YARMOUTH—It’s never easy in the playoffs, even when it looks like it’s going to be.
Tuesday afternoon, in a Western Class C quarterfinal round playoff game, second-ranked North Yarmouth Academy dominated the early going against No. 7 Telstar, taking a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute when junior Marina Poole banged home a loose ball.
But the Panthers could never build on that lead and as a result, they had to hang on for dear life, but the team’s senior leadership and big-game experience carried them through and NYA was able to advance with a 1-0 victory.
The Panthers improved to 12-2-1, ended the Rebels’ season at 6-9 and advanced to set up a delicious semifinal round showdown Saturday against neighbor, rival and No. 3 seed Yarmouth at a time to be announced.
“It was a nailbiter,” said NYA assistant coach Lucy Gerrity, who filled in for Tracy Quimby, who missed the game for family reasons. “I would have liked to have seen more goals, but we came to play today. We were expecting (Telstar) to come out as hard as they could play. We knew they wanted it and we knew we wanted it.”
NYA and Telstar don’t play in the regular season, but Tuesday marked the fourth time in five seasons (and seventh time since 1990) that they’ve squared off in the crucible of the postseason (please see sidebar, below).
The Rebels won the first three meetings, but the Panthers prevailed in the 2009 and 2010 regional finals, then eked out on overtime win in the 2011 quarterfinals en route to their most recent championship.
NYA is coming off another strong regular season, one marred only by losses at Class A Falmouth and at home to Class B powerhouse York, as well as a scoreless tie against Traip.
Up-and-down Telstar won its opener, lost three in a row, won three in a row, lost five straight, then won its final two.
Tuesday, the Panthers did what they wanted to accomplish, get off to a hot start, but they couldn’t deliver the knockout blow and it took a full 60 minutes to secure the victory.
Just 98 seconds in, Poole took a pass from senior stick-wizard Olivia Madore and sent a shot on goal, but Rebels senior goalie Hali Barter made the save.
In the six minute, Madore tried to score on the backhand, but just missed.
On NYA’s first corner, moments later, Madore shot wide.
Then, with 20:35 showing in the first half, off another corner, Madore sent on a shot on goal that Barter made the save. Poole pounced on the rebound and in a crowd, eventually got it past the keeper and rattled the cage for a 1-0 advantage.
“(The goal) was really all my team,” said Poole. “I only touched it to get the goal. I hit it once, it deflected off the goalie and I hit it again. Whatever works.”
“(Marina) was in the right place,” said Gerrity. “She came up big. Her stick was down. She did exactly what she should do.”
Madore had two good chances to double the lead, but her first shot, off a corner, was saved by Barter and a second, after eluding five defenders as only she can, was again turned aside by the goalie.
With 8:56 to play before halftime, Telstar coach Gail Wight called timeout and afterwards, the Rebels began to pressure.
With 6:18 left, Panthers senior Abby McKelvy had to break up a rush by Telstar freshman Natasha Hart. Seconds later, sophomore Becca Howard fired her team’s first shot, but NYA junior goalie Elizabeth Coughlin made the save to preserve the lead.
Late in the half, Panthers sophomore Juju Tardif sent a shot just high and the hosts took a 1-0 lead (along with an 11-1 shots advantage and a 5-0 edge in penalty corners) to the break.
Early in the second half, Madore just missed a chance to extend the lead.
At the other end, with 26:02 to go, the Rebels had their best chance to tie the score, but a bid from Howard with Coughlin out of the cage went just wide, allowing NYA to exhale.
After another Madore bid was denied by Barter, McKelvy broke up a rush by Hart.
With 8:10 to go, Panthers senior Kayla Rose sent a ball on cage which Tardif tipped, but again Barter made the stop.
Wight then called her final timeout, hoping to spark a rally, but Telstar wouldn’t manage another shot.
NYA’s strong defense and midfield play ran out the clock and the Panthers advanced, 1-0.
“It’s never easy,” Poole said. “It was definitely a tough game. We had a lot of close calls. A lot of good opportunities. We just didn’t capitalize. They played a good game. It was good competition. We wanted to play our game, NYA field hockey. That’s all we could do.”
“Our defense played so well,” Gerrity said. “I’m very happy with what I saw from them. Experience definitely helps.”
NYA finished with a 20-2 shots advantage and had 10 corners to none for the Rebels. Barter made eight saves, while Coughlin stopped one shot.
Saturday, NYA and Yarmouth (10-4-1) will square off in the postseason for the first time since 1995 and based on two palpitating regular season meetings, it’s bound to be a doozy.
On Sept. 13, the Panthers rallied to beat the Clippers, 2-1, on Madore’s goal in double overtime. The teams met again Oct. 7, on Yarmouth’s turf field, and an early Madore goal held up for a 1-0 triumph.
The teams have met four previous times in the playoffs, with NYA winning on three occasions. The first meeting was in the 1985 semifinals, when the teams first played to a 1-1 tie in six overtimes, then started from scratch where the Panthers prevailed, 1-0. Eight years later, NYA eked out a 1-0 win in the semifinals. In 1994, the Panthers, en route to their first championship, beat the Clippers, 1-0, in the regional final. Yarmouth finally got a measure of revenge the next year, en route to its lone championship, with a 1-0 overtime win in the quarterfinals.
“We’re working our way on to hopefully states,” Poole said. “It does help having our experience. That will be a very tough game for us. It’s hard to win a third time, but I think we’re prepared.”
“We’re going to have to focus,” Gerrity said. “It’s going to be a fun game. It’s been a long time. The seniors are definitely focused. They don’t want to go home.”
NYA sophomore Juju Tardif drives in on goal.
NYA senior Olivia Madore and her unrivaled stick skills are no match for a Telstar defender.
NYA junior Marina Poole plays the ball up the field.
NYA senior Kayla Rose beams and joins junior teammates Marina Poole (left) and goalie Elizabeth Coughlin after the final horn sounds on the Panthers’ 1-0 victory.
Western C quarterfinals
NYA 2 Telstar 1 (OT)
Western C Final
NYA 3 Telstar 2
Western C Final
NYA 2 Telstar 1
Western C Final
Telstar 3 NYA 0
Western C quarterfinals
Telstar 1 NYA 0
Western C semifinals
Telstar 4 NYA 0 (after playing to 2-2 tie)
NYA junior Marina Poole (19) is congratulated by her teammates after scoring the game’s only goal in the first half of Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Telstar.
Brian Beard photos.
More photos below.