NYA rallies to tie St. Dom’s in renewal of rivalry

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North Yarmouth Academy senior Savannah Shaw winds up to crush the ball as St. Dom’s senior Rhiannon Hersey looks on. Shaw tied the game off a penalty corner after time expired in regulation and the teams settled for a 3-3 draw.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

YARMOUTH—This one was definitely worth the wait.

Eight years after last meeting in a countable game, North Yarmouth Academy hosted St. Dominic Academy in an early season field hockey showdown Thursday afternoon at Lewis Field and the teams produced a barnburner.

One which went much longer than anyone could have anticipated.

The Saints carried play early and took a 1-0 lead just over six minutes in, when sophomore Paige Cote set up sophomore Caroline Johnson for a goal, but the Panthers answered with 11:32 to go in the first half when sophomore Amber Rose scored on a rebound.

St. Dom’s went back on top, 2-1, when junior Hannah Trottier-Braun finished a rush just before halftime and after NYA threatened but couldn’t score early in the second half, the Saints appeared to secure victory when sophomore Kylie Leavitt scored out of a scrum with 11:49 remaining.

The Panthers still trailed, 3-1, with just over three minutes left in regulation, when a goal from freshman Katie Larson gave them life.

Then, as time expired, NYA earned a penalty corner and was allowed to play it out and senior Savannah Shaw played the role of hero, burying a shot to force overtime.

There, twice, the Panthers appeared to complete the improbable comeback when Larson sent shots bound for the cage, but on both occasions, St. Dom’s senior sweeper Alexa Kesaris calmly made the save and the teams wound up settling for an entertaining 3-3 tie.

NYA, despite its youth, turned heads and earned some valuable Heal Points and both teams are now 2-0-1 on the season and atop the Class C South standings at this early juncture.

“It was a pretty dramatic comeback,” said Panthers first-year coach Wendy Polstein. “The girls have no quit. They have a lot of grit and drive considering what a super-young team we are. The first half was a little bit scary, but they pulled it together. We refocused and I’m really proud of them.”

Reunited

Thursday’s contest was the first meeting between the schools since Oct. 9, 2008 (a 3-0 Panthers’ win). NYA and St. Dom’s used to square off on a regular basis, sometimes twice a season, and on two occasions met in the playoffs, with each team winning once.

With the Saints’ return to the Western Maine Conference this school year, the rivalry has been renewed and both teams have shown promise.

The Panthers, who got to the semis a year ago, only to lose in double overtime to Lisbon, also won their first two contests: 9-0 over visiting Old Orchard Beach and 2-1 at home over Sacopee Valley. NYA, which battled serious issues with low roster numbers the past two seasons, has been bolstered this fall by the addition of four eighth graders (something the school’s enrollment number allows for).

St. Dom’s, which lost to Traip Academy in last year’s Class C South quarterfinals, opened by blanking visiting Sacopee Valley, 6-0, and dominating visiting Old Orchard Beach, 12-1.

Thursday, the Saints were on the verge of beating NYA for the first time since Sept. 20, 2008 (1-0 in Auburn), but the Panthers refused to lose, extended the game 16 minutes and the teams wound up sharing Heal Points.

St. Dom’s got the first scoring chance, less than two minutes in, but a shot from Trottier-Braun was kicked aside by NYA freshman goalie Eliza Tod.

Tod couldn’t deny the Saints next shot, as with 23:37 left in the first half, Cote set up Johnson in front and Johnson rattled the cage for a 1-0 lead.

The Panthers tried to answer with 19:51 to go before halftime when Larson raced in free, but St. Dom’s junior goalie Abigail Sionina broke up the chance.

Seconds later, on NYA’s first penalty corner, Rose’s shot was saved by Sionina and a rebound bid from freshman Hannah Twombly went wide.

With 11:32 left in the half, the Panthers broke through, as off a shot from Shaw that was blocked, Rose pounced on the loose ball and sent it into the goal to make it 1-1.

NYA almost went on top three minutes later as Larson eluded a pair of Saints defenders, then unleashed a shot, but Sionina made the save.

After Sionina denied Panthers senior Kiersten Marr and Twombly, the visitors went back ahead with 3:18 remaining in the half, as Trottier-Braun completed a rush through the defense by beating Tod to make it 2-1 St. Dom’s at halftime.

NYA then dominated a huge swath of the second half, but couldn’t deliver the equalizer.

Just 40 seconds in, Rose had a lot of open cage to shoot at, but missed just wide.

With 27:12 to play, Marr’s shot on a penalty corner was turned aside.

Rose then had a shot saved and shot wide.

With 16:34 left, the Saints almost extended their lead, but a shot hit the post.

After Sionina denied Marr, St. Dom’s did make it 3-1 with 11:49 remaining, as Leavitt got the ball in a scrum and finished to seemingly end the Panthers’ hopes.

But this NYA squad believes in battling to the very end and was rewarded.

