Boys’ team:

Jay Harper, Freeport tennis

Freeport’s boys’ tennis team has long lived in the shadow of Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Yarmouth, but that all changed this spring.

The Falcons enjoyed the finest season in program history, one that brought them all the way to the Class B state final and within a point of their first-ever championship.

Longtime coach Jay Harper was excited about his team’s prospects prior to the season and absolutely thrilled with the end result and his ability to lead Freeport to a level it had never before risen convinced The Forecaster to name Jay Harper of Northern edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a boys’ team.

After graduating from Thornton Academy and the University of Southern Maine, Harper took over the Falcons in 2001 and nearly led them to a title that first year, going 12-3 and losing to Winthrop in the Western C Final. Just two winning seasons followed between 2002-17, but after losing to Cape Elizabeth in last year’s quarterfinal round, Harper believed he had a team capable of making some noise this spring.

“I’m excited and expect a deeper run in playoffs this year,” said Harper, back in April.

Freeport then won nine of 12 regular season matches, losing only to 11-time Class C champion Waynflete (twice) and Cape Elizabeth (by a 3-2 score). As the second seed in Class B South, the Falcons beat York, 5-0, in the quarterfinals, ousted defending regional champion Yarmouth, 4-1, in the semifinals, then made history by beating big, bad Cape Elizabeth, 4-1, to win a regional championship for the first time. While Freeport dropped a 3-2 decision to Caribou in the state match, it was a season for the ages.

“It has been 18 years to get back here and to reach the goal of making it to states and it is hard to believe,” said Harper. “This team talked at the beginning of the year about winning it all. They stayed together and played together.

“There is a bright future and next year we will be loaded, with a good group of juniors coming back and some good freshmen. We could be back here next year.”

Harper, who also is the JMG (Jobs for Maine Graduates) specialist and a videography teacher at Freeport High School, is a South Portland resident and father of two.

The Falcons boys’ tennis team’s run to the state final was one of the top stories of the season. Jay Harper, our Northern edition boys’ team Spring Coach of the Year, played a major role in making it happen and his impact on the program will keep it in contention in the years to come.

Previous winners:

2017 Marc Halsted (Yarmouth baseball)

2016 Bill Ridge (Freeport baseball)

2015 Derek Soule (Greely baseball)

2014 Geoff Arris (Freeport lacrosse)

2013 David Pearl (Yarmouth lacrosse)

2012 Kevin Winship (Falmouth baseball)

2011 Bob McCully (Falmouth tennis)

2010 Marc Halsted (Yarmouth baseball)

2009 Mike LeBel (Falmouth lacrosse)

2008 Casey Abbott (Greely lacrosse)

2007 Derek Soule (Greely baseball)

2006 Chris Carpentier (Freeport lacrosse)

2005 Chris Mazzurco (NYA track)

2004 Craig Curry (Yarmouth lacrosse)

2003 Bruce Poliquin (NYA baseball)

2002 Hank Ogilby (Freeport baseball)

Girls’ team:

Ashley Pullen, Falmouth lacrosse

Ashley Pullen took a year off from coaching lacrosse. This spring, she returned. With a flourish.

Pullen took over a Falmouth girls’ squad this spring that had mastered the art of the close call, but this time around, Pullen got the Yachtsmen to steadily improve, believe and when it mattered most, play close to perfect and the end result was the program’s first state championship.

And Pullen’s second.

For so easily adapting to a new program and for leading Falmouth to the Promised Land at last, Ashley Pullen gets The Forecaster’s nod as our Northern edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a girls’ team.

Pullen graduated from Messalonskee High School and Middlebury College. She played field hockey in college and served as an assistant at Colby College and head coach at Waterville High School before returning to her alma mater to take over the girls’ lacrosse program in 2012. Four years later, the Eagles were Class A champions. Following that title, Pullen stepped down and became a counselor at Falmouth, but it wasn’t until this spring that she returned to the head coaching ranks.

And what a return it was.

With just one senior on the roster and most pundits feeling that the Yachtsmen, who had lost three straight times to Kennebunk in the regional final, were a year away, there were a few hiccups early, as Falmouth, playing an SMAA schedule for the first time, lost to defending Class B champion Kennebunk and Class A champion Massabesic, but the Yachtsmen, thanks to their nonpareil athleticism and Pullen getting the most out of everyone, slowly put it together.

As the top seed in Class A North, Falmouth had a bye into the semifinals, where it dispatched Windham, then defeated Cheverus to win an elusive regional title for the first time. The Yachtsmen were viewed as the underdog when they took on Massabesic in the state game, but Falmouth led nearly the whole way, played with poised beyond its years and got to celebrate a championship by virtue of a 10-7 victory.

“Two years ago, I left (Messalonskee) to take a new job down here and it was really hard to leave,” Pullen said. “To walk away after winning a championship was so hard. Now, working at Falmouth as a counselor and a coach, I love to have the relationships I have with the girls. I came in with a focus on team and working together as a unit and not having a superstar do it all and peaking at the right time.

“It’s been a blast. The best part of my day, every day, is when I walk out of my office and go out on the field and have fun with them and also help them develop their individual games. It’s so rewarding.”

Ashley Pullen, our Northern edition girls’ team Spring Coach of the Year, has set the bar high at Falmouth and don’t be surprised if more championship celebrations are just over the horizon.

Previous winners:

2017 Bill Goodspeed (Falmouth tennis)

2016 Rob Hale (Greely softball)

2015 Amy Ashley (Yarmouth softball)

2014 Ben Caswell (Greely tennis)

2013 Sandra Stone (Falmouth tennis)

2012 Karin Kurry (Freeport lacrosse)

2011 Sara Dimick (Greely lacrosse)

2010 Julia Sterling (NYA lacrosse)

2009 Sandra Stone (Falmouth tennis)

2008 Julia Littlefield (NYA lacrosse)

2007 Robin Haley (Falmouth lacrosse)

2006 Dorothy Holt (Yarmouth lacrosse)

2005 Sandra Stone (Falmouth tennis)

2004 Ann Harradon (Yarmouth tennis)

2003 Julia Seely (NYA tennis)

2002 Julia Littlefield (Yarmouth lacrosse)

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