CUMBERLAND—Two rivals hungry for a victory squared off in a tooth-and-nail, 60-minute battle Friday afternoon at Greely High School.
The host Rangers, not 24 hours removed from a one-goal loss to defending regional champion York, welcomed a Falmouth squad which had dropped two in a row.
After the teams combined for seven goals in their first meeting, defense and goalkeeping proved to be the difference for the hosts, as first-year senior goalie Emma Seymour proved impenetrable, thanks in large part to the play of senior Maggie Norton and her defensive mates.
The game’s lone goal came early in the second half when junior Jess Wilson poked home a rebound and Greely went on to a much-needed 1-0 victory, improving to 5-3, while dropping the Yachtsmen to 4-3-1 in the process.
“We’ve been really working on our intensity,” said Norton, who was seemingly in the middle of the action all over the field all afternoon. “I think in the first half, we kind of lacked in that department. We’ve always had a big rivalry with Falmouth and we couldn’t let them beat us twice. Almost all of our girls are sick or exhausted or injured. We had to find intensity in the second half. We had to find something.”
Falmouth and Greely have been two of the top contenders in Western B for many years and that is again the case in 2011.
The Yachtsmen opened with a 4-0 win at Wells, then played host Lake Region to a 1-1 tie. After a 4-3 home victory over Greely, Falmouth dispatched visiting Cape Elizabeth (4-1) and Yarmouth (5-0), then suffered an agonizing 2-1 (overtime) home loss to longtime nemesis York last Saturday, before falling, 4-1, at Fryeburg Wednesday.
The Rangers, meanwhile, opened with an impressive 2-0 home victory over defending Class C state champion North Yarmouth Academy. After a 1-0 home win over Fryeburg, Greely stumbled at Falmouth, but bounced back for a 5-1 home victory over Wells. After losing at Fryeburg (3-0), the Rangers had no trouble in a 5-0 triumph at Gray-New Gloucester. Thursday night, however, in a game that had been rescheduled on several occasions, Greely suffered a close 3-2 loss to York (in a game played on Yarmouth High’s turf field).
Since the start of the 2001 season, Greely held a 10-7-1 advantage over Falmouth, but the Yachtsmen have held their own against the Rangers in recent seasons.
A year ago, the teams tied at 2-2 in the first meeting, then Greely escaped with a 2-1 overtime triumph.
This year’s initial meeting, Sept. 7 in the rain at Falmouth, the Yachtsmen emerged with a thrilling 4-3 victory when sophomore Mikey Richards scored with three seconds to play.
Friday, Falmouth wasn’t able to dent the scoreboard and the Rangers had the last laugh.
The first big save of the contest didn’t come from Seymour, but from Rangers junior Emily Domingo, who somehow got a stick on Yachtsmen senior Megan Fortier’s blast and knocked it out of harm’s way.
With 16:08 left in the 30-minute first half, Falmouth senior Catherine Hebson got a good look on a penalty corner, but it was deflected wide. A minute later, Fortier fired another shot, but Seymour turned it aside.
Greely coach Kristina Lane Prescott called timeout with 12:41 to go.
“I was worried in warmups,” said Prescott. “Everyone seemed stuck in the mud. You could feel the sense of exhaustion. I told the girls, ‘You have to pull it out of the deepest part of you and give it everything you’ve got.’ Typical Greely style. It takes 10 minutes for them to figure out they were playing field hockey.”
The timeout and plea worked as the Rangers began to turn the tide. They earned three consecutive corners with three minutes to go, but couldn’t score, yet had tilted the field in their favor.
Seymour really put on a show in the second half and the hosts finally got the only goal they’d need.
Just 36 seconds in, Seymour was tested by Falmouth senior Moie Aaskov, but made a kick save.
Then, with 27:43 remaining in the game, Greely’s offense struck.
The goal was set up by a long shot from senior Julia Maine. The ball was stopped by a defender, but it deflected right to the opportunistic stick of Wilson, and she sent it into the cage for a 1-0 advantage.
“It all just happened so fast,” Wilson said. “Everyone was just playing really well together. Communication came together well in the second half. Julia hit it and all I had to do was tap it in. It was a whole team effort. It was really encouraging.”
Then, Seymour made sure the lead held.
With 20:25 to go, Seymour made back-to-back saves. With 17:45 remaining, the Yachtsmen had a scrum in front of the Greely cage, but the ball was cleared. With 15:56 to play, Seymour dove to save a shot. With 10:39 to go, Fortier’s deflected shot appeared on target, but again, Seymour stood tall and made the save.
