Freeport senior Natalie Anderson gets the ball past Greely sophomore goalie Cassie Ward for the second of her three first half goals in Thursday’s 5-2 Falcons’ victory.

Brianna Soukop / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

CUMBERLAND—Last fall, Natalie Anderson led Freeport’s field hockey team in scoring with 12 goals.

Thursday afternoon, by halftime of the Falcons’ regular season opener at Greely, Anderson was on pace for 84.

Anderson, a senior, scored three times, including once in the final minute of the first half, to help Freeport build a 4-1 lead and while the Rangers fought hard in the second half and made things interesting, the Falcons, behind clutch defense and goalkeeping from senior Katelyn Rouleau, went on to a 5-2 victory in the teams’ mutual season opener.

Freeport also got goals from senior Kerry Lefebvre and sophomore Ally Randall as it got off to a strong start in a season where the Falcons believe they can be as good as anyone in Class B South.

“We know we can be strong,” said Anderson. “This game proves what we thought.”

Opportunity awaits

With York, in the minds of some, coming back to the pack this fall after longtime coach Barb Marois stepped down, that creates a vacuum in Class B South.

A vacuum that both Freeport and Greely believe they can fill.

Last fall, the Falcons got off to a 5-0-1 start and went on to post nine victories, their best in eight seasons, but Freeport’s hope of a deep playoff run was dashed in the quarterfinals, when it was knocked off by Lake Region, 4-0.

From that ashes of that defeat, the Falcons began preparing for 2018.

“Everybody’s worked really hard in the offseason,” Anderson said. “I remember minutes after we lost that playoff game, people we talking about what they were going to do in the offseason and applying that letdown into positivity.”

“Even at the end of last year after we lost, the girls have been ready,” Freeport coach Marcia Wood said. “They’ve been playing offseason and you can tell they’ve had a stick in their hands all winter.” 

Greely, meanwhile, had an up-and-down 7-7-1 campaign which ended with a 3-2 loss to Poland in the Class B South quarterfinals.

The Rangers welcome a new coach this fall in Chelsea Morley.

The squads met twice in 2017 and both games went to double overtime.

The first resulted in a 1-1 draw in Cumberland and the second saw Greely prevail, 2-1, in Freeport.

This time around, on a 78-degree afternoon, only 60 minutes were needed and the Falcons enjoyed their first win over the Rangers since Oct. 8, 2016 as they came out firing and never looked back.

Freeport pressured from the get-go and was rewarded 2 minutes, 5 seconds in, when senior Alexa Koenig fired a shot from just outside the circle, which Anderson tipped past Greely sophomore goalie Cassie Ward for a quick 1-0 lead.

“It was amazing to score that fast,” Anderson said. “It was incredible. It picked us up. I just had my stick in the right place.” 

Greely settled down and had opportunities to pull even, but junior Megan Beaulieu missed just wide, Rouleau denied a blast by senior Maddy Perfetti, Rouleau made a beautiful kick save on a shot from sophomore Delia Knox and Rouleau saved successive bids from Knox and sophomore Hannah Perfetti.

With 6:24 to go in the half, the Falcons doubled their lead, as Anderson scored out of a scrum off a penalty corner.

“I finished the job, but it was the people around me who picked it up,” Anderson said. “I just followed the ball in on that one.”

Morley called timeout, but just 63 seconds later, Freeport struck again, as off another penalty corner, Koenig rifled a shot that Ward stopped with a nice kick save, but Randall was there to bury the rebound to make it 3-0.

“In the past, scoring has been an issue, so to get on the board like that was great,” Wood said. “We have so many girls who can shoot and score. ‘Lex,’ ‘Nat,” Ally. They can’t pinpoint one. We did a nice job moving the ball around. All my forwards are veterans.”

The Rangers appeared to gain a little momentum when Knox set up Hannah Perfetti for a transition goal with 2:56 on the clock, but with just 59 seconds remaining before the break, Anderson completed her hat trick, scoring on a rebound, to make the score 4-1.

