Falmouth passes first ever Class A playoff test
FALMOUTH—If the Falmouth field hockey team wasn't formidable enough entering the 2013 postseason, the fact that the Yachtsmen are playing with a chip on their shoulders is making life even more difficult for the opposition.
Tuesday evening, Falmouth took part in its first ever Class A playoff game and while it is still viewed in some quarters as more of a pretender than a top contender, the third-ranked Yachtsmen took it to No. 11 Sanford, a team with a long and storied tradition, in the quarterfinals.
Falmouth got the jump on senior Mikey Richards' goal with 8:32 to play in the first half, then got a pair of tallies from junior Elle Fitzgerald and one more from freshman Sydney Bell in the second half to send the Spartans packing, 4-0.
The Yachtsmen improved to 13-2, ended Sanford's season at 8-8 and earned a semifinal round date at No. 2 Massabesic Saturday, at a time to be announced.
"We had drive," said Richards. "We knew there were eyes on us. That fueled us. We wanted to step up. This was huge. For the seniors, it's the first time in three years we've done it. We wanted it so badly. It's a great step. It speaks a lot to the program. We've grown a lot. It's the best season we've ever had. It speaks to our work ethic."
Falmouth found itself amid challenging circumstances this fall, as it played its usual Western Maine Conference regular season schedule, but then has to face a new set of opponents for the playoffs.
The regular season certainly went well, as the Yachtsmen posted a program-best 12-2 mark, losing only to powerhouse York. Falmouth handled everyone else and earned the No. 3 seed for the playoffs.
Sanford, meanwhile, was the next-to-last team in with its 7-7 record, then upset Thornton Academy in Saturday's preliminary round, 3-2, in the fourth set of penalty corners.
Heading into Tuesday, the teams had never met.
It didn't take long for the Yachtsmen to make a statement.
Falmouth carried play for chunks of the first half, but had nothing to show for it until the 22nd minute, when senior Leika Scott played the ball into the Sanford zone and crossed it to Richards, who sent the ball into the cage for a 1-0 lead.
"The game plan was adjusting to what (Sanford) did," Richards said. "They love the long ball. They had amazing drives. We had to adjust to that and utilize what we have. Leika has amazing passes. She came down the right like she usually does. She saw an opening. She sent the ball perfectly and I just had to redirect it."
"We needed that first goal badly," Fitzgerald said. "That fired us up and got us going."
"Mikey has come up big countless times," added Falmouth coach Robin Haley. "She and (senior) Jillian (Rothweiler). That goal was a sigh of relief for us and calmed us down."
Less than five minutes into the second half, the Yachtsmen got a much needed insurance goal, as Fitzgerald managed to get her stick on the ball and send it past Spartans sophomore goalie Sarah Goldthwaite, who was replaced after the goal by junior Teaghan McCormack.
"It just kind of went off my stick into the goal," said Fitzgerald. "I just hit it and it went in."
The visitors almost got back in the game with 20:12 showing, but after senior Tallyn Brown eluded Falmouth senior goalie Hillary Nash, senior defensive standout Hayley Winslow made a defensive save to keep it 2-0.
After Scott had a goal waved off, Fitzgerald made it 3-0 with 10:05 to play, as she fired a rocket into the far corner.
"It was a wide open hit that got past the goalie," Fitzgerald said.
Then, with 7:15 to go, Bell scored on a rebound to make it 4-0.
"Syd came up big for us," said Richards. "Four goals in a playoff game is huge for us."
"We kept the pressure on offensively," Haley said. "We charged after the ball and had some nice crosses."
Falmouth slammed the door from there and celebrated its decisive win.
"We didn't live on the edge tonight," Fitzgerald said. "We wanted to get past the quarterfinals. None of us have been past the quarterfinals and we really wanted it. Class A is difficult and different from Class B, but I think we can do it. I almost think it was easier not knowing much about them because we didn't pay attention to one or two girls. We had to mark everyone."
"It's a good feeling to score four," Haley said. "We were focused on doing our thing tonight. The midfield did a really nice job. We talked about getting back quickly. We paid attention to their corners, but we didn't want to lose sight of our game, what got us here. That kept us calm going into the game."
Falmouth will be tested at Massabesic (13-2 after a 1-0 win over No. 7 Westbrook Tuesday) Saturday in the semifinals. The teams have no history.
The Yachtsmen aren't ready to be done and will focus on playing another strong 60 minutes.
"We want to keep it going," Fitzgerald said. "Massabesic will be a challenge, but we want it and we're ready."
"It will be different, but we'll adapt," Richards said. "We'll give everything we've got and we'll play our game. We want to go as far as we can go."
"It will be hard playing on grass," Haley added. "We'll have to work on that, but it's not (longtime Class B nemesis) York. It's green-and-white we're playing against, not blue-and-white. Maybe unknown territory will be a good thing for us. This one gives us confidence. We'll hope for the best. We want to play well."