Falmouth coach Robin Haley took a timeout with 5:38 left, trying to inspire her girls, but it wasn’t to be. The visitors’ last chance came with 2:47 showing when Foriter got her stick on a pass, but pushed the ball wide.
From there, the Rangers controlled possession and ran out on the clock and soon celebrated the 1-0 victory.
Each team had 10 shots, but Seymour stopped all 10 that she faced as she continues to grow into her role.
“It feels good to finally win a really close game,” Seymour said. “It always stinks to lose the close ones. I was really scared. I didn’t want to let my teammates down. I wanted to stop the ball and keep us in the game.
“My friends convinced me to play. I played ice hockey and golf. I play goalie for ice hockey. It’s pretty similar. We were pretty beat. Some of us are sick, but we toughed it out and played well. It gives us a lot of confidence after losing to one of our biggest rivals, York. I think it will spark a win streak for us.”
Her teammates and coach were certainly impressed.
“Emma had an amazing game,” Wilson said. “Everyone played up to their fullest potential. I’m very proud of how our team played.”
“Emma comes from playing hockey, so she has the skills, but no one really expected her to be this good,” Norton said. “She comes out making full splits, half splits, getting her toe on the ball. We have the confidence knowing she’s behind us. We don’t have to worry about always being perfect, because we know she’s always perfect.”
“(Emma’s) an amazing athlete who is very easy to coach,” Prescott added. “She hangs on every word. She wants it. She’s willing to give everything she’s got. You can’t ask for more than that. She’s a great kid. We have such a strong defense. That’s what carries us through every game. We can dominate, but we end up losing because we’re not scoring. (Senior) Meaghan Labbe, Maggie, Emma, they’re the backbone of the team.”
Falmouth sophomore Hillary Nash had nine saves and kept her team in the hunt, but the offense just couldn’t convert.
“We struggled getting it in the net and they have an excellent, fast, quick goalie,” said Haley. “She had some really solid saves. We didn’t come up with a good rebound shot. I was really happy with the way we played in the first half. We’ve struggled a little bit in the last couple games and we’re trying to regain our confidence. Greely came out to play, had a good game plan and went to the ball. It was a really good game. It was just going to come down to who was going to put the ball in first.
“We’re trying to figure some things out. We’re dealing with some illness, like everyone is. We’re figuring our roles on the field. It’s not when you want to do that in the season. If it makes us better at the end, we’ll get through it. I was pleased with the effort. We did a good job not giving up.”
Greely ended with an 8-6 edge in penalty corners, but neither team could convert in that situation.
Falmouth (fifth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) returns to action Tuesday at York, then sees its schedule lighten temporarily with home games against Gray-New Gloucester and Wells. A home test against Fryeburg and games at NYA and Cape Elizabeth end the regular year.
“Anything’s within reach if we can put the total package together,” Haley said. “We just want to make the playoffs and hopefully we will.”
Greely is third in the Heals and has games at Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth upcoming. Trips to York and Wells and home games against Lake Region and Cape Elizabeth also loom.
“We’re really strong on offense with (Seniors) CeCi (Hodgkins) and Eliza (Porter) and Julia and everyone, we really want it,” Wilson said. “We strive to be in shape and try our hardest. I think we can do it this year.”
“I think we’re definitely top three,” Norton said. “We have to keep pushing ourselves. Fryeburg, York and Falmouth will be the top competition. We need hard work in practice and to try to stay healthy. We’re want to split with (York). They’re not getting two from us. We remember last year.”
“I feel very good,” Prescott added. “I feel like we’ve played solid against every team we’ve played. It’ll be anyone’s game come playoffs. Honestly, I don’t see a standout team. There are five strong teams.”
Greely 2 @ Falmouth 1 (OT)
Falmouth 2 @ Greely (2 OT)
@ Falmouth 5 Greely 1
Falmouth 2 @ Greely 1 (OT)
@ Greely 2 Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 3 Greely
Greely 1 @ Falmouth 0
@ Greely 1 Falmouth 0
@ Greely 2 Falmouth 1 (OT)
@ Falmouth 3 Greely 1
@ Falmouth 2 Greely 2 (tie)
Falmouth 4 @ Greely 0
@ Greely 2 Falmouth 1 (OT)
Greely 3 @ Falmouth 0
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 2 (Western B quarterfinal)
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 0
Greely 1 @ Falmouth 0 (OT)