Greely starts fast, wins fourth straight

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CUMBERLAND—The Greely field hockey team isn’t exactly known for flying out of the gate, so when Rangers senior CeCi Hodgkins scored a goal a minute, 23 seconds into Monday afternoon’s contest against visiting Lake Region, it came as a bit of a shock.

As it turned out, Greely wasn’t finished, adding a goal from senior Eliza Porter before halftime, one more from junior Rachel Hanson early in the second half, then riding its defense to a 3-1 victory over the Lakers, improving to 8-3 with a fourth straight victory.

“We’re notorious for starting slowly, but our goal is always to score early so we can have breathing room,” Hanson said. “It helped us feel comfortable to keep going and score even more. We’re usually a second half team, but the first half goals were a good cushion.”

On a roll

Greely was up and down in the early going in 2011, beating visiting North Yarmouth Academy, the defending Class C state champion (2-0), and Fryeburg (1-0) before suffering a 4-3 loss at Falmouth in the rain on a goal with three seconds to go. After a 5-1 home win over Wells, the Rangers lost at Fryeburg, 3-0. A 5-0 victory at Gray-New Gloucester followed, but Greely then lost to rival/nemesis York, 3-2. A 1-0 home win over Falmouth got things going. The Rangers then defeated host Cape Elizabeth (4-1) and Yarmouth (4-0) heading into their only regular season meeting with Lake Region (a team Greely edged in Naples a year ago, 2-1).

The Rangers wasted no time getting the jump Monday. Early pressure resulted in a penalty corner and senior Sasha McLean passed to Hodgkins, whose shot was deflected over Lake Region goalie Meghan Van Loan and into the cage for a 1-0 advantage.

“(The goal) was important for breathing room, but also to let us calm down and realize we can do this,” said Greely senior defender Meaghan Labbe. “We always have trouble in the first half, so it was good to get a goal early so we could relax and have confidence.”

Despite the score, Rangers coach Kristina Lane Prescott felt her team still had work to do.

“I felt it was a very slow start,” Prescott said. “We’ll take the goals, but a lot of times, the score doesn’t really portray how the game went.”

The Lakers dominated the rest of half, earning nine penalty corners, but capitalized on none of them. The visitors’ best chance came with 12:53 to go in the 30-minute first half when Alice Sandborn fired a shot on a corner, but Rangers senior goalie Emma Seymour kicked it aside.

“We got a little tired (on corners), but we knew we had to play well in order to keep our standing for the playoffs,” Labbe said. “We knew we had to stay strong back there. It was a little bit nervewracking, but I have so much confidence in (senior defender) Maggie (Norton) and Emma. They’re such great athletes. I knew we could push it out.”

After a timely and effective timeout called by Prescott, the Rangers just missed a chance to double their lead with 4:23 showing when senior Julia Maine took a long pass from senior Emily Curato, but shot just wide.

“I noticed the Lake players were pushed up to the 25,” Prescott said. “I had to adjust our defense to make sure our forwards and inners came back to help the defense. They needed a little boost.”

Goal number two did come with 2:12 left in the half and Porter did the honors. After a penalty corner, Porter was in the middle of a scrum and managed to get her stick on the loose ball and rattle it home to give Greely a 2-0 advantage heading for the half.

“Eliza’s really stepped up,” Prescott said. “The best part of being a coach is watching the players pull everything together. They learn and then everything just clicks. She knows where to be at the right time. Her positioning in the circle is better than last season.”

Lake Region continued to earn and fail to convert corners in the second half.

With 19:34 left, the Rangers got some more breathing room when Hanson scored off a corner.

“It was off of a rebound,” said Hanson. “The goalie hit it out and I was able to get my stick and my body in the right position to score. It was awesome. It’s always one of our goals to score twice off corners and score early.”

The Lakers would finally get on the board with 5:44 to go when Monica Couvillion beat Greely’s backup goalie, junior Leah Dixon, on a penalty corner.

The Rangers defense then slammed the door and Greely was in the win column again.

“We struggled, but come out with the win,” Prescott said. “I don’t want to say we’re peaking, but I think we’re getting comfortable in our skin. Things are coming together. Every 10 minutes is a new game, we say. That helps us a lot. We’re a mental team. It’s makes us much stronger.”

The Rangers wound up with a dozen corners (scoring three times). The Lakers went 1-for-14.

Stern test

Greely (fourth in the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings) is hoping to continue to win and move up the ladder. The Rangers will have that chance at reigning regional champion York (second to Fryeburg in the Heals) Wednesday.  Greely welcomes Cape Elizabeth for its home finale Friday, then closes the regular season at Wells Tuesday of next week.

The Rangers have set pretty high goals for themselves.

“I feel like we’ve done so much this year,” Labbe said. “We’ve beaten teams that ahead of us in the standings. I think we’re we need to be.”

“We want to go into playoffs strong and have intensity,” said Hanson. “I think the team is set up well to go in with a lot of intensity.”

“I feel very confident,” Prescott added. “I think this is the year the girls understand what it takes to be a strong team. They go running on their own. They want Saturday runs. They want to work. They want to make it all come together. This is the first team where all lines across the whole field are strong.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.