Time runs out on NYA's title dreams; Panthers fall one goal short
YARMOUTH—Even after the clock struck zero, the North Yarmouth Academy field hockey team played on.
A fitting ending indeed for one of the more special editions in the program's storied history.
While Saturday's Class C state final versus Foxcroft Academy at Yarmouth High School did not produce the hoped-for happy ending, the Panthers battled for 60 minutes and then some and came agonizingly close to extending the game and their season.
NYA fell behind the Ponies, 1-0, 14 minutes into the game and for most of the contest, weren't able to generate their usually prolific attack, but as time wound down, the Panthers produced a series of great looks.
After junior Marina Poole had a great bid deflected just wide in the final minute, NYA earned a penalty corner and as time expired, was allowed to play it out. It didn't result in a goal, but the Panthers got a second chance, then a third and had good looks on all of them, but ultimately, they couldn't put the ball in the cage and Foxcroft was able to hold on for the 1-0 victory.
The Ponies finished their first title run in six seasons with a record of 17-0-1 and ended NYA's memorable campaign at 14-3-1.
The Panthers did it all this fall, other than capture the ultimate prize, but did they ever give their followers a thrilling roller-coaster ride.
"I'm very happy with how we played and with our season," said NYA senior captain Kayla Rose, who also just missed tying the score at the end of regulation. "It's a true honor to go to states. I didn't think we would. It just wasn't our game today. We put all our effort out there. We clicked sometimes. We didn't click sometimes. It was anyone's game."
Rite of autumn
NYA has been Class C's flagship program since 2008, winning three championships and missing the state game only once, last year.
This season, the Panthers had holes to fill, but enjoyed an eighth straight double digit win campaign.
NYA opened with a 5-0 home victory over Traip, then escaped host Wells, 2-1, before rallying against visiting Yarmouth to win, 2-1, in double overtime. After edging host Traip, 2-1, the Panthers dominated host Waynflete, 8-0, and held off visiting Sacopee, 2-0. The undefeated run ended with a 1-0 overtime loss at Falmouth, but NYA bounced back to defeat visiting Wells (8-0), tied host Traip (0-0), blanked visiting Gray-New Gloucester (8-0), won a rematch at Yarmouth, 1-0, shut out visiting Waynflete (8-0), then prevailed at Sacopee Valley in double overtime, 2-1, before closing with a 4-0 home loss to eventual Class B runner-up York.
Seeded second, NYA held off visiting No. 7 Telstar, 1-0, on junior Marina Poole's goal in the quarterfinal, got two goals from sophomore Juju Tardif in a 2-0 victory over No. 3 Yarmouth in the semifinals, then Tuesday, outlasted top-ranked Lisbon in a regional final thriller when junior Charlotte Eisenberg scored on the third set of penalty corners for a 2-1 victory.
Foxcroft Academy, meanwhile, went 13-0-1 in the regular season, which was blemished only by an opening day 0-0 home tie against Old Town. The Ponies were the top seed in Eastern C and advanced by virtue of wins over ninth-ranked Maine Central Institute (5-0) in the quarterfinals, No. 4 Mt. View (2-1) in the semifinals and finally second-ranked Winslow (1-0) in Tuesday's regional final.
NYA was 4-2 in previous state games, beating Orono (2-1, in OT) in 1994, Dexter (2-1, in OT) in 2008, Foxcroft (2-1, in three rounds of penalty corners) in 2010 and Winthrop (1-0, on then-sophomore Olivia Madore's goal in the second round of penalty corners) in 2011 and losing to Orono (2-0) in 1993 and Dexter (1-0) in 2009.
Other than its loss to NYA three years ago, the Ponies also played in the state final in 1991 (a 1-0 victory over Telstar) and 2007 (a 4-2 win over Telstar).
Saturday, amid 63 degrees on a sunsplashed afternoon in front a large, colorful and boisterous crowd, Foxcroft controlled play for chunks of the game, but the Panthers had their chances in what proved to be a very entertaining coda to the 2013 season.
As she (and NYA coach Tracy Quimby) predicted, Rose was able to return from a scary injury suffered in the regional final (she was hit in the face in the second half and never returned) and was her usual ebullient self, giving the Panthers a spark.
