FALMOUTH—Most of the preseason buzz about Western Class B field hockey centered around defending regional champion York and perennial power Greely.
It looks like the “experts” forgot somebody.
Wednesday evening in the season opener on a crisp evening that felt more like mid-September than late-August, the Falmouth Yachtsmen made a mighty statement.
Facing the aforementioned Rangers, Falmouth came out of the gate with something to prove and did so with abandon.
After controlling play for much of the first half and less than a minute having an apparent goal waved off, the Yachtsmen struck first when junior Leika Scott fed classmate Mikey Richards for a goal.
Since most Falmouth-Greely games come down to the wire, Falmouth knew it needed to add to the lead and less than eight minutes into the second half, Scott doubled the advantage with a rocket which rattled the cage.
Junior Hayley Winslow delivered the coup de grace with 16 minutes remaining and the Yachtsmen went on to an emphatic 3-0 victory, opening their year in style while serving notice that once again, they plan to be in the hunt until the very end.
“It was a great way to start,” said Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “We were a little slow at first, playing a lot of ping pong, but I think that was due to nerves. The girls did a nice job settling down and we were able to put some things together and play like we had in the preseason.”
Falmouth won nine games last fall, but its season ended in disappointment with a 3-2 loss to Spruce Mountain in the Western B quarterfinals.
Greely went 11-5 in 2011, but once again was vanquished by nemesis York, 2-1, in overtime, in the Western B Final.
Both teams have a new look this season, but the Rangers were the squad getting more attention coming into the regular year.
Wednesday, most expected another one-goal thriller.
The teams produced two last autumn, with Falmouth triumphing at home, 4-3, and Greely eking out a 1-0 decision on its home field. In fact, this rivalry has been so even that since 2005, each team had won six times and two other games ended in ties (please see sidebar). Of those 14 meetings, regulation was insufficient in determining a winner on five occasions.
But instead of another down-to-the-wire classic, this time, the Yachtsmen put on a clinic.
Before finally breaking the ice, Falmouth had a couple great chances to score.
Midway through the first half, Richards was robbed in front by Greely goalie Leah Dixon.
Then, with 4:22 to go before halftime, junior Jillian Rothweiler appeared to score, but the goal was waved off as the ball hit an attacker’s foot.
That only delayed the inevitable.
With 3:50 showing, Falmouth got the only goal it would need.
Scott set it up, racing up the right side before sending a pass across the goal mouth. Waiting at the far post was Richards, who tipped it in and the Yachtsmen had a 1-0 advantage.
“We didn’t have school today, so the whole day everyone thought about the game and doing our best,” said Scott. “We knew we had to go 100 percent and never give up. We were getting a little frantic, but once we got the first goal, we had all the momentum. It was a cross from probably the 10 (yard line) and we’ve been working on tip-ins. Mikey’s worked on that a lot. Once we get a goal, we keep going.”
The hosts had the halftime lead, but the game was far from over, a point Falmouth understood as the second half began.
“We knew the game wasn’t over, obviously,” Scott said. “We knew we had to get another one.
With 22:12 left in regulation, Scott did just that, taking a pass from senior Sarah Sparks before launching a blast past goalie Michelle Gray, who had entered the contest at the half.
“I knew I couldn’t step into the circle,” Scott said. “I had to wait. I didn’t think it was going in. When it did, I was so happy. I’ve been working on shots from the top of the circle.”
“The second goal helped,” Haley said. “You have to play until the last tick of the clock against Greely since anything can happen. They’re a great team.”
With exactly 16 minuets to play, the Yachtsmen ended all doubt when Winslow got in on the act.
On a penalty corner, Winslow pounced on a loose ball in front and banged it home to make it 3-0.
“We had to stay in there and keep pushing through in the second half,” said Winslow. (The ball) went up to the top and it came back down , but I found a way to get it in. It was nice.”
Falmouth ran out the clock from there and for 60 minutes at least, proved it’s as good as anyone in the region.
“We worked as a team for the past two weeks,” Winslow said. “The 7 a.m. practices have paid off. Our midfield is really strong this season. The forwards had great tips. Our backs backed us up. Everything worked.. It was a nice way to kick things off. Last year, we beat (Greely) in the last three seconds. This felt really good. We’re going to continue to get stronger.”
“We have faith and believe in ourselves,” Scott said. “We have five seniors and six juniors and a lot of swing players. We have a lot of depth. A lot of key players.”
“I think we did some nice things during preseason,” Haley added. “I’ve been very happy with the progress we’ve made. The girls have worked hard. They have a fire in them.”
Falmouth had a 4-2 advantage in penalty corners. Junior goalie Hillary Nash made eight saves.
For Greely, Dixon stopped four shots and Gray made five saves.
The Rangers know that brighter days are ahead.
“We have some work to do,” said coach Kristina Prescott. “You can see (Falmouth’s) experience on turf. We don’t have that. There’s a lof of skill everywhere. They beat us to the ball.”
Greely looks to get in the win column Friday at Wells.
“It’s just one game,” said Prescott. “We have 14 seniors. Three juniors. Maybe eight are returning varsity players. We’ll just focus one day at a time.”
As for Falmouth, it returns to action Friday at Cape Elizabeth. The Yachtsmen, who started 4-0-1 in 2011, will look to continue to improve and keep the good times rolling.
“I think we have to work on finishing,” Scott said. “In the first half, we could have had a few more goals. Other than that, I’m really happy with our team.”
“We have (Greely) again and I know it will be a different game,” said Haley. “We have a long way to go. We’re working on some things and trying to keep it simple.”
Wednesday, for one night at least, Falmouth was simply awesome.
Greely goalie Leah Dixon tries to fend off Falmouth attackers Mikey Richards (right) and Jillian Rothweiler.
Greely’s Jess Wilson fires a shot. The Rangers offense was held in check.
Falmouth junior Hayley Winslow tries to hold off the pressure of Greely’s Freyja Victory. Winslow scored the final goal of the game.
Falmouth junior Leika Scott tries to turn the corner on Greely’s Brittany Rogers.
Falmouth junior Leika Scott unleashes a blast during her team’s regular season opener versus rival Greely Wednesday night. Scott had a goal and an assist to lead the Yachtsmen to an easier-than-anticipated 3-0 victory.
More photos below.
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 0
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)