Yarmouth handles Fryeburg Academy, advances to semifinals

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Yarmouth senior Ally MacLeod, right, is congratulated by her teammates after scoring for a 2-0 lead during Tuesday’s Class B South quarterfinal versus Fryeburg Academy. The Clippers went on to a 5-1 win and advanced to meet Kennebunk in the semifinals this weekend.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

YARMOUTH—A month ago, Yarmouth’s field hockey team started fast in a home tilt against Fryeburg Academy, then did next to nothing for the rest of the game before holding on for a 2-1 victory.

Tuesday afternoon, in a Class B South quarterfinal, the Clippers hosted the Raiders again and again, they started strong.

But this time, Yarmouth didn’t let up and as a result, the Clippers are off to the semifinals for the third time in four years.

Yarmouth took the lead in the game’s fourth minute, as junior Sophie McGrath scored from senior Chloe Noack on a penalty corner.

The Clippers went up 2-0 in the 20th minute, as senior Abby McDowell set up Ally MacLeod.

Unlike the previous meeting, Yarmouth got the third goal as well, as with 5:25 to go, McDowell scored, from MacLeod.

The Raiders took a timeout and answered, as senior captain Bridget Tweedie scored 17 seconds later, but the Clippers reasserted control with 51.3 seconds to go in the half, when junior Emilie Martin backhanded a blast on a corner for a commanding 4-1 halftime advantage.

Yarmouth didn’t let up in the second half and delivered the dagger with 4:59 to play, when MacLeod scored her second goal.

The Clippers went on to a 5-1 victory and live to play another day.

Yarmouth improved to 11-4, ended Fryeburg Academy’s season at 6-8-1 and advanced to battle No. 2 Kennebunk (12-3) in the semifinals either Friday or Saturday.

“I was hoping we’d win today, but I didn’t expect by this much,” said Clippers first-year coach Amy Ashley. “It’s exciting to see. I’m so proud of the girls. They really deserve it. We talked a little about last game, but not much. We talked more about our preparation. We’re a different team than we were. Our lineup and strategy are different. “

Step one

Last fall, Yarmouth earned the No. 2 seed behind York in Class B South, but was upset by Spruce Mountain, 2-1, in double overtime in the quarterfinals.

This time around, the Clippers are determined to advance deeper.

“We weren’t going to let what happened last year happen this year,” said Ashley, who took over the Yarmouth program this fall after eight years coaching Cheverus. “The girls were sick of hearing me talk about it, but we weren’t going to lose in the quarterfinals.” 

Yarmouth had its struggles in the regular season, losing twice in overtime to Falmouth, once in OT to Kennebunk and at home to York, but the Clippers closed on a five-game surge (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories) and wound up third in the region.

“I think the losses hurt, but we learned a lot from them and we used them to become mentally tougher,” Ashley said. 

Fryeburg Academy finished the regular season 6-7-1 and wound up sixth in Class B South, which allowed it to avoid a preliminary round game.

In the regular season encounter Sept. 16, Yarmouth got early goals from McDowell and senior Molly Wilson, but was lackluster the rest of the way and had to hold on for a 2-1 victory.

In the teams’ lone prior playoff encounter, the Clippers prevailed, 1-0, in the 2001 Western B quarterfinals.

Tuesday, on an overcast but comfortable evening, Yarmouth put it all together.

The first chance came 3:08 into the game and the Clippers made it count, as off a penalty corner, Noack passed the ball to McGrath, whose shot got past a couple defenders as well as Fryeburg Academy junior goalie Bridget Fahey for a 1-0 lead.

After McDowell shot just wide after taking a pass from Eliza Lunt, Ashley called timeout and Yarmouth responded.

After Fahey robbed Lunt, the hosts went up 2-0 with 10;52 to play in the half, as McDowell set up MacLeod.

“Ally has scored so many big goals this year,” McDowell said. “It’s awesome.”

With 9:40  left before halftime, the Raiders looked as if they’d cut the deficit in half, as a long shot from senior Alexis Charles rattled the cage, but the bid came from outside the circle and didn’t count.

The Clippers then returned to their scoring ways. 

After McDowell had a shot saved by Fahey, she managed to finish on a corner with 5:25 remaining, converting a feed from MacLeod to make it 3-0.

“We’ve worked a lot on our corners and we’ve really improved,” McDowell said.

