YARMOUTH—With four freshmen playing key roles this fall, the future is now for the North Yarmouth Academy field hockey team.
The Panthers are in a transition year, but can still be very dangerous and Tuesday afternoon at Lewis Field, NYA took a positive step by edging visiting Sacopee Valley, a top contender in Class C South.
With 23:12 to play in the first half, freshman Amber Rose rebounded junior captain Kiersten Marr’s shot and rattled the cage for a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers had to protect that advantage for over 53 minutes and managed to do so behind a strong team effort. NYA didn’t have a single substitute available, but it held the Hawks at bay and went on to a pivotal 1-0 victory.
The Panthers won their second game in a row, their third in four outings, improved to 5-4 and dropped Sacopee Valley to 4-2 in the process.
“The kids have done a tremendous job,” said NYA coach Julia Sterling, who returned to the program this fall. “My team has the most spirit and the most camaraderie. It’s just another NYA group of kids that cares so much about each other. I feel so honored to be part of it. It’s fun to be back.”
NYA and Sacopee Valley have played some memorable contests in recent seasons. Two years ago, the Panthers had to go to double overtime to beat the host Hawks, 2-1. Last fall, NYA went to Sacopee and beat the Hawks by the same score, again in double overtime. In the rematch, Oct. 10 in Yarmouth, Sacopee Valley snapped a six-game skid at the hands of the Panthers with a 1-0 win, but two weeks later, in the Western C quarterfinals, NYA eked out a 1-0 victory.
The Panthers lost to Oak Hill in the semifinals, then saw coach Tracy Quimby step down and be replaced by Sterling, who led NYA to greatness in a previous stint. This fall, NYA started with a 7-0 home win over Old Orchard Beach, then lost at Sacopee Valley (2-1) and Traip Academy (1-0). A 6-0 win at CMW (the McAuley/Waynflete co-op team) was followed by a 5-0 home loss to York. After winning at Wells, 1-0, NYA dropped a heartbreaker in double overtime at Class A contender Falmouth, 3-2, but gained a lot of confidence in the process, playing well with Sterling out of commission.
“Falmouth was one of the best games we’ve played,” said Rose. “It would have been a great win.”
“I was very impressed,” said Sterling. “The girls and (assistant coach) Micki (Manheimer) did a great job. I wasn’t there, but I told them to bring me back the best game of their lives and they did. I was on medical leave for eight days and I’ve never seen such improvement.”
The Panthers then got back on track Friday at Old Orchard Beach, 6-0.
Sacopee Valley opened with one-goal wins over Wells and NYA, blanked CMW and Old Orchard Beach, then was knocked from the unbeaten ranks, 1-0, by Traip Academy.
Tuesday, the teams produced another one-goal affair and the Panthers got the tally they would need very early.
NYA’s goal came on its first good scoring chance. Marr set it up with a shot, but Hawks junior goalie Mckenzie Cormier made the save. She couldn’t clear the rebound, however, and Rose had a lot of room to bury the ball for a 1-0 lead just 6:48 in.
“I looked up and saw the right side open and hoped to place it in the net and I did,” said Rose, the younger sister of former Panthers standout Kayla Rose, who is now playing at Skidmore College in New York.
Rose, along with Emma Cohen, Hannah Gagne and Alex Markonish, is earning trial by fire this autumn.
“I have some great freshmen,” Sterling said. “There’s four of them who are 14-years-old. We have to really ride them. They’re on varsity and that’s the way it is.”
Later in the half, Marr twice looked to double the lead, but a rush was broken up by a Sacopee Valley defender and a shot was denied by Cormier.
The Hawks’ first shot came with 9:44 to go in the half, but NYA junior goalie Savannah Shaw made the save.
Shaw has the unenviable task of filling the enormous shoes of 2014 NYA Fall Female Athlete of the Year Elizabeth Coughlin in the cage, but has stepped to the fore.
“Savannah has been a tremendous goalie,” Sterling said.
After Cormier robbed Rose on a rush and Cormier made a terrific kick save on a Marr bid, Rose had a shot saved and Cormier saved a rebound as well, sending her team to halftime only down one.
After neither team had a penalty corner in the first half, the Panthers earned three in the first six-plus minutes of the second half. On just one occasion did NYA manage a shot, but Rose had a shot blocked and a rebound bid by Marr was cleared.
With 14:42 remaining, Sacopee Valley looked for the equalizer, but senior Lynne Hebert’s shot went just wide.
Shaw had to kick away a feed from Hawks freshman Savanna Marlowe to classmate Haley Ryan with 10:40 left. The goalie kicked away a shot from senior Madison Schaubhut two minutes later and that was the last good chance for the visitors.
NYA hoped for an insurance goal in the waning moments, but Cohen had a shot blocked, Cohen’s long shot was saved and senior captain Mackenzie Sangster’s rebound went wide.
Sacopee Valley looked to transition to offense one final time, but senior defensive stalwart Jenna Block broke up junior Abby Mosson’s rush and the Panthers went on to the 1-0 victory.
“I think it was a tough game to play,” Rose said. “It was very nervewracking. Their goalie was very strong. It was tough to score again.”
NYA was without senior Keeley Bartolini (injured ankle) and as a result, had no reserves, but the Panthers persevered.
“It was tough with no subs, but we practice like we play and we managed to have energy and make it through the game,” Rose said.
“We have some players who aren’t as experienced and we have one player, (senior) Bairu (Chen), who has never played in her whole life, but she did a tremendous job,” Sterling said. “We talked more today. We never gave up. All 11 girls were on the offense and all 11 were on defense.”
Sacopee Valley (now seventh in the Class C South Heal Points standings) is back in action Thursday at home versus CMW. Friday brings a trip to Freeport.
NYA (which moved up to sixth in the standings) still has work to do. After hosting Traip Academy Saturday morning, the Panthers welcome CMW and Wells next week. NYA closes with games at home versus Cape Elizabeth and at Greely.
“We hope to make it to the playoffs and hopefully to states,” said Rose. “We have to make sure to stay healthy.”
“We have four more home games and just one away game,” Sterling said. “Beating Traip would be fantastic. It all comes down to how you finish. I like our potential. I think we’ll be dangerous.”
North Yarmouth Academy celebrates its 1-0 win over Sacopee Valley Tuesday afternoon.
Bruce Feeley photos.
NYA senior captain Mackenzie Sangster tries to get around a pair of Sacopee Valley defenders.
NYA freshman Emma Cohen fires a shot while senior Bairu Chen looks on.
NYA freshman Amber Rose, who had the game’s lone goal, dribbles the ball up the field as senior captain Mackenzie Sangster escorts her.
NYA senior captain Linnea Hull (left) and junior captain Kiersten Marr chase a Sacopee Valley ballhandler.
NYA senior captain Mackenzie Sangster chases a loose ball.
NYA junior captain Kiersten Marr tries to get around Sacopee Valley freshman Lexi Lajoie.