Shots and saves galore as Freeport, NYA settle for tie

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Freeport senior captain and goalie Megan Seymour denies North Yarmouth Academy senior Kiersten Marr for one of her 25 saves in the teams’ 1-1 tie Saturday morning.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

YARMOUTH—At least it wasn’t a loss.

That was the sentiment of both teams following Saturday morning’s Freeport at North Yarmouth Academy field hockey showdown at Lewis Field.

The Falcons were hoping to end an 11-year, 15-game losing streak at the hands of the Panthers, while NYA was still recovering from a 76-minute tie against St. Dom’s less than 48 hours prior.

In the end, thanks to dynamic play from both goalies, the rivals split Heal Points and both continued to show why their future is very bright.

Freeport senior goalie and captain Megan Seymour stymied the Panthers much of the day, but NYA did grab a 1-0 lead early in the second half when eighth grader Eleanor Commons scored her first career goal on a rebound.

The Falcons then took over and pressured for the equalizer, which came with 20:40 remaining, as sophomore Alexa Koenig did the honors.

Down the stretch, both teams had good chances, but Seymour and Panthers freshman goalie Eliza Tod stood tall, sending the contest to overtime.

In the first of two eight-minute, seven-on-seven, “sudden victory” extra sessions, Koenig appeared primed to win it for the visitors, but her sure goal was swept aside by NYA sophomore defender Caroline Gepfert, necessitating a second OT.

There, Seymour came up big several more times and despite earning a penalty corner as time expired, Freeport wasn’t able to convert and the teams settled for a 1-1 draw.

The Falcons, thanks in large part to a whopping 25 saves from Seymour, snapped a 15-game losing streak to the Panthers and are now 2-0-1 on the season, while NYA is now 2-0-2 on the young campaign.

“We’ll take the tie, but we sure came close on a lot of chances,” said first-year Panthers coach Wendy Polstein. “Both teams played great. That’s all you can ask for on a hot day. I couldn’t believe how many shots were fired in a low scoring game. It says a lot about defense on both sides.”

“It’s hot and we were dying in seven-v-seven,” said Freeport coach Marcia Wood. “At that point, it’s more hustle than skill. We’ll work on our conditioning some more.”

Fast starters

Freeport came in to the season believing it could be among the top teams in Class B South and after avenging last year’s preliminary round playoff loss with a 4-1 home victory over Gray-New Gloucester to start the year, the Falcons enjoyed a 4-0 victory at Cape Elizabeth Tuesday.

NYA won its first two contests: 9-0 over visiting Old Orchard Beach and 2-1 at home over Sacopee Valley, then, despite a dramatic rally from two goals down with just over three minutes to go and despite tying the score on a corner after time expired, the Panthers had to settle for a 3-3 home tie with St. Dom’s Thursday.

This rivalry has long been in NYA’s favor and the teams didn’t play in any of the prior three seasons.

Entering play Saturday, the Panthers had won 15 straight meetings and held a 16-4 (with four ties) advantage over the Falcons dating back to the start of the 2001 season (see sidebar, below).

Saturday, under sunny, 75 degree skies, Freeport sought its first win over NYA since a 4-2 home victory way back on Sept. 19, 2005.

The Falcons didn’t get it, but they did snap the Panthers’ long run of dominance in the series.

In the second minute of the game, Freeport earned consecutive penalty corners, but only managed one shot, a bid from junior Chloe Davidson, which Tod denied.

NYA’s first shot came in the eighth minute, but sophomore Amber Rose was denied by Seymour.

After Seymour stopped a shot from Panthers sophomore Alex Markonish on a corner, Tod stopped Koenig’s backhanded blast at the other end.

With 16:45 to go in the first half, Falcons sophomore Natalie Anderson was robbed in front and moments later, Anderson shot wide.

After Panthers freshman Katie Larson had a shot saved by Seymour, senior Kiersten Marr bid for the lead, but after a long run and after eluding several Freeport defenders, Marr hit the far post.

Late in the half, NYA earned a corner and Rose appeared ready to score, but Freeport junior defender and captain Izzy Masison swept the ball out of harm’s way.

Then, in the final minute, off another corner, Larson twice shot at Seymour, the first a low bid and the second high, but Seymour stood tall to keep the game 0-0 at halftime.

The Panthers outshot the Falcons, 10-5, in the first half and had a 5-3 edge in corners, but couldn’t grab the lead.

NYA did go ahead early in the second half, as after Rose was denied by Seymour, Marr sent a shot on goal which was saved, but Commons was there to bury the rebound on the backhand and the hosts were up, 1-0.

With the Panthers’ low numbers (only 60 girls in the upper school), they’re permitted by Maine Principals’ Association rule to use eighth graders and this particular eighth grader came up big.

“(Eleanor’s) my first go-to sub and she’s really improving every day,” Polstein said. “She wants to know how to play the game. She listens. She does what we tell her to do.”

Freeport was able to counter, but it took a few minutes.

After Tod denied both Davidson and Koenig, Koenig took a pass from sophomore Reilly Lefebvre in the circle and sent the ball into the cage to make it 1-1 with 20:40 remaining in regulation.

That would be it for scoring, but both teams had many, many more opportunities.

Four minutes after drawing even, the Falcons almost took the lead, but senior Bailey Coffin shot wide.

After Seymour robbed Larson, Freeport sophomore Kerry Lefebvre had two looks, but Tod turned both aside.

Coffin and Koenig each shot wide at one end and Larson and Rose did the same at the other.

