Freeport roars past Morse, advances to regional final
FREEPORT—Despite a program-best 10 victories and recent tournament success, the Freeport girls' lacrosse team isn't getting much attention these days.
And that's just fine with the Falcons.
Monday afternoon, Freeport hosted Morse in an Eastern Class B semifinal and served notice that it can't be overlooked.
After overcoming a slow start, due in part to being idle for over a week, the second-ranked Falcons hit their stride late in the first half, going ahead for good on a goal from sophomore Lily Johnston, who, along with junior Lizzy Martin, helped Freeport control the draw circle all day.
The Falcons then ended all doubt in the second half, scoring six straight goals to open the game up. Freeport held the third-seeded Shipbuilders scoreless for nearly 25 minutes and went on to a 13-6 victory.
Johnston scored four goals, senior Meredith Broderick had three goals and three assists and the Falcons improved to 11-2, ended Morse's season at 11-3 and advanced to the Eastern B Final at top-ranked, tournament favorite Yarmouth (11-2) Wednesday at 6 p.m.
"We hadn't played in awhile," Johnston said. "The heat got to us. It took us awhile to get our heads into it. We realized it was our game, that it was our homefield and that we had great fans. We were ready."
Better than ever
Two years ago, Freeport went to the state game for the first time and last spring, it hosted Yarmouth in a semifinal round contest, but the case can be made that this edition is the best in program history. A glimpse at the Falcons' regular season results reinforces that belief.
Freeport opened with a 16-2 romp over Fryeburg, beat host North Yarmouth Academy with surprising ease, 12-3, then eked out a 10-9 overtime win at Morse May 3 before falling at home to powerhouse Yarmouth, 14-3. The Falcons bounced right back with an 8-7 win at Falmouth, then rolled over host Fryeburg (16-3) and visiting Gardiner (13-3) before finally falling, 12-11, in overtime at York. Freeport wouldn't lose again, however, beating visiting Greely (7-6) and Gould (10-4), then closing with a 16-10 victory at Wells and a 14-8 home win over NYA to earn the No. 2 seed in Eastern B and a bye into the semifinal round.
Morse, a regional finalist in 2013, also enjoyed a 10-2 campaign. The Shipbuilders opened with a easy wins over visiting Mountain Valley (21-2), host Camden Hills (14-7) and visiting Gardiner (8-4) before dropping a 10-9 overtime decision to visiting Freeport. Morse then rattled off six straight victories: 21-3 at Mountain Valley, 10-6 at Oceanside, 20-4 over visiting Lincoln, 15-10 over visiting Camden Hills, 11-10 at Gardiner and 16-5 over visiting Oceanside. After falling, 11-10 at Bonny Eagle in a crossover game, the Shipbuilders closed with a 14-7 win at Lincoln.
As the No. 3 seed, Morse hosted No. 6 Camden Hills in Wednesday's quarterfinal round and romped, 19-7, to advance.
The teams had no playoff history.
Monday, Freeport gradually hit its stride and made an impressive statement.
Just 36 seconds in, the Falcons appeared to strike first, but Martin's goal was waved off due to a crease violation.
The Shipbuilders then went on top with 23:40 to go in the first half, when junior Ruth Nadeau set up classmate Sophie Sreden for a shot which eluded Freeport's standout senior goalie, Molly Lane.
The Falcons drew even 14 seconds later.
After Martin won the draw, the ball came to Johnston and she finished unassisted.
Morse went back on top, 2-1, when senior Grace Koslosky finished a feed from sophomore Madison Savary.
Freeport was hindered by seven turnovers in the game's first nine minutes, but eventually settled down.
With 11:29 left in the half, junior Emily Johnson drew the Falcons even with an unassisted strike, collecting her own miss, going around the cage, then beating Shipbuilders junior goalie Catherine Sener.
Johnston then almost gave Freeport its first lead, but hit the post, and with 8:57 remaining before halftime, the Shipbuilders went back on top, 3-2, when Sreden set up freshman Noa Sreden.
"We've been off for a week-and-a-half," said Falcons coach Karin Kurry. "We tried to practice at a high level of intensity, but it's hard when it's not another team."
Sener saved a free position from Martin, but with 6:32 showing, Johnson passed to Johnston in front and from her knees, Johnston fired past Sener to make it 3-3.
One final time Morse went on top, with 5:03 to go, when freshman Ann Tolan finished a rush, but the Shipbuilders would be stymied from there.
Lane preserved the one-goal deficit by robbing Nadeau on a free position shot and with 2:54 left, Broderick scored her first goal, unassisted, after weaving through the defense and the game was tied for the fourth and final time, 4-4.