“Our corners worked well for us,” MacLeod said. “We usually score off rebounds. We kept fighting and eventually scored.”

Fryeburg Academy coach Dede Frost called timeout and it worked, as on a rush Tweedie managed to beat Yarmouth junior goalie Cate Ralph to cut the Yarmouth lead to 3-1.

That could have swung momentum back to the Raiders, but the Clippers were unflappable, returning to the attack and after Lunt hit the post, then had a rebound saved by Fahey, Yarmouth earned another corner and senior Nicole McDowell set up Martin for a gorgeous backhanded blast into the cage for a 4-1 lead with 51.3 seconds left.

“We had to get that goal back and we did,” Abby McDowell said. “Emilie stepped up.”

The Clippers went 3 for 8 on first half corners.

“The girls are seeing where they should be on corners,” Ashley said. “A lot of our goals on corners aren’t on shots, but on deflections. In my mind, it’s great to get a goal on one of four corners, so to get three of eight was awesome.”

Yarmouth retained its intensity in the second half, even if the offense dried up.

Early on, Fahey denied Abby McDowell, then robbed MacLeod twice.

After several minutes without a good chance, the Clippers delivered the coup de grace with 4:59 to play, as MacLeod rolled a shot past Fahey for a 5-1 lead.

“We knew a team like that fighting for their season could come back, so we had to keep fighting,” MacLeod said.

“Ally gets upset at herself when she misses,” Ashley said. “She thinks every time the ball comes near her, she should score. That makes her great. If she doesn’t score, she keeps the ball in play and allows someone else to.”

MacLeod almost got her hat trick goal with 3:17 to play, but just missed on a corner.

Yarmouth ran out the clock from there and celebrated its victory.

“This means a lot because last year, we came in thinking we’d win and we didn’t,” MacLeod said. “This year, we were a little nervous because we didn’t want to be overconfident. We had to come in and get rid of the nerves and play confident like we usually do.”

“We knew we had to redeem ourselves from the way we played last time,” Abby McDowell said. “That wasn’t our game. We had to step it up today and show our real game and I think we did.”

“Fundamentally, this team is better than any team I had at Cheverus, but we weren’t tough,” Ashley added. “Now we are. It’s great to see the girls succeed.”

The Clippers had four different players score their five goals.

“This season, we’ve done a good job of having different goal scorers,” McDowell said. “It’s a big strength of our team.”

“We’re hard to defend because we don’t have a dominating scorer,” Ashley said. “We’re a complete team and anyone can step up on a different day. It’s huge to have four girls score five goals.”

Yarmouth finished with a 13-3 advantage in penalty corners and a 12-1 edge in shots.

Three steps remain

Yarmouth figures to get a battle from Kennebunk in the semifinals in the first ever postseason meeting between the teams.

The Clippers split with the Rams this season, losing in overtime (1-0) at Kennebunk Sept. 20 and winning at home (2-1) Oct. 5.

Yarmouth is ready for the challenge.

“We have the team to go far,” McDowell said. “We’ve had some tough losses, but we’re playing our best right now. That’s important. Playoffs are the time we need it. We’re really excited to play Kennebunk. We played well against them last time. Hopefully we’ll play that way again.” 

“It’s going to be a good game,” MacLeod said. “We’re pretty even. This time, we’ll have to play the best we ever have and we hope we make it.”

“It’s been a great journey and hopefully we’ll have a long run,” Ashley added. “I’ll take this team any day. I have the utmost confidence in them. We want tough games. I’m excited we’re moving on. We’ll see what happens.”

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

Yarmouth junior Sophie McGrath shoots past Fryeburg Academy senior Alexis Charles for the game’s first goal.

Yarmouth senior Eliza Lunt fires a shot.

Yarmouth senior Ally MacLeod lines up a shot.

Yarmouth senior Eliza Lunt is denied by Fryeburg Academy junior goalie Bridget Foley.

Fryeburg Academy junior Zoe Bodwell slows the rush of Yarmouth senior Ally MacLeod.

Previous Yarmouth stories

Season Preview

Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 2 (OT)

York 3 Yarmouth 1

Yarmouth 2 Fryeburg Academy 1

Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 2 (2 OT)

Yarmouth 5 Freeport 0

Yarmouth 2 Kennebunk 1

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