalie Lizzie Brown is swarmed by her teammates after the Rangers complete a 2-0 win over Freeport Thursday. Brown made nine saves in the victory.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.