Falmouth edges NYA in OT thriller
FALMOUTH—Wednesday evening's Falmouth-North Yarmouth Academy field hockey battle was so even that 60 minutes weren't enough to do it justice.
The Panthers and Yachtsmen, two of the best teams around, regardless of class, had to go to overtime to settle matters on Falmouth's turf field and 2 minutes, 23 seconds in, the hosts got the only goal of the game.
It would be senior Jillian Rothweiler doing the honors, being in the right place at the right time to finish and give the Yachtsmen a 1-0 victory, their seventh in eight games this fall, as they handed NYA its first loss in seven outings.
"It's pretty exhilarating," said Rothweiler. "We knew NYA was a good team. They played such a great game."
Falmouth and NYA both have aspirations of playing into November.
The Yachtsmen got off to a fast start this autumn with a 5-0 home win over Fryeburg, a dramatic 1-0, double overtime triumph at Cape Elizabeth and a 1-0 home victory over Greely. After falling at longtime tormentor York, 2-1, Falmouth bounced back to blank host Lake Region (2-0) and Kennebunk (1-0) and Monday, defeated visiting Freeport by a 4-0 margin.
The Panthers, who won Class C state championships in 2008, 2010 and 2011 before losing to Lisbon in last year's regional final, had done even better, winning their first six games. NYA opened with a 5-0 home win over Traip, then escaped host Wells, 2-1, before rallying for a palpitating 2-1, double-overtime home victory over visiting Yarmouth. After edging host Traip, 2-1, the Panthers dominated host Waynflete, 8-0, and held off visiting Sacopee, 2-0.
The teams haven't met often over the years, but twice in the 1990s, they met in the Western C playoffs. NYA prevailed, 2-0, in the 1990 quarterfinals, then won again, 1-0, in the 1994 quarterfinals, the year before Robin Haley arrived as Falmouth coach.
The teams have established an interesting rivalry the past three seasons.
In 2010, the Panthers, en route to a championship, came to Falmouth and prevailed, 2-0. Two years ago, the Yachtsmen returned the favor, courtesy standout Megan Fortier, tying the game late, then winning it, 2-1, on a Fortier goal in the second overtime. Last fall, Falmouth edged visiting NYA, 1-0.
Wednesday evening, the squads played another one-goal affair and the Yachtsmen made it three in a row over the Panthers.
Prior to the game, Falmouth team manager Gabrielle Cyr was honored for her impending trip to represent the United States in Turkey at the world archery championships. The Yachtsmen then took awhile to hit their bulls-eye.
Falmouth could generate little offense in the first half, only managing three shots, while NYA did have some good looks.
Just three minutes in, dangerous Panthers senior Olivia Madore sent a shot on goal that Yachtsmen senior goalie Hillary Nash kicked away.
Later in the half, Nash twice made breathtaking saves on bids from NYA junior Charlotte Eisenberg, each time making a stretching, kick save with her left foot, with the second coming with her nearly doing a full split.
"Hillary made some big saves," Haley said. "Without a doubt, she kept us in there."
The second half went more Falmouth's way, but no ball ever rattled the cage.
Yachtsmen senior Leika Scott began firing shots on target, but Panthers junior goalie Elizabeth Coughlin first denied a shot which deflected high into the air with a casual swat, then kicked away two others.
With 16:32 remaining in regulation, NYA assistant coach Lucy Gerrity (who was filling in for head coach Tracy Quimby, who couldn't attend the game) called timeout and moments later, Falmouth freshman Sydney Bell had to come to the sidelines for five minutes after an infraction, giving the Panthers a great opportunity.
While Madore would fire a blast in transition just wide and sophomore Juju Tardif would hit the outside of the cage, NYA couldn't break through.
Late in regulation, Scott shot wide and Coughlin came out of her cage a couple times to kick the ball away.
The Panthers earned a penalty corner with just seconds left, but Madore's shot was kicked away by Nash and the Yachtsmen cleared it to send the game to overtime.
In Maine high school field hockey, teams play 7-on-7 for two eight-minute, "sudden victory" periods.
Not surprisingly, considering the talent on the field, the overtime ended quickly.
The winning goal came on the first good chance, as Falmouth got the ball into the offensive end, Scott fired it in, junior Elle Fitzgerald redirected it toward the left corner and Rothweiler was there to hammer it home.
Yachtsmen 1 Panthers 0.
"We set it up perfectly," Rothweiler said. "We know how to go into overtime and set it up. I think 7-on-7 takes more out of you, but you get more out of it in the end. Leika brought it up, crossed it, Elle tipped it and it came to the corner and I just had to tip it in. I owe it all to Leika and Elle. We were a little slow in the first half, but our passing and talking got better and we played our game in the second half and overtime."
"Overtime, it's who gets a good bounce," said Haley. "We just executed that really well. We've had experience in overtime. Playing at home helped. We made a couple connections and finished it off."
Haley had high praise for NYA.
"I think this is the strongest NYA team I've seen," Haley said. "I know they've had teams win championships, but the way they execute as a team is very impressive. They're very skilled. They surprised us coming in as strong as they were. They have great stickwork. They scouted us well and had a great game plan. They always had a backup defensively. If we looked to dodge or pass, they had someone step up to the ball. Their goalie is excellent. I thought as the game went on, we picked things up and created more scoring opportunities. I think we made some good adjustments and stayed in the game."
Falmouth wound up with an 11-9 edge in shots and got five pivotal saves from Nash.
"We owe a lot to Hillary," Rothweiler said. "She's definitely a staple for our team."
NYA finished with an 8-4 edge in penalty corners and got seven saves from Coughlin, but fell just short.
Regardless, the Panthers were pleased with their showing.
"It was an unbelievable game," Gerrity said. "The kids played so well. This was a fun game to coach. I was extremely happy with how they stepped up and played NYA field hockey the best we've seen them play. They were definitely pumped and ready to play for sure. We had some great chances. Our attack stepped up. Our D was solid. They didn't let anything go. Our goalie was unbelievable. She stepped up and made some unbelievable plays, not just saves. She gave me some gray hairs though."
More of the same
NYA (second to Lisbon in the Western Class C Heal Points standings) needs to quickly bounce back as it hosts Wells Saturday and goes to Traip Tuesday. The Panthers host Gray-New Gloucester Oct. 5, then have another showdown at Yarmouth two days later, before closing the season with a home game versus Waynflete, a trip to Sacopee Valley and a big home test with reigning Western B champion York.
"This is a hard loss, but it's a great stepping stone for us to go up from here," Gerrity said. "We're excited to see what comes next."
Speaking of York, that's who Falmouth sees next, Saturday, at home, as it hopes to avenge its loss from earlier in the year. The Yachtsmen (fourth in the Western A Heals) won't meet the Wildcats again this fall due to moving up to Class A for the playoffs.
"I'm so excited to get York on turf," said Rothweiler. "I hope we can avenge that loss. We'll cross our fingers."
"I'm kind of mixed on (not seeing York again)," Haley said. "It's a healthy competition. You know they're one of the best, most well-coached teams in the state. We're excited about our new opportunity. We just want a high seed and this will help. We're moving along. There are certainly things we need to tweak, but we're going in the right direction for what we need to accomplish."
The Yachtsmen then go to Fryeburg Tuesday, host Cape Elizabeth, visit Greely and Poland and close at home against Gray-New Gloucester.
"I think we're playing how we want to play," Rothweiler said. "I can only look forward to the rest of the season."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Falmouth-NYA results
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