"No problems, just some cuts inside my mouth," said Rose. "I was going to play unless I was in the hospital."
It would be the Ponies who came out at full gallop, controlling play early.
Just two minutes in, Foxcroft earned the game's first penalty corner, which turned into a second, but the Ponies didn't manage a shot.
With 25:15 to play in the first half, a feed from senior Mackenzie Coiley slipped through the crease untouched. After earning another corner. Foxcroft's first shot, from junior Jennifer Boyer, was denied by NYA's standout junior goalie Elizabeth Coughln. The rebound came back to Boyer, who shot wide.
With 20:52 to go in the half, senior Emily Higgins made solid contact on a shot, but Coughlin calmly kicked it away with her left foot.
With 17:47 left, a long shot from Coiley was kicked out by Coughlin.
The Ponies would keep the pressure on and were rewarded with another corner, their fourth of the half, which would prove to be the charm.
Sophomore Madison Fadley inserted the ball to sophomore Julia Annis, the team's leading scorer, who fired a shot which was deflected, but Coughlin managed to save. The rebound popped right in front, however, and Fadley pounced on it and sent it past Coughlin before she could react and with 16:07 to go in the first half, Foxcroft had a 1-0 lead.
"It was a bad bounce to get their goal," Rose said. "It deflected off one of our flier's stick and went high. I went to drop it down, but their girl was there to put it in. It was so unlucky."
With two high-powered offenses on the field, the likelihood of that being the game's lone goal was remote, but that's how it played out.
Not that both teams didn't have many chances.
The goal awakened the Panthers, who finally managed to sustain an attack and with 14:10 left in the half, NYA earned a penalty corner, which was broken up by Coiley.
With 12 minutes to go, Madore unleashed her team's first shot, but it went wide.
After a bid by Annis was saved by Coughlin, Tardif's rush was broken up by Foxcroft junior defender Abby Simmons.
The Panthers then earned a corner and Madore had a shot kicked out by Ponies junior goalie Brianna Skolfield and the rebound deflected wide.
Then with 7:55 left, in a golden opportunity, Madore broke free and raced in on the goal, but Skolfield came way out of the cage to break up the rush.
"Olivia would love to have that breakaway back," Quimby said. "If she had to do that again, she'd do it differently."
NYA wound up earning a corner, but shots by Poole and Tardif were turned aside by Skolfield.
With 6:25 to go in the half, Foxcroft coach Stephanie Smith called timeout, which momentarily settled the Ponies, but with under two minutes remaining, the Panthers got consecutive corners, only to have them denied without a shot.
In the first 30 minutes, Foxcroft had a 7-5 edge in shots, while NYA had five corners to four for the Ponies. Coughlin stopped five shots, while Skolfield saved three.
Chances weren't as plentiful in the second half and for most of it, the Ponies held the Panthers at bay, but in a frenetic finish, NYA was able to say it gave its all until the bitter end.
Just four minutes into the second stanza, Coughlin had to make a clutch save on a shot from junior Fern Morrison (set up by Coiley). Foxcroft then earned a corner, but a shot by Boyer was blocked.
With 17:40 to go in regulation, another Ponies corner resulted in a clear.
Quimby called timeout with 12:30 to play and the Panthers managed a foray into the offensive zone, but Rose's feed into the circle was cleared by Coiley.
NYA got its first corner of the second half with 7:40 remaining, but Foxcroft's defense stood tall and cleared the ball.
With 2:11 left, a rush from Eisenberg was broken up by Ponies sophomore defender Avery Carroll.
The Panthers then earned a corner with 1:30 to play and it almost resulted in the equalizer, as the ball came to Poole out front, but Poole's shot wound up going just wide of the near post, thanks to a diving tip by Skolfield, causing Quimby to sag to the ground on the sidelines in agony.
That could have been the final champter of NYA's season, but there was still a lot of excitement to come.
The Panthers kept the pressure on and with 10 seconds to go, earned another corner. As NYA was setting up, time expired, but a penalty corner at the end of a half has to be played to completion, as either a goal or a stop. Rose managed to put a shot on goal, but Skolfield made the save. On the rebound, the Panthers earned a second corner.
The ball again came to Rose, but her shot was blocked by Foxcroft senior Amber Anderson. NYA's season was extended a little further, however, when it got yet another corner.