“That goal got the momentum back for us,” Anderson said. “The ball popped up and I batted it back down and in. Getting that goal after they scored was amazing.”

“(Natalie) has a lot of heart,” Wood said. “She’s played a lot of field hockey. She’s hungry to get goals. We need her in there with her stick down. She knows where she needs to be.”

“We broke down defensively in the circle a little bit,” Morley said. “That’s something we’ll clean up.”

Freeport had a 13-9 shots advantage in the first half and got six saves from Rouleau. Ward made seven saves for Greely, but was replaced at the start of the second half by freshman Savanna Harvey.

The Rangers made things very interesting with 26:10 remaining, when, in transition, Maddy Perfetti set up senior Wren Payne for a goal, to cut the deficit to 4-2. 

“The formation we’re running leaves us vulnerable on defense, so I may have to switch that up because we’re not just getting back enough to help out,” Wood said. “Turnovers gave them numbers. We have to clean up some stuff there.”

Greely almost cut the deficit to one with 15:45 on the clock, but in the play of the game, Falcons senior defender Brooke Toothaker saved the day.

After Rouleau made a save, a rebound got past the goalie, but just before it crossed the line, Toothaker swept it away to keep the Freeport lead at two goals.

“I was nervous, but knowing my defense was behind me was really nice,” said Rouleau. “We have really good communication. (Brooke) had my back. That’s what I love about my defense. If I step up, they know to come back.”

“That was a such a big lift for us,” Wood said. “(Brooke’s) a senior. She’s quiet, but it gives her confidence. That showed we needed to get it going. We’re trying to not let up.” 

After Maddy Perfetti had a shot tipped just wide and Hannah Perfetti was denied by Rouleau, Freeport produced the clincher with 7:10 to go, as Anderson sent the ball in and out of a scrum, Lefebvre managed to send the ball into the cage for a 5-2 lead.

The Falcons ran out the clock from there and celebrated their season-opening triumph.

“I think we’re more motivated than ever,” Rouleau said. “We’ve worked so hard in the preseason. We’ve come together as a team and as a family.”

Freeport had a 6-1 advantage in penalty corners. The Falcons only outshot Greely, 17-16, but Rouleau’s 14 saves made the difference. 

“I just wanted to do my best,” Rouleau said. “We’re one big family.  I definitely embrace getting a lot of shots. If I get the save, it gives me even more adrenaline and makes me want to win even more.”

“Props to Greely, they picked it up for sure,” said Anderson. “Katelyn saves us every day.”

The Rangers got seven saves from Ward and five from Harvey.

Morley was encouraged by her team’s ability to fight back.

“One thing our team will always bring is resilience,” Morley said. “We didn’t play scared and I commend the girls. We had some chances. I’m really happy with the number of shots we had on goal and our opportunities. Now, it’s getting the ball in the net. Once we do, we’ll really take off.” 

Just beginning

The teams meet again in the regular season finale Oct. 10 in Freeport, but that’s way off in the distance.

Greely is back in action Tuesday at Gray-New Gloucester and returns home Thursday of next week to face Cape Elizabeth.

“We’ll do a lot of work on understanding field spacing and communication and keep getting familiar with each other,” Morley said.

Freeport has its first-ever game on its new turf field Tuesday when Fryeburg Academy pays a visit. After going to Lake Region for a playoff rematch Thursday of next week, the Falcons visit Cape Elizabeth Saturday, Sept. 8.

“I’m excited for the season,” said Wood. “We want to stay hungry and stay focused.”

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

Greely senior Wren Payne, left, scores for the Rangers as junior Megan Beaulieu looks on and Freeport senior goalie Katelyn Rouleau arrives too late.

Freeport’s Kelsey Williams left, knocks the ball away from Greely’s Megan Beaulieu before she can shoot.

Freeport senior goalie Katelyn Rouleau robs Greely senior Maddy Perfetti.

Freeport’s Kerry Lefebvre drives for the goal as Greely’s Emma Dexter, 11, and Megan Abel give chase.

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