NYA field hockey back to state game; Greely falls in regional final

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(Ed. Note: For the complete NYA-Telstar and Greely-Cape Elizabeth game stories, please visit theforecaster.net)

The North Yarmouth Academy field hockey team is heading back to the Class C state final.

Two years after winning it all and one season after an agonizing one-goal defeat in the ultimate game, the Panthers will square off against Foxcroft Academy Saturday at University of Maine in Orono.

That’s because Tuesday at Scarborough, NYA, ranked third in Western C, completed another impressive run through the regional field with a 3-2 victory over top-ranked Telstar.

Greely also made it to the regional finals Tuesday, but the Rangers weren’t able to join the Panthers in Orono after losing, 3-1, to perennial powerhouse York in the Western B Final.

Falmouth and Freeport were both ousted in the quarterfinals.

Orange and black go back

NYA didn’t lose a game a year ago until falling, 1-0, to Dexter in the state final. This season, the Panthers have been nearly as dominant, beating every foe but Class B power York in a 13-1 season which saw NYA outscore the opposition by a composite score of 97-8. The Panthers wound up third in Western C and had no trouble with No. 6 Waynflete in the quarterfinals last Tuesday, getting five goals from junior Megan Fortier and four more from junior Katherine Millett to down the Flyers for the third time in three 2010 meetings.

Saturday, NYA had to go to No. 2 Livermore Falls, a squad it doesn’t play in the regular season. The last postseason encounter came in the 2008 semifinals (a 1-0 Panthers triumph). This meeting would be close as well as neither team scored in regulation. Just 17 seconds into overtime, NYA struck as Millett (from Fortier) rattled home the game winner for a 1-0 victory.

“We didn’t play well on their horrible field, but (junior goalie) Mariah Farrell had five saves,” said Sterling.. In OT, Megan had the ball and pushed down the right side and the goalie came right out on her and kicked out into the air along with her boot. She scrambled to get her boot and rush back to the goal while Megan pushed the ball to the left side where Kate was. A defender from Livermore threw her body in front of the goal and Millett scooped the ball over her body and into the goal.”

The Panthers didn’t play Telstar in the regular season. Last year, in the regional final, NYA edged the Rebels, 2-1. The rematch was tight throughout.

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on a Fortier goal (from Millett) with 8:02 to go in the first half, but after time expired, Telstar, playing out a penalty corner, earned a penalty stroke and tied the score. NYA took a 2-1 advantage on a Millett goal (from sophomore Jen Brown) with 14:33 to play. Millett struck again (from junior Katie Cawley) with 3:38 remaining and that proved huge as the Rebels got another penalty stroke goal with 1:50 to play. The Panthers’ defense took care of business from there and NYA improved to 16-1 and advanced with the 3-2 win.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Sterling. “I think our team gets a little nervous out there. The passing was awesome. We beat them to the ball.”

NYA has used last year’s state game disappointment as fuel for this fall’s dominance. The Panthers won’t get a a chance to earn a dose of revenge against Dexter, but will have their hands full against Foxcroft (11-5-1), which beat Dexter in the Eastern C Final Tuesday.

NYA is happy to be back in the state game and is ready to finish its season with a flourish.

“Every game we make it through, win or lose, we learn something,” Millett said. “Last year, states was different than we expected, but it got us ready to go back. We’ll work together to avoid that feeling of disappointment. We’re ready to reach that peak. We’ll enjoy it. We won’t hold anything back.”

“We need to trust each other for this next game,” added Sterling. “I think we can do it. I think we’re lucky to be going to states, but we deserve to go. We’ve worked hard from beginning to end. We’re so excited to go up to Orono and play again. We’ll pull together and make sure we can take care of some of those nervous moments.”

One win short

Greely was the dominant Western B program at the start of the decade, culminated by the program’s lone state championship in 2003. Since then, the Rangers have been very competitive, but hadn’t returned to the regional final. This fall, Greely had a flair for the dramatic, playing five overtime games, and wound up 10-4, good for the No. 3 seed.

The Rangers opened at home in the quarterfinals last Tuesday against No. 6 Cape Elizabeth. The teams split in the regular year. The last playoff meeting was in the 2005 quarterfinals (a 3-0 Greely victory). This time around, the teams went back and forth. 

Cape Elizabeth delivered a stunning blow by scoring just 25 seconds in. Undaunted, the hosts answered midway through the 30-minute first half when senior Jackie Andrews (from sophomore Rachel Hanson) rattled the cage. With 9:52 to go before halftime, the Capers went ahead, 2-1, but again, the Rangers rallied and tied the score when Hanson scored on a rebound with 5:42 remaining.

The second half was just as exciting. With 25:35 to play, Greely took its first lead when junior Emily Curato sent a pass across to senior Sarah Howard who one-timed a blast into the cage. The Rangers couldn’t salt it away, however, as Cape Elizabeth tied the score, 3-3, with 20:53 left. The winner would come with 2:39 remaining when junior Eliza Porter took centerstage. Junior CeCi Hodgkins, who has had the flair for the dramatic all season, played a shot through the defense that Porter was able to direct home to make it 4-3.

“I shot before that and it went up and just past,” said Porter. “I wanted to get it back. I went on to the ball and pushed it and it went in. It was a beautiful assist. I couldn’t have done it without all my teammates. They set me up. It was the most amazing feeling.”