Freeport then went ahead for good with 2:05 remaining, as Broderick set up Johnston.
In the final minute, Lane ensured the Falcons would stay on top by denying a shot from Shipbuilders sophomore Maddy Olsen.
Freeport won seven of 10 draws in the first half, but the other statistical categories were pretty even, suggesting the game would remain close.
Instead, the Falcons exploded.
It took all of 41 seconds in the second half for Freeport to extend its lead, as sophomore Nina Moore scored on a free position.
With 22:50 to play, Broderick scored an unassisted goal and just like that, the lead was 7-4.
With 19:48 left, Broderick made a long run up the field, split the defense and finished.
A little over a minute later, Martin passed to Johnston, who spun around a couple defenders before beating Sener and the lead was 9-4.
"We shot high and focused on fooling the goalie and going in from the sides," Johnston said.
With 16:11 to play, sophomore Courtney Broderick beat several defenders before scoring unassisted.
Moore (from sophomore Lindsay Cartmell) scored the 11th goal with 9:59 remaining and the Falcons didn't surrender a goal until 5:24 was left, when sophomore Isabelle Paulus scored unassisted, ending Freeport's 8-0 run and a 24:39 drought.
With 4:56 to play, Meredith Broderick threw a pretty pass to Martin, who finished. Tolan answered with an unassisted goal 51 seconds later and with 47.8 seconds left, Courtney Broderick scored unassisted to bring the curtain down on Freeport's impressive 13-6 victory.
"In the second half, we got it together and calmed down and were able to find each other on attack and in the midfield," Meredith Broderick said. "We kind of calmed down and found the open player. We also brought the intensity. We made smart plays. We really wanted it. Being in big games before helps us. Before, it was unheard of for Freeport to even make it to playoffs. Now, we're so motivated. It's really exciting."
Johnston led the Falcons' attack with four goals. Meredith Broderick had three goals and three assists, while Courtney Broderick and Moore both tickled the twine twice and Johnson (one assist) and Martin had one goal apiece. Johnston had a game-high 10 ground balls as Freeport enjoyed a 50-42 advantage in that category. Johnson collected eight ground balls and Martin had six. Lane made six saves.
Freeport won 13 of 21 draws, as Martin went 10 of 14.
"The draws are always really important because they can go either way," Johnston said. "Getting possession is the key to having a good game."
"(Morse is) really quick to the ball and is really good at body position, blocking out other players," Broderick said.
"We talked about the faceoffs," Kurry added. "Lily and Lizzy did a great job in the circle. I was worried, because they're so tall and I have no height."
The Falcons had a 27-18 shots advantage (19-12 on frame).
Freeport committed 23 turnovers, but forced 24.
Season to build on
Morse was led by two goals from Tolan and one each from Koslosky, Paulus, Noa Sreden and Sophie Sreden. Olsen had a team-high six ground balls. Sener made six saves.
"We felt good coming in, but this is not how we played all year," said Shipbuilders coach Linda Levesque. "It was more us than anything they did. We had a great week of prep. We had a great game against Camden. We feel like the amount of athletes we have, going into the game, we were sky-high. We just didn't do what we've worked on. If we played the way we can play, we could have had a two- or three-goal lead at halftime. Our game plan, we just didn't execute.
"It is a step in the right direction. This is the best regular season we've had. We're making progress. We have to keep reinforcing the style we want to play and that it will work."
Morse keeps creeping closer to the top spot in the region and while it loses Koslosky and Paige Martin, a bunch of other experienced players return in 2015.
"We finished with six freshmen today," Levesque said. (Today) was a good experience."
Freeport will be a decided underdog to Yarmouth Wednesday.
The Falcons were no match for the visiting Clippers May 5 and have dropped five of six all-time playoff meetings, including last year's 12-10 semifinal round decision.
Regardless, Freeport is happy to let Yarmouth get the attention and take its chances.
"Yarmouth is an amazing team and they crushed us early on, but I think we have a chance if we play a good game," said Johnston. "We have work hard on getting open, keeping possession and only taking the best shots. We don't have any pressure. It's great if we win, but if we lose, it's sort of expected."
"I think we need to play just like we played the second half of this game," Meredith Broderick said. "We want it so badly. We expect big things of ourselves. We need to come out really intense and show we're not to be messed with. We didn't have a good game the first time. I don't think the score reflected how close the teams are. There are advantages to being the underdog."
"We've worked on midfield transition because Yarmouth's so good at that," added Kurry. "They swarm in the midfield. We have to keep our intensity up. We're excited. It's a great group of kids. We keep climbing the ladder."