YARMOUTH—The faces may change, but one thing remains the same.
There’s the North Yarmouth Academy Panthers and then there’s everybody else when it comes to Class C field hockey.
Wednesday afternoon, in the season opener against visiting Freeport, it took the Panthers a mere 110 seconds to break the ice and take the lead for good. NYA then put the game away in the second half, scoring twice, as it went on to a 3-0 victory, continuing its recent domination of its neighbor and rival.
Freshman Juliana Tarrdif stole the show in her first varsity game. The Freeport native rattled the cage twice to help the Panthers open in style.
“I never tell anyone about my secret weapons,” said NYA coach Tracy Quimby, who didn’t mention Tardif in preseason discussions. “She’s got some good skills and speed. The kids have taken to her. She’s confident and head smart. She has a good command of the field and all the positions. She’ll do well anywhere.”
The Panthers have had no peer the past four seasons, winning the 2008, 2010 and 2011 Class C crowns, including last year in penalty corners over Winthrop.
Freeport made it to the quarterfinals a year ago, but lost to Traip, 4-1, to wind up 8-7.
NYA has had a stranglehold on the rivalry in recent seasons, beating the Falcons twice by 3-0 margins a year ago.
Wednesday, the Panthers earned possession quickly and went ahead when a shot by junior Olivia Madore was stopped, but Tardif was there to score on the rebound.
“We had some good passes and being low on post and making cuts to get open helped,” said Tardif. “I anticipated where the play was going.”
The rest of the half saw NYA with chances to build on the lead, but failing to do so. The Panthers had a 6-1 shots advantage over the first 30 minutes.
Early in the second half, Freeport forced play and even managed a penalty corner, but couldn’t earn the equalizer.
Then, with 20:44 left in regulation, the Panthers’ scoring tandem struck again as Tardif rebounded a Madore shot to make it a 2-0 game.
Quimby was happy to get a little breathing room.
“(Freeport) had a lot of close calls,” she said. “Being up 1-0 was nothing. I was worried.”
The clincher came with 3:53 on the clock. On a penalty corner, sophomore Marina Poole and senior captain Jen Brown executed a pretty give-and-go and Poole finished to make it 3-0, giving NYA a 1-0 record, dropping Freeport to 0-1.
“Overall, I’m so proud of us,” said Tardif. “Coming in new, everyone’s been welcoming. I think we have a great team and we work well together. I’m so happy to be here at NYA. It’s amazing to be with these experienced girls. We aren’t guaranteeing to win. We’re just working hard and we’re pushing. It’s a good start.”
The Panthers finished with 15 shots to six for the Falcons. Sophomore goalie Elizabeth Coughlin, who impressed during NYA’s title run last fall, saved all the shots she faced. The Panthers went 1-for-3 on penalty corners.
“I’m pretty happy,” said Quimby. “It was a pretty good start. Being 1-0 is nice. We’re going to do well if we stay healthy. We have a few players who are getting healthy. We have strong players. I think our seniors will be the backbone for us. Twelve of them are back. Most of them played their first year of varsity last year.”
Freeport was bolstered by 12 saves from goalie Tallie Martin and will only get better.
“Obviously it was a tough opener with the defending state champs on turf,” said Falcons coach Sara Dimick. “They have the advantage since we’re not a turf team. We’ve had limited time on turf. That was a concern going in. There were some beautiful moments where we connected as a group. The change of speed of the game really was tough for the girls to adjust to. At times, we were passing to space instead of taking a look. We had some opportunities. I was really proud that the girls played very hard until the end. I want them to recognize that and make their stamina and fight last for the whole game. I do have eight seniors. The rest need to learn to play with each other and learn their positions a little more.”
Freeport is back in action Friday versus Waynflete.
NYA is idle until Tuesday when it goes to Traip. The Panthers will face a big challenge Sept. 8 when Western B power Greely pays a visit.
“Greely will be a good test,” Quimby said. “They look really good.”
So do the defending champions.