Greely’s defense held on for most of the rest of regulation, but just before time expired, Cape Elizabeth earned its seventh penalty corner. Even though the clock wound down to zero, the Capers had the opportunity to play it out and conceivably tie the score and send the game to overtime. Instead, a bid was blocked and eventually the Rangers cleared the ball from the circle, making their palpitating 4-3 win official.

“We’ll take it,” Greely coach Kristina Lane Prescott said. “It feels good. It was an unbelievable game. You can’t ask for more than that. Cape’s got strong stick skills. I told my girls that every single ball counts. We couldn’t let anything by. It’s the best game I’ve seen my girls play all season. We were evenly matched.”

That victory sent the Rangers to No. 2 Leavitt, a squad which beat Greely in agonizing fashion (tying the score with seconds remaining then winning it immediately in OT) in the 2007 semifinals. This time, the Rangers returned the favor as Andrews scored late in the first half and Greely made it hold up for a 1-0 triumph.

The Rangers went into the regional final as the underdog after losing twice to York in the regular season (3-0 on the road Sept. 13 and 1-0, in two OTs, Oct. 2 at home). The teams’ last playoff meeting came in the 2006 semifinals (a 3-0 York victory). Greely beat York three straight times in the regional final between 2001 and 2003, but the Rangers wouldn’t be able to make it four.

The more seasoned Wildcats grabbed a 2-0 lead with two goals in 49 seconds in the fifth minute of the game. Greely settled down and made it 2-1 when Porter (from Andrews) scored with 8;53 left in the first half, but York got a backbreaking goal with 31.2 seconds to go before halftime off a corner. The Rangers played well throughout, got four clutch second half saves from senior goalie Maggie Bower to hang tough, but couldn’t convert on any of their 10 corners and finished 12-5 after falling, 3-1.

“In Greely fashion, it took us a little while to play and against a team like (York), they gave it to us early,” said Prescott. “We called a timeout to regroup. York’s a more experienced team, but we always start out slow. We had opportunities, but we couldn’t put the ball in. Maggie had the best game she’s had all season. It was beautiful to watch.:

Perhaps 2011 will see the Rangers finish the job.

“We’re always strong and I haven’t been disappointed yet,” said Prescott. “Every season it gets better and better. We’re losing four strong seniors, however, some of our key players are sophomores and juniors and this was a great experience.”

One and done

Neither Falmouth or Freeport finished the regular season strong, but both teams had a chance to make playoff magic and indeed turned heads.

Despite dropping their final five games, the Falcons’ 6-8 mark was good for the eighth and final Western C spot. Last Wednesday, Freeport went to No. 1 Telstar. The teams don’t play in the regular season. The last time the teams met in the postseason was the 1999 quarterfinals (a 3-0 Falcons loss). This time around, junior Katie Turner set up classmate Mia Thomas for a goal, junior defender Kayla Thurlow had a superb effort and senior goalie Emily Daniel bowed out with an 18-save performance, but it wasn’t enough as the Rebels went on to a 3-1 win, ending Freeport’s season at 6-0

“This season was certainly a building one,” said Freeport coach Sara Dimick. “We faced a lot of ups and downs and I believe the team became closer.”

With just about everyone back next fall, the Falcons figure to move up the standings.

In Western B, Falmouth went 1-5 down the stretch to end 4-10, but the Yachtsmen still earned the No. 8 seed to extend their postseason streak to 14 years. As a result, Falmouth went to top-ranked York, its nemesis, for the quarterfinals. The Yachtsmen lost all four playoff meetings with the Wildcats dating back to 2004 and dropped both 2010 regular season meetings (2-0 at York Sept. 15 and 3-0 at home Oct. 4). Falmouth shocked the hosts when senior Courtney Proctor (from classmate Stephanie Gramse) scored late in the first half. The 1-0 lead held up until 8:23 remained, when the Wildcats tied things up. They added the winner with 2:42 left and handed the Yachtsmen yet another agonizing playoff loss, 2-1.

“We played a great game,” said Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “Our whole approach to practice that week was that anything can happen. Being the eighth-seeded team meant that there was minimal pressure on us. Yes, we were playing the number one team, but each game we played against them during regular season was pretty close.. We caught York by surprise coming out so strong in the first half of the game. In fact I would say that we dominated the first half. York put a lot of pressure on us in the last 10 minutes. They are a very talented team filled with a lot of experience.

“We played a great game. I’m really pleased about the effort that the team put forth. If you are going to lose in a playoff game, this is one way to go. The girls left everything on the field that day. That’s all a coach can ask for.”

The Yachtsmen proved that even in a rebuilding year, they can be dangerous. In 2011, with everyone but Gramse, Proctor and goalie Kelsey Freedman returning, they should once again be a top Western B contender.

“We are certainly encouraged for next season,” Haley said. “For such a young team, the girls got a lot of experience early at the varsity level. Even though we had a 4-11 record overall we remained competitive in every game. We are losing three great seniors on our team. Courtney and Stephanie contributed to the majority of our goals and assists this season. Kelsey kept us in every game.”

Yarmouth went 2-11-1 this year and did not qualify for the playoffs.

Sun Journal staff writer Kevin Mills contributed to this story.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

Sidebar Elements

NYA junior Megan Fortier and her teammates dominated Waynflete in last week’s Western C quarterfinal. Fortier scored five times in the Panthers’ 10-0 victory.

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.