YARMOUTH—Falmouth came out ahead on the scoreboard, but it was the effort of North Yarmouth Academy that really turned heads at Wednesday afternoon’s interclass field hockey showdown at Lewis Field.

The defending Western Class C champion Panthers were undermanned throughout, but managed to hang tough for 60 minutes and give the Western A contending Yachtsmen a mighty scare.

Falmouth got the jump in the 18th minute, but even that goal didn’t come easily, as senior standout Elle Fitzgerald had a shot saved in dramatic fashion by North Yarmouth Academy’s stellar senior goalie Elizabeth Coughlin before sophomore Kate Kelley banged home the rebound.

The Yachtsmen had plenty of chances to extend their lead and for a time in the second half, even had two extra players on the field, but the Panthers not only didn’t wilt, they took the fight to Falmouth late in the game.

Three separate times, NYA earned a penalty corner, but the Yachtsmen’s defense stood tall and they managed to hold on for a 1-0 victory.

Both teams are now 6-2 on the season and both have reason to believe that even better days are ahead.

“I’m really very impressed with (NYA), maintaining their poise the entire game,” said Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “They were unfazed by anything we did out on the field and they applied a lot of pressure. I actually think it was a psychological edge for them.”

Interclass fun

While North Yarmouth Academy has been the premier program in Western Class C the past several seasons, Falmouth has been a top contender in Class B and then last year, after moving up due to increased enrollment, in Class A.

After not meeting for several seasons, the one-time Class C rivals began playing regularly in 2010 and have produced some memorable results.

In 2010, the Panthers, en route to a state championship, came to Falmouth and prevailed, 2-0. In 2011, the Yachtsmen returned the favor, courtesy standout and former Panther Megan Fortier, tying the game late, then winning it, 2-1, on a goal in the second overtime. Two years ago, Falmouth edged visiting NYA, 1-0, and last fall, the Yachtsmen did it again by the same score, this time on a Jillian Rothweiler tally in OT.

So far this autumn, both squads have been very competitive.

Falmouth handled host Fryeburg Academy in its first 2014 outing, 5-1, then lost at home to Cape Elizabeth, 2-1. The Yachtsmen then won at Greely (1-0) and at home over Kennebunk (2-0) before falling at home to York (6-0), Falmouth got back on the right track with a 2-0 home win over Lake Region and won at Freeport, 3-1.

NYA, despite having virtually no margin for error due to a roster of just 10 players, opened by blanking host Wells (1-0) and Traip (2-0) and visiting Old Orchard Beach (5-0) and losing at Yarmouth, 2-1. The Panthers then survived back-to-back overtime games, beating visiting Waynflete (1-0) and host Sacopee (2-1). Saturday, NYA won in a more conventional manner, blanking visiting Traip (3-0).

Wednesday, the Panthers tried their best to keep up with the Yachtsmen, but fell just shy.

NYA had the first good scoring chance, in the fourth minute, but a cross from senior Marina Poole to classmate Charlotte Eisenberg was just long.

Coughlin faced her first shot in the 13th minute when she turned aside a bid from Fitzgerald (on a feed from sophomore Sydney Bell).

Falmouth would break through with 12:21 to play in the half.

On a penalty corner, Bell inserted the ball to Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald got a good look at the goal. Her blast appeared destined for the left corner of the cage, but at the last possible second, Coughlin, who has made so many big saves over the past four seasons, made one of her best by stopping the ball with her right foot.

Problem was, Coughlin sent the rebound out front where Kelley was waiting and Kelley managed to do what Fitzgerald couldn’t, beating Coughlin for a 1-0 advantage.

“It was really just Elle,” said Kelley. “She had a great hit and I just happened to touch it. I just one-touched it.”

“(Kate) was in the right place at the right time,” Haley said. “She’s been a great player for us. She’s created scoring opportunities for us. She has impeccable timing and hand-eye coordination. She’s had some unbelievable passing into the circle.”

NYA coach Tracy Quimby couldn’t find any fault with her goalie.

“That was a beautiful tip,” Quiimby said. “She can’t stop everything.”

At the end of the half, Falmouth earned consecutive corners, but the Panthers killed them and the score remained 1-0 at the break.

In the first 30 minutes, the Yachtsmen enjoyed a 5-1 advantage in shots.

Falmouth would have ample opportunities to extend their lead early in the second half, but couldn’t do so.

Just three minutes in, Yachtsmen junior Keunjoo Kim was on the verge of a breakaway, but Coughlin came way out of the cage to kick the ball away.

With 25:08 to play in regulation, Fitzgerald fired a rocket, but it went just wide.

The Panthers counterattacked and almost drew even, but a shot from Poole was saved by Falmouth senior goalie Caroline Dyhrberg and the rebound was cleared by a defender.

On an ensuing corner, NYA junior Mackenzie Sangster’s shot was blocked by Yachtsmen senior Emily Alexander. Sophomore Kiersten Marr then was denied in front by Dyhrberg.

After Fitzgerald was frustrated a couple more times, the Panthers pushed again for the equalizer.

First, Sangster had a shot blocked.

Then, with about four minutes to play, NYA earned three successive corners, but Falmouth’s defense held firm and didn’t allow a shot.

“If we got by one player, they’d be right there on us,” said Panthers senior Alex Barnes. “We worked really hard on getting through them, but their layers and their speed were hard for us. Their defense did a great job on us. We wanted to capitalize on those corners, but they played great. It just didn’t go our way.”

