Freeport opens regional title defense in style
YARMOUTH—The Freeport girls' lacrosse team made it all the way to the state final a year ago, but entered the 2013 campaign still facing its share of doubters.
That group has to be dwindling after the way the Falcons played in their opener Tuesday afternoon.
Visiting longtime nemesis North Yarmouth Academy, which is hoping for a bounce-back season, Freeport took control of the game in the early moments, scoring three times in just over two minutes, and it never looked back.
Junior Meredith Broderick scored four goals in the first half to help the Falcons open an 8-2 lead and senior Aubrey Pennell, who missed the 2012 season with injury, took over in the second half, scoring three of her five goals and Freeport went on to a 13-8 win.
Senior Jocelyn Davee pitched in with a stellar all-around performance and Freeport began the year 1-0, dropping the Panthers to 0-1.
"I really think last year helped," Broderick said. "After going to states, this year, everyone's more motivated, excited and confident. I feel like we definitely have something to prove to the really good teams like Waynflete and Cape Elizabeth."
For years, NYA was one of the state's premier girls' lacrosse powers, playing in six state finals and winning the Class B crown in 2010, but last spring, the Panthers won just once and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
The town to the north, meanwhile, was enjoying a renaissance, one which produced the finest season in program history.
Freeport entered the 2012 season unheralded, but shocked Yarmouth in come-from-behind fashion in overtime in the regional final to play in a state game for the first time since the Maine Principals' Association began sanctioning the sport. While the Falcons lost to powerhouse Waynflete, 16-5, they had arrived.
This season, both teams appear very much in the hunt in an Eastern Class B region which remains wide open.
NYA has dominated this rivalry dating back to last century (please see sidebar), but last spring, Freeport began its magical ride with a first-ever 10-8 triumph over the Panthers.
Tuesday, the Falcons did it again.
After Davee won the opening draw, Freeport got the jump when Broderick set up Davee for a goal and a 1-0 lead just 77 seconds in.
Broderick then got her opportunity to score and did so on a free position to make it 2-0.
With 22:31 to play in the first half, Broderick took a pass from senior Dayze Gaulin and beat NYA senior goalie Bailey Clock for a quick 3-0 advantage.
"We spread out and got really comfortable passing," Broderick said. "We saw the open players and I think that really helped. We've practiced doing transition drills, looking for people open in the midfield to make clean passes and not run it up the field every single time."
The hosts got on the board when sophomore Isabella Munro scored on a free position with 19:42 left in the half, but Freeport sophomore Emily Johnson scored unassisted, Broderick took another pass from Gaulin before scoring and with 6:27 showing, Pennell scored her first goal, unassisted, to push the lead to 6-1 and force Panthers coach Lynn Sullivan to call timeout.
The Falcons extended their lead to six when Gaulin set up Broderick one final time at the 3:31 mark.
After NYA got a free position goal from junior Olivia Madore, who was just getting warmed up, Pennell scored on a free position in the final minute to give Freeport an 8-2 lead at the break.
The Falcons didn't let up in the second half.
First, just 27 seconds in, Davee took a pass from freshman Courtney Broderick and scored.
Madore answered with a pair of goals, one from freshman Juju Tardif with Freeport down a player and the second unassisted, cutting the deficit to 9-4.
The Falcons got a goal back when Davee set up Pennell at the 16:36 mark, but Madore scored unassisted 47 seconds later and with 14:15 to go, Madore took a pass from junior Jen Machin and beat Freeport's fine junior goalie, Molly Lane to pull the Panthers within four, 10-6.
With 13:56 to play, Pennell (from sophomore Elizabeth Martin) scored to make it an 11-6 contest, but with 10:07 left, Machin set up Tardif to make it a four-goal game again, 11-7.
NYA would draw no closer, thanks in large part to Davee's dominance in the draw circle. Davee (who won her final nine chances) allowed Freeport to restore some breathing room.
With 8 minutes showing, Pennell scored on a free position.
Then, with 4:41 left, Falcons sophomore Julia Dearden passed to freshman Nina Moore, who essentially iced it with a goal.
The Panthers got one final goal with 6.2 seconds left (sophomore Mary Noyes, from Machin), but Davee won the ensuing draw and Freeport slammed the door on its impressive 13-8 victory.
"It's exciting," said Freeport coach Karin Kurry. "We scrimmaged (Massabesic) Saturday and we played horribly. I think that was a good wakeup call."
"We're a talented team, but we didn't show our talent until the second half," Sullivan said. "We've got to figure out a way to play 50 minutes of intense lacrosse. I've seen it. We have it. It's just a matter of doing it."
Pennell finished with five goals, while Meredith Broderick had four.
"It's very nice to have Aubrey back," Kurry said. "She's a sparkplug. Meredith has matured. She's stepping up. You can see her step up next year even further."
Davee scored twice, while Johnson and Moore each had one goal.
Gaulin had three assists, while both Brodericks, Davee, Dearden and Martin all had one.
"There are a lot of good players who can score," said Broderick. "Going into this season, knowing we can pass to different people, it's great to have."
Lane had a solid effort, stopping 10 shots.
"Molly's awesome," Kurry said. "She's done really well. She's excited she made the Maine (Elite) team. She's going to Pennsylvania (Memorial Day weekend)."
Freeport won 16 of 23 draws, as Davee went a stellar 14 of 18 and Johnson 2 of 5. Johnson had a game-high 10 ground balls, while Davee collected nine.
"We spend a lot of time talking about possession, ground balls and draw controls," said Kurry. "You can't work on fancy offensive plays if you don't have the ball."
For NYA, Madore erupted for five goals.
"Olivia's an offensive weapon," Sullivan said. "The other kids can really feed her and she can really feed them. She can just get fired up and get blinders on in terms of determination."
Munro, Noyes and Tardif had the other Panthers' tallies.
Machin had three assists, while Tardif had one.
Clock made four saves before being replaced at halftime by sophomore Scout Fischman, who stopped two shots in the second half.
Madore had a team-high six ground balls, while senior Lillie Reder and junior Abby McKelvy both collected five.
The Panthers had a 36-26 advantage for the game.
Shots wound up even, 25-25.
Just getting started
NYA looks to bounce back when it faces York Tuesday of next week. The Panthers expect to improve dramatically in the weeks to come.
"We're a work in progress," Sullivan said. "We have young kids on the team. We're starting ninth and 10th graders in some key positions because they have the talent. They just don't have a lot of high school experience. You can see sparks of what we can do. Last year, it was just a matter of trying to be competitive. This time, it's totally different."
Freeport is back in action Thursday night with a fierce test, at powerhouse Cape Elizabeth (which obliterated Falmouth in its opener Tuesday, 18-5). The Falcons play their first home game Saturday, versus Windham.
The sky's the limit for this squad.
"We play Cape Elizabeth later this week, so hopefully we'll make a good impression," said Broderick. "We have to keep getting to know each other better as a team."
"The girls are competitors, but we're young still," said Kurry. "They've learned how to win and they've learned it's fun to win. They understand how to win, but our record wasn't great last year. We were 6-6. The year before, we were 6-6 and didn't make the playoffs. We need to focus on winning games, not the playoffs."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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