If the leaves are turning, the North Yarmouth Academy field hockey team must be on the verge of another championship.
The Panthers, who have taken three of the past four Class C titles, were just two wins shy of another trip to the pinnacle at press time.
After a 12-2 regular season, NYA earned the No. 2 seed in Western C and blanked visiting No. 7 Sacopee, 3-0, in the quarterfinals last Tuesday. Kayla Rose scored twice and Olivia Madore also rattled the cage.
That advanced the Panthers to the semifinals Saturday against visiting No. 6 Dirigo. NYA had crushed the Cougars, 10-0, in the 2009 quarterfinals, but this one was much closer. Rose gave the Panthers an early 1-0 lead and that was it until just over six minutes remained when Jen Brown banged home an insurance goal. NYA went on to a 2-0 victory.
“That was our goal today: To play our game at home and to make it pretty. We kept our passing going really well,” Brown said. “We kept trying to get them to send it up to the top so we could get those shots in.”
“I wouldn’t say we expect (to win). It’s a new season each year. Last year we had to prove ourselves because everybody thought since we lost a bunch of people, nobody knew how we were going to be. This year we’re not proving ourselves. We are showing who we are and what we play for.”
“It has been a great season for us, as we have been challenged by excellent competition both within our league and against Class B teams York, Falmouth, Greely, and Poland,” said NYA coach Tracy Quimby.
The Panthers had a tough test in Tuesday’s Western C Final (please see theforecaster.net for game story) when they went up against top-ranked Lisbon (13-0-1), a team NYA doesn’t face in the regular season. The Panthers beat the Greyhounds, 6-0, in the 2008 quarterfinals and 1-0, in three rounds of penalty corners, in a thrilling semifinal a year ago.
“After a hard fought battle between NYA and Lisbon in the semifinal last year, it is fitting we meet in this year’s regional final,” said Quimby. “We are excited and look forward to playing Lisbon who has a strong team. It should be a fabulous game.”
If NYA makes it to the state final, it will take on either Dexter (15-1) or Winthrop (14-1-1). The Panthers beat Dexter in the 2008 state final, 2-1, in overtime, lost to Dexter in the 2009 final, 1-0, and beat Winthrop, 1-0, in two rounds of penalty corners, in last year’s state game.
The news wasn’t as good for Falmouth, Freeport or Yarmouth (Greely didn’t qualify for the postseason).
The Yachtsmen earned the No. 6 seed in Western B after an 8-4-2 regular season and after eliminating No. 11 Poland, 5-0, in the preliminary round, went to No. 3 Leavitt last Tuesday for the quarterfinals.
The Hornets started fast and scored the only goal of the game 7:41 into the contest. Falmouth had its chances, but couldn’t get the equalizer and went down a 1-0 defeat as its season concluded at 9-5-2.
“I think we were all disappointed by (the first goal), but Leavitt’s a very good team, very skilled,” Falmouth coach Robin Haley said. “They played a great game, a lot of give-and-gos and I’ve said all season long, looking at this league, it’s the team that makes the least number of mistakes in a game. They did today. Overall I was very pleased with what we did in the second half. We just had a couple of tough breaks, some drives that didn’t go where we needed to have them go. We just couldn’t finish it off. We just couldn’t shift the momentum.
As far as our regular season went, I was very pleased. We had graduated a number of very talented players with big sticks last year, so we had many questions early on. We had hoped to be very competitive in every game this season. I believe that we accomplished that. I am very proud of this team. Although we didn’t go as far as we hoped, this team worked hard and accomplished a lot. We had great leadership with our captains, Emma Perron, Bri Hughes, Katie Cooleen and Sarah Sparks. They helped move this young group forward. We saw a lot of improvement on this team. Senior player Sarah Jane Bennett had some big defensive plays this year.”
Look for Falmouth to be right back in the hunt in 2013.
“As for next year, we have a great nucleus returning,” said Haley. “Mikey Richards, Jillian Rothweiler, Leika Scott, Hillary Nash, Hayley Winslow, Youngjin Kim, Elle Fitzgerald and Dayna Vasconcelos all saw substantial playing time this season. I look forward to having them back. Players who improved dramatically and could be major contributors next year are Ruth Smith, Morgan Allen, Kate Lannon, Caroline Dyheberg, Emily Alexander, Keunjoo Kim and Meghan Darcy.”
Yarmouth was 7-6-1 and wound up ninth. The Clippers upset No. 8 Mountain Valley, 3-2, in overtime, in the preliminary round. Last Wednesday, Yarmouth had to go to top-ranked Lake Region and despite a strong effort, fell, 2-0, to finish the year 8-7-1, the program’s first winning record since 2000.
“The players set a goal at the beginning of the season and we met that goal,” said Yarmouth coach Mandy Lewis. “We wanted to gain at least one playoff win and we accomplished that. We will have all but two varsity players returning and we are exciting to have gained the playoff experience this year. With only two seniors, we were able to compete with every team in our conference. Now that our players have had a taste of a playoff win, they will come out with even more hunger next season. I’m proud of all that they accomplished this year. We will miss Carlene Shaw and Nicole Hickey, our two seniors, but we are excited to have so many returning players next season.”
Freeport earned the fifth seed in Western C with a 5-8-1 record. The Falcons’ title quest ended with a 1-0 overtime loss at No. 4 Traip in last week’s quarterfinals.
“I think our team learned how to face challenges as a group,” said Freeport coach Sara Dimick. “We had a lot of injuries and illness midseason and we held our own in a lot of close games. The team worked very hard to earn a playoff spot. We are happy that we had the experience of playoffs and I am proud of how the team played in their final game of the season. We are losing eight seniors and they all played an important role on our team. We will certainly miss all of them. Next year is looking promising for our team. We have some talented juniors and sophomores who will be excellent leaders. We also should have a larger freshmen group next season, which is exciting.”
Sun Journal sports editor Justin Pelletier and staff writer Kalle Oakes contributed to this story.
North Yarmouth Academy junior Olivia Madore swings at the ball during the Panthers’ semifinal round victory over Dirigo Saturday.