With 3:12 to go, the Panthers got the ball in the circle, pressured and Larson was able to tap it home to make the score, 3-2, producing hope.

The Saints kept the ball in their offensive zone most of the remainder of regulation, but as time wound down, NYA hurried up the field and with just seconds showing, a penalty corner was awarded.

By rule, even though the clock ticked down to 0:00, the Panthers had an opportunity to complete their penalty corner and in dramatic fashion, they completed it in the most ideal way possible.

The ball was inserted up top to Shaw, who stopped it, took a dribble, then launched a shot on goal which deflected off a St. Dom’s defender and rattled the cage.

“I just knew we’d play it out, so I took my time,” Shaw said. “I looked up, saw an open corner and sent it on goal. I was just so happy we tied it up.”

NYA clearly had all the momentum going into the first of two possible eight-minute “sudden victory” overtimes and pressed to quickly end it.

Just 35 seconds in, Twombly had a shot saved by Sionina and 10 seconds later, Twombly got the ball back and shot wide.

After Trottier-Braun raced in on a breakaway hoping to end it for the Saints, only to have her rush broken up by Tod, Twombly had a shot saved at the other end.

Then, with 2:17 left in the first OT, Larson got a great look, sent the ball past Sionina and appeared primed to be the hero, but Kesaris, who didn’t leave her goalie’s side throughout overtime, calmly swept the ball away to extend the game.

“Lexi did a great job,” said St. Dom’s coach Brian Kay. “She’s a senior and she showed she’s been here awhile. That made the difference in overtime.”

In the final minute of the first overtime, the Saints earned two corners, but they couldn’t produce a shot on the first and on the second, junior Callie Samson shot wide, sending the game to a second and final extra session.

Fatigue was the winner for most of the second overtime, as both teams were running on fumes, before there were a flurry of chances down the stretch.

With 2:21 remaining, Samson shot just wide.

With 46.5 seconds to go, a shot from Leavitt was blocked.

Then, as it did at the end of regulation, NYA transitioned to offense as time wound down and appeared to be rewarded again, as Larson had a great chance in close, again Sionina couldn’t make a play and again, just before the ball crossed the line for a game-winning goal, Kesaris sent it the other way and the horn sounded, bringing the curtain down on a most entertaining 3-3 tie.

“We have a really young team and we played with so much heart,” Shaw said. “I’m so proud of them all. Everyone gave 110 percent. St. Dom’s is a really good team and we were expecting a good game. Both teams gave it their all. We had the momentum going into overtime and we tried it to keep the momentum going, but we couldn’t score.”

“I thought we had the momentum and had control over the ball in the overtime, but their sweeper made some crazy goalie-type saves,” Polstein said. “All in all, a tie against a team like St. Dom’s is a win for us. We’re a young team and everyone wants to win. We’re a little bit inexperienced and we have to pull from the heart.”

The Panthers outshot the Saints, 21-8. Tod made five saves.

“I’m super-proud of my freshman goalie,” Polstein said.

Each team had four penalty corners.

St. Dom’s got 16 saves from Sionina and two monstrous saves from Kesaris, but felt like it should have gotten out of Yarmouth with a win in regulation.

“I’d rather have a tie than a loss, but we always want to win,” Kay said. “It’s nice to be back in the Western Maine Conference and to see NYA again.”

Long season ahead

St. Dom’s goes home Saturday for a showdown with the defending Class B champion York Wildcats. Monday, the Saints have a chance to avenge last year’s playoff ouster with a trip to Traip Academy.

“We just have to pull it together,” Kay said. “We’ll learn from this and we’ll get better. This could be a wakeup call, which is good.”

NYA hosts red-hot Freeport Saturday morning and plays at the Maine Girls’ Academy/Waynflete co-op team Wednesday of next week. The Panthers will keep getting better.

“We’re really happy to have Coach Polstein here,” Shaw said. “She’s doing a great job getting everyone involved. We’re just trying to have fun. If our girls keep working and give everything we have the entire the season, I think we can go to playoffs and give any team a challenge.”

“I love the game and I love coaching girls,” Polstein said. “First and foremost, we’re here to have fun and learn and if we win, that much better. Games like this can change the dynamic of what the girls think they can do.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

NYA sophomore Katie Larson and St. Dom’s senior Alexa Kesaris lunge for the ball. Kesaris twice made defensive saves in overtime to allow the Saints to avoid a loss.

NYA sophomore Amber Rose lines up a shot as St. Dom’s junior goalie Abigail Sionina prepares to make the save. Rose scored her team’s first goal.

NYA sophomore Katie Larson goes one-on-one with St. Dom’s junior goalie Abigail Sionina.

NYA senior Kiersten Marr tries to elude St. Dom’s junior Eisa Lee.

NYA sophomore Amber Rose fires a shot on goal.

NYA senior Savannah Shaw sends a shot past St. Dom’s sophomore Paige Cote.

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