(Editor’s note: For the complete Greely-Leavitt and NYA-Sacopee Valley game stories, please visit theforecaster.net)
It was incredibly difficult, but the defending Class C state champion North Yarmouth Academy field hockey team moved on to the regional final once more.
The Panthers had to go to overtime to win their quarterfinal and to penalty corners to survive the semis and set up a showdown with Sacopee Valley in the Western C Final Tuesday afternoon.
The story for the other local schools wasn’t as happy.
Falmouth and Freeport were sent packing in the quarterfinals. Greely survived its quarterfinal, but its season ended in heartache with an overtime loss at a nemesis in the semifinals Saturday.
NYA won the Class C championship in 2008 and 2010 and lost by a goal in the 2009 state final. Under new coach Tracy Quimby and behind the nonpareil play of senior Katherine Millett, the Panthers were very strong in the regular season, winning 10 of 14 games to earn the No. 2 seed in the region.
Last Tuesday, NYA hosted No. 7 Telstar, a team the Panthers beat in both the 2009 and 2010 regional finals. While the Rebels aren’t as strong as the past several seasons, they made the Panthers scratch and claw to advance. Millett gave NYA the lead, but Telstar tied the game and sent it to overtime, where Millett won it.
Saturday, NYA hosted No. 3 Lisbon in the semifinals and neither team could score in regulation or overtime, necessitating penalty corners. Finally, in the third round, Millett (naturally) tipped home junior Jen Brown’s shot and after the Panthers denied the Greyhounds, advanced.
“Last year, we practiced 7-on-7 a lot, that’s what we did every day,” Millett said. “But this year, we practiced our corners religiously. A lot of corners we do in games, we don’t do half as many as we do in practice, so Bailey (Clock) and all of the others have gotten really good at being able to bring it out and set them up. I don’t even know what happened. The corner that we did last, actually, was a corner they worked on when I wasn’t at practice. We practiced it yesterday again, and anything new is good to pull out. It’s fresh and new to the other team, too.”
“To say that it has been an exciting week is an understatement,” said Quimby. “Telstar and Lisbon were both good teams with two very different types of play. Telstar’s defense was most likely the tightest that we have seen while Lisbon’s offense kept our defense on their toes. We spent last week preparing for each of those teams and have now turned our attention to Sacopee.”
NYA split two games with top-ranked Sacopee Valley (13-2-1) in the regular season, winning at home in the opener, 4-1, then falling on the road, 4-3. The last playoff meeting came in the 2007 quarterfinals (a 4-0 Panthers’ triumph). The winner will face either Dexter or Winthrop in the Class C Final Saturday afternoon (at a time to be announced) at Yarmouth High School.
“Unlike this past week, having played Sacopee twice this season, our team is quite familiar with how this team plays,” Quimby said. “Defensively, we need to shut down their key players. Offensively, we need to get more shots off, sooner in the game. If each player comes out ready and plays her best game … well, let’s just say, it will be a great game to watch.”
In Western B, Greely went 10-4 and earned the No. 4 seed for the playoffs. The Rangers hosted No. 5 Leavitt in the quarterfinals Thursday after rain postponed the contest 24 hours.
After a back-and-forth first half which resulted in an abundance of chances, but no goals, Greely finally broke through early in the second half when senior Julia Maine tipped home classmate Eliza Porter’s shot.
“Jess (Wilson) was taking it down and she hit it and Eliza took a shot and I just sort of touched it and it went right past (the goalie’s) pads,” Maine said. “I didn’t think it would go in, but it slipped past the post and went in.”
“I told the girls at halftime to just put the ball in the net,” Greely coach Kristina Lane Prescott said. “That’s all that matters. They stepped up. (Julia) knew where to be. She’s a strong player. It’s been her season. It’s coming together for her.”
Then, it was up to the Rangers’ defense and first-year senior goalie Emma Seymour to stand tall and protect it and that’s exactly what they did.
“It was a nervewracker,” said Seymour, after her first playoff game. “A 1-0 win says a lot. It’s more scary when we’re up a goal rather than being tied because the other team pushes so hard to try and get a goal.”