Then, with 11.4 seconds to go, it appeared the Falcons were going to win it, as a shot from Koenig rattled the cage, but a split second before the shot, an official’s whistle blew, negating the goal due to a dangerous shot.

The game would go to overtime, where the great chances continued.

After neither team could muster a shot for over four minutes in the first OT, Koenig had four chances to end it, but her first three shots were denied by Tod’s pads and the fourth, that appeared ticketed for the goal, was swept away by Gepfert to keep the game going.

“Caroline made a big play,” said Polstein. “Thank goodness she was in there. We discussed that in practice yesterday and she saved a goal by pretending she was the goalie.”

Down the stretch in overtime, Seymour robbed Marr, freshman Hannah Twombly and Rose unleashed shots on a corner which Seymour saved and a final NYA corner after time expired didn’t result in a shot, sending the game to a second and final OT.

Just 52 seconds into the second overtime, Twombly’s bid to end it was denied by Seymour and Marr sent a rebound wide.

After Marr had another shot on goal turned aside by Seymour, the Panthers earned a corner and senior Savannah Shaw twice shot on the doorstep and was denied by Seymour.

After Freeport junior Maya Bradbury shot wide, Koenig was on the brink of breaking in, but Tod kicked the ball away.

The Falcons then earned a corner, but a shot from Reilly Lefebvre was blocked.

Then, as time expired, Freeport earned another corner and NYA committed a transgression, giving the Falcons one last chance to win it, but after Davidson whiffed on a shot, the whistle sounded and the teams had to settle for the 1-1 tie.

“It’s beyond frustrating,” Wood said. “That was 100 percent not my team out there. I’m not sure what happened between the first two games and today, but better to have it happen now than later in the season and not being able to recover from it. The old saying is hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle and it’s not that we weren’t hustling, but they outhustled us.”

“I think the girls are quite tired and I’m tired from the stress of just watching,” Polstein said. “I think we play a spectacular 7-on-7 game. We’re stronger playing short for some reason. Freeport has a great goalie and we have a freshman goalie who played well with a lot of pressure on her.”

Indeed, the goalies were the story, as Tod made 18 saves, but even more impressively, Seymour had 25.

Seymour, who waited patiently behind all-state goalie Morgan Karnes, has earned her chance and made the most of it.

“It was really, really nervewracking,” Seymour said. “When the ball is far away, I think and position myself and when the ball is right there, I just react. I didn’t want to let a shot in. This feels good because we played well and gave our all. It’s a little sad not to win.”

“(Megan) was phenomenal,” Wood said. “Megan lived in Morgan Karnes’ shadow for three years and she was patiently waiting her turn. It gives me goose bumps that she never gave up and look what she’s doing.”

NYA had a 26-19 shots advantage and Freeport had nine penalty corners to eight for the Panthers.

Continuing to get better

NYA will enjoy some much needed rest before returning to action Wednesday, when it goes to the Maine Girls’ Academy/Waynflete co-op team. The Panthers are back home Friday to battle Wells.

“We can rest Sunday and we have practice Monday and Tuesday, which is nice,” Polstein said. “This week was wearing on us.”

Freeport hopes to stay undefeated when it welcomes a very talented unbeaten Kennebunk squad Monday, The Falcons are home with Lake Region Wednesday, then play host to Poland Saturday.

“This is really encouraging,” Seymour said. “We’ll build off this. We just have to work.”

“We get (Kennebunk) at home and we’ll play our game,” Wood said. “We have a lot of potential. I need it to click and click faster and click all game. As long as we’re where we need to be in October, we’ll be fine. We want to stay away from York, Yarmouth and Kennebunk as long as we can. We’re still very young.”

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

NYA sophomore Caroline Gepfert tries to get the ball away from Freeport junior captain Izzy Masison. Gepfert’s defensive save in the first overtime helped the Panthers earn a tie.

NYA senior Kiersten Marr lunges for a loose ball as Freeport junior Chloe Davidson closes in.

NYA eighth grader Eleanor Commons is mobbed by her teammates after scoring her first varsity goal to the give the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the first half.

NYA senior Savannah Shaw and Freeport junior Chloe Davidson fight for the ball.

Freeport junior Maya Bradbury tries to keep the ball away from NYA sophomore Alex Markonish.

Freeport senior Bailey Coffin prepares to drive the ball as NYA sophomore Alex Markonish defends and senior Savannah Shaw looks on.

Recent NYA-Freeport results

2012
@ NYA 3 Freeport 0
NYA 5 @ Freeport 1

2011
@ NYA 3 Freeport 0
@ NYA 3 Freeport 0

2010
@ NYA 10 Freeport 1
NYA 5 @ Freeport 0

2009
NYA 5 @ Freeport 0
@ NYA 5 Freeport 0

2008
@ NYA 1 Freeport 0
NYA 3 @ Freeport 0

2007
NYA 2 @ Freeport 1
@ NYA 1 Freeport 0

2006
@ NYA 3 Freeport 1
NYA 3 @ Freeport 2

2005
@ Freeport 4 NYA 2
@ NYA 2 Freeport 1

2004
@ Freeport 0 NYA 0 (tie)
@ NYA 0 Freeport 0 (tie)

2003
@ Freeport 1 NYA 0
@ NYA 1 Freeport 0

2002
@ Freeport 4 NYA 0
@ NYA 1 Freeport 1 (tie)

2001
Freeport 2 @ NYA 0
@ Freeport 2 NYA 2 (tie)

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