In the final minute, the Panthers tried one final time, but Yachtsmen sophomore Maddie Rouhana cleared the ball and the visitors held on for a 1-0 triumph.

“I think overall we played really well,” Kelley said. “We moved the ball well and passed well. It was really nervewracking only being up by one. We held our own and hung tough.”

Falmouth outshot NYA, 10-5, and had a 6-5 edge in corners.

“It was great we had the ball down there a lot of time, but it would have been nice to get a few more in,” said Kelley.

“We thought we could overpower them, but that wasn’t the case today,” Haley said. “I guess we need to work some more on our scoring and execution. We didn’t capitalize well enough.”

Dyhrberg stopped two shots.

Who needs 11?

Coughlin made three saves for the Panthers, who left the field with their heads held high.

“That was an absolutely amazing game,” Barnes said. “So far, it’s been our best game of the season. We had great passing, great talk, great all-around teamwork. Even when they scored, we didn’t get down on ourselves. We kept playing through it.

“We just work hard in practice every day. We don’t use numbers as an excuse. We know we have the skill and the will to win. It’s fun to go out and show teams that no matter how many we have, we can come out as strong as any other team. We’re proud of how we’re playing and I think we can keep that going.”

“I think we did a great job,” Quimby said. “Falmouth’s a tough team. They have great speed. We had our opportunities. I’d kill for an extra forward. You move things around and do what you can. We had some great runs. Charlotte had a great carry up the right side. Mackenzie did it up the left side. Marina did everything she possibly could. There’s not much more you can ask.

“My expectations are the same (this year), to be honest. The way we look at it, when (we coaches) were in high school, we wanted to be on the field 100 percent of the time. We didn’t want to be hauled off for a sub, so they shouldn’t want that either. The 10 of them play the full game. If they need to come off, they do and we figure out who to move where. If you’re playing your hardest, who wants to come off anyway?”

NYA’s effort certainly made an impression on the Yachtsmen.

“It’s really impressive that they can play like that even a player down,” Kelley said. “They’re a great team. They moved the ball really well and they have some great stick skills.”

“(Numbers were) a non-issue,” Haley said. “They’re so well versed playing with those numbers that they have every facet covered. It’s remarkable, especially at this level of competition.”

Chasing Heal Points

Both teams figure to earn high seeds for the playoffs, but they’ll both need to win their share of games in the latter stage of the regular season.

NYA (fourth behind Oak Hill, Yarmouth and Lisbon in the Western Class C Heal Points standings at press time) is back in action Saturday morning when Wells pays a visit. After going to Old Orchard Beach and hosting Yarmouth next week, the Panthers go to Waynflete, host Sacopee and close at York.

Rest assured that NYA will be fired up for crosstown rival Yarmouth, which is undefeated to date.

“Yarmouth’s a game everyone gets excited for,” Barnes said. “They’re always such good, close games. I can’t wait to play them again and hopefully come out on top this time. I think coming into the season, a lot of people doubted us, but we’ve proved we’re as good as any other team in our class. I think we have a great shot if we keep playing really hard like we did today.”

“We’re hoping to stay in the top four,” Quimby said. “That’s been our goal from the beginning. We have some top competition. We have Yarmouth, we have Oak Hill and we have Lisbon. We’re right there. We’ll give it a good run for the money.”

Falmouth (second to defending regional champion Scarborough in Western A) will have its road perfection put to a serious test Friday when it visits York. After hosting Fryeburg Academy Monday, the Yachtsmen will go to Cape Elizabeth Wednesday. Home games against Poland and Greely and a trip to Gray-New Gloucester close the season.

I’m not sure (how we’re winning on the road), but I’m glad it’s working out,” said Kelley. “We’re really happy with our record so far. We’re excited for York.”

We’re taking it one game a time and it’s worked out,” Haley said. “I hope it continues Friday. Our focus is to go in and try to win. We want to execute and play better than last time. We’ll just keep going.”

Both teams will.

You can bank on that.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

NYA senior Muriel Adams clears the ball away from Falmouth junior Keunjoo Kim as Panthers senior goalie Elizabeth Coughlin looks on.

NYA junior Kelsey Bartolini muscles Falmouth senior Elle Fitzgerald away from the ball.

Falmouth sophomore Sydney Bell fires the ball forward.

Falmouth senior goalie Caroline Dyhrberg kicks the ball out of harm’s way.

Falmouth senior standout Elle Fitzgerald runs down a loose ball.

Falmouth junior Keunjoo Kim sends a shot on goal.

Falmouth senior Kate Lannon and NYA sophomore Kiersten Marr fight for possession.

NYA senior Marina Poole runs down the ball as Falmouth senior Erika Gardner gives chase.

NYA junior Mackenzie Sangster chases down a loose ball.

Falmouth senior Dayna Vasconcelos blocks a shot by NYA sophomore Kiersten Marr.

Recent Falmouth-NYA results

@ Falmouth 1 NYA 0 (OT)

@ Falmouth 1 NYA 0

Falmouth 2 @ NYA 1 (2 OT)

NYA 2 @ Falmouth 0

Sidebar Elements

Falmouth sophomore Kate Kelley (left, with headband) is congratulated by (from left) sophomore Devon Sarazin, sophomore Sydney Bell and junior Keunjoo Kim after scoring the lone goal of Wednesday’s 1-0 victory at North Yarmouth Academy.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

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