Greely advanced to meet top-ranked York, which has won six of the past seven regional crowns and has broken the Rangers’ hearts on numerous occasions.
It happened again Saturday as the Wildcats downed Greely for the third time this autumn, 2-1, in overtime. The Rangers actually tied the game after time expired when senior Meaghan Labbe (normally a defender) scored on a penalty corner, but York got the goal that mattered in extra time and Greely finished 11-5.
“I would have felt better if (York) outplayed us and won, but I think we dominated the game,” said Prescott. “We struggled to score. We had opportunities. Tying the game was unbelievable. We showed our heart. We didn’t give up for a second. The girls were absolutely out of control excited going in to overtime. One time down the field and a funky bounce and it was over.
“I’m not disappointed at all in our season. It’s been an awesome year. I’ve had these seniors all four years. The best part of coaching is watching it all come together. That happened for a lot of kids this year. A lot of girls flourished.”
While the Rangers will be hard hit by graduation (as usual), they’ll also return a strong core and will be at the top of the heap again in 2012.
“We have such an amazing program so every year we have girls who step up,” Prescott said.
Falmouth was right with Greely this fall as one of the top teams in Western B. The Yachtsmen won their final five games to wind up 9-4-1 and sixth in the region, setting up a first-ever meeting with No. 3 Spruce Mountain, a first-year school which combined former Western C contenders Jay and Livermore Falls.
Falmouth fell behind the host Phoenix, 2-0, before senior standout Megan Fortier cut into the deficit with a second half goal. After Spruce Mountain again scored to go up by two, Fortier scored in the final minute, giving the Yachtsmen life. Falmouth had two penalty corners in the final seconds, but couldn’t tie it up and despite a 19-8 advantage in shots and an 18-5 edge in corners, the Yachstmen’s season ended at 9-5-1 with the 3-2 loss.
“The Cardiac Kids’ didn’t have that last, extra beat,” said Falmouth coach Robin Haley, alluding to her team’s penchant for winning games late. “We had chances. We just didn’t execute. We played hard, but couldn’t put the ball in the net. It was really frustrating.
“We did a lot of great things this year. It certainly was an exciting season. I’d have liked to see us go further.”
Falmouth loses seven seniors, but like Greely, will be knocking on the door again next fall.
“We’ll have to figure some things out with the loss of Megan,” Haley said. “In any given game, all the seniors were significant. They played key roles for us. Other people will have to step up next year. The expectations were high for the sophomores this year and they rose to the occasion. I hope next year’s group does the same.”
Back to Western C, Freeport finished 8-6 and made the playoffs for third year in a row and 22nd time in the past quarter-century. The Falcons earned the No. 4 seed and hosted No. 5 Traip in the quarterfinals. Due to rainy weather and poor field conditions, the game was moved to the turf at Yarmouth High and Freeport got off to a good start when Katie Turner scored, but the Rangers erupted for four unanswered goals and won, 4-1, ending Freeport’s year at 8-7.
“Our playoff game was certainly a tough loss,” said Falcons coach Sara Dimick. “We started off strong and then started to mentally break down with Traip’s three consecutive goals. We were missing players from injuries and lacked subs for certain positions. My team tried to come back and we dominated a good portion of the second half. We had some missed scoring opportunities and we made some common mistakes.
“Overall, I think we had a strong season. My team worked very hard and we were pleased to finished our regular season with a record of 8-6, an improvement from last year. Finishing fourth was a huge accomplishment for our team. We are improving each year, which is wonderful to see and our seniors have done a nice job in leading us forward to this point.”
History and a talented roster suggest that Freeport will be formidable again next autumn.
“Next season, I’m excited to see the junior class take on leadership positions,” Dimick said. “They’re a wonderful group of girls with great attitudes and work ethics. I know they will be strong role models for our younger players and they will help to lead our team to success.”
Sun Journal staff writers Justin Pelletier and Randy Whitehouse contributed to this story