While everyone cheering for the orange and black was hoping the third time would be a charm, it didn't work out that way, as a shot was blocked (Quimby said afterwards she wanted to see the tape because it may have hit a defender behind the goalie, which would have produced a penalty stroke), Carroll got to the ball, then dribbled out to the right flank, killing the corner and at 3:40 p.m., after 76 exciting state game minutes, extinguishing the Panthers' season.
Foxcroft Academy 1 North Yarmouth Academy 0.
"I feel like much of the game was controlled by them," Rose said. "We struggled getting our offensive push, then we did at the end. We were unlucky not to score with all the chances we had. Especially some really close ones. Their goalie was unbelievable. We haven't seen a goalie like that, who compares to ours, all year."
"We were really hoping we could pull it off at the very end," Quimby said. "It just didn't happen. We got close. They're tough on corners. We were going to do a couple hard drives, but we couldn't do that because the last thing we wanted was the ball going out. We kept it in and almost got the ball in. We tried everything we could think of. We figured it out midway through. I probably should have called a timeout earlier on and told them, but I was trying to save it in case it came down to the last second like it did. We started using our wings more. We had to get it out of the middle. We had to carry it up the wings, then get it into the middle. We were also keeping the ball too long. We played well with them, to be honest. We didn't want to get stuck in our defensive end all game like a lot of teams have and I think we did OK with that."
For the game, NYA was outshot, 11-8. The Panthers wound up with an 8-6 advantage on corners. Coughlin made seven saves to five for Skolfield.
While NYA will have to settle for being the second-best team in Class C (or more appropriately, 1A), there's no denying it was quite a two-and-a-half month journey.
"The regional final was so huge to win," Rose said. "It was so much more than just a game. The biggest thing was respect on and off the field. We had no drama. We're a family. Our chant was, 'Ohana!' It's from the Disney movie, 'Lilo and Stich' and it means family and no one gets left behind and we really stuck with that and it showed on the field. We really supported each other."
"It was quite a ride," Quimby said. "This group came a long way. Sophomore year, no one expected anything of them and they went to states. Last year, we didn't quite get as far. This year, we made adjustments and we took another step."
This season was an emotional one for NYA's coach, as her father passed away earlier in the playoffs. Quimby missed the Telstar quarterfinal, but got quite a lift when she returned to the team for the Yarmouth semifinal.
"This group has been spectacular," she said. "It's been a really hard month personally and they've cheered me up. Big group hugs. They know how to pick me up. I feel like I have 17 daughters. I'm lucky to have 17 daughters like this."
In many programs, graduating six seniors wouldn't be a big deal, but NYA's roster is small to begin with and when you look at the individuals who are departing, the blow will be immense.
"Just great leadership," Quimby said. "McKenzie Larson (who sang the national anthem Saturday) had a fabulous game today. She came out strong. I'm most proud of her play today. Emma Warren, in a new position the last two games, found the ball and carried it. Abby McKelvy, I don't know what we'll do without her back there on defense. She's been 'Coughy's" rock. Emma Randall didn't play today, but she's been there all along. I've coached Kayla since sixth grade. She's just gotten better and better. Olivia's pretty heartbroken right now, but I told her, 'You have so much to look forward to.' Olivia's going to go on and play and Kayla's going to go on and play."
Those seniors will bow out with great pride in their accomplishments.
"Our class has continued our reputation which was passed down to us," Rose said. "We're proud of what we've left behind. We've seen it all. We've won at regionals, lost at regionals, won at states, lost at states. We got a taste of everything."
Based on history, the rest of the state wouldn't be wise to overlook the 2014 Panthers. Next fall, NYA will be anchored by Coughlin in goal, current juniors Alex Barnes and Linnea Hull on defense and Eisenberg, Poole and Tardif on offense. That core will look to take care of some unfinished business once it hits its stride.
"Next year's going to be quite a rebuilding year," Quimby said. "With those six leaving we'll have a number of holes to fill, but we have kids who just need some stick skills and speed."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous NYA state games
Dexter 1 NYA 0
NYA 2 Dexter 1 (OT)
NYA 2 Orono 1 (OT)
Orono 2 NYA 0