FREEPORT—Freeport’s field hockey team did everything it could to win when it hosted defending Class B South champion York in a midseason showdown/regional final rematch Wednesday evening at the Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field.

In fact, after 60 minutes had elapsed, it appeared the Falcons had won, but the Wildcats are never out of a game.

Even when all appears lost.

Freeport, which got a sensational save from senior goalie Piper Sherbert on York senior Bailey Oliver’s penalty shot and a goal from sophomore Kyla Havey in the first half, had kept York off the board in the second half, but just before time expired, the Wildcats were given a penalty corner and by rule, allowed to play it out even after the horn sounded.

And that little sliver of hope was all York needed to break the Falcons’ hearts.

Wildcats senior Ashley Carney scored off a rebound to send the game to overtime and there, York freshman Abigail Dickson capped her team’s improbable comeback by scoring off another penalty corner and from the jaws of defeat, the Wildcats stole a most amazing of victories, 2-1.

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York found a way to stay perfect in eight games this fall, winning in OT for the third time, and in the process, the Wildcats dropped Freeport to 5-3-1.

“The girls have the championship heart,” said York coach Nora Happny. “That comes from within. They show it game after game after game.”

The next step

Freeport has risen to an elite level, but hadn’t been able to solve a York squad which has been the gold standard in Class B South for 15 years.

The Falcons gave the Wildcats everything they could handle last year in the regional final, but the Falcons couldn’t put the ball in the cage and a late York goal gave it a 1-0 victory and sent it to the Class B state game, which the Wildcats lost to Gardiner, 3-2.

York passed every test in the first half of the 2019 campaign, edging Fryeburg Academy in double-overtime (2-1, on a goal from sophomore Lexi Brent) in the opener, then beating Greely (1-0, in a game played at North Yarmouth Academy), St. Dom’s (6-2), Yarmouth (3-0), Freeport (2-1), Lake Region (2-1, on Dickson’s goal in double overtime) and Cape Elizabeth (2-0).

Freeport, meanwhile, started by blanking visiting Greely (5-0) and Poland (4-0), then, after tying host Fryeburg Academy (1-1) and falling at home to Lake Region (1-0) and at York (2-1), the Falcons got back on track with a 3-1 victory over Fryeburg, then blanked host Yarmouth Saturday (4-0) and dominated visiting Wells Monday (7-2).

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In the teams’ first meeting, Sept. 17, the Wildcats got goals from Brent and Dickson and held on after senior Faith Cleaves got Freeport on the board. That goal was significant for the Falcons, however, as it was the first they managed to score (against 43 given up) in 10 games against York since moving up to Class B in 2013.

Wednesday, Freeport scored again and actually held a lead against the Wildcats for the first time, but the Falcons learned the hard way that York is never finished.

Never.

Freeport came out with great energy and had an early look from junior Aynslie Decker which Wildcats freshman defender Kristen MacAuley blocked. The Falcons then earned a corner and junior Hannah Groves managed shot which was saved by York senior goalie Katlyn Nowell.

The Wildcats nearly went on top in the fifth minute, but Dickson missed just wide.

Then, after Decker had a shot saved by Nowell, York transitioned to offense, got pressure on Sherbert and with the goalie down, the ball got lodged under her, giving the Wildcats a penalty stroke.

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Oliver did the honors and she tried to beat Sherbert to her left, but Sherbert stuck out her left pad and made the momentum-turning save.

Sherbert wasn’t done, denying a pair of shots from Brent.

Then, with 3:59 remaining in the first half, Freeport broke through.

The Falcons got the ball in transition and Decker passed ahead to Havey, who beat Nowell to her right and the sound of the ball rattling the cage energized the home sideline and the vocal Freeport fan section.

Down the stretch in the first half, York managed three corners, including one as time ran out, but couldn’t answer and the Falcons were on top at the break, 1-0.

In the first 30 minutes, the Wildcats had a 9-5 shots advantage, but nine saves from Sherbert helped Freeport hold the lead.

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York then pushed hard for the equalizer in the second half, but for the longest time couldn’t deliver.

Just 49 seconds after the start of the second half, Dickson was denied by Sherbert.

With 20:19 left in regulation, Oliver missed just wide.

With 16:01 to play, a shot from Dickson deflected wide.

The Wildcats nearly tied it with 14:35 to go, but Brent was stopped cold by Sherbert.

The Falcons then made a bid for a second goal, which might have iced it, but junior Amelia Farrin was denied by Nowell on a corner, junior Autumn Golding had a shot saved and junior Ally Randall couldn’t solve Nowell either.

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With 8:09 to play, Happny called timeout and York again went back on the attack, but a shot from sophomore Sage Works was saved by Sherbert and with 2:26 left, Brent was stopped cold by Sherbert.

After Works missed wide on a corner with 2:03 to go, Freeport was close enough to victory to taste it, but the final chapter still had to be written.

The Wildcats kept the pressure on and with 20 seconds to go, earned their ninth penalty corner.

By rule, if a corner isn’t initiated by the time the horn sounds, it’s allowed to be played out until it results in a goal or a defensive stop.

Even though the clock read 0:00, York still had life and the proud Wildcats would rise off the deck in the most memorable fashion.

The ball was inserted and despite their best effort, the Falcons weren’t able to clear it. The ball was sent on to Sherbert who made the save, but in the process, fell to the ground. Carney then collected the loose ball and shot it over the outstretched stick of Freeport senior defender Rachel Harmon and into the cage to even the game.

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“We hadn’t scored on any of our other corners and we knew we needed to put it in and make up for the others, which we finally did,” Carney said. “The ball bounced around. I think it was a rebound and I just tapped it in. It was the best feeling ever.”

“We didn’t need to score,” lamented Freeport coach Marcia Wood. “We just needed to clear the ball.”

In the five-minute intermission before the start of the first of two possible eight-minute, “sudden victory” overtimes, with seven players a side, York felt like it had momentum.

“I was more scared than confident, but I felt like we could do it,” Dickson said.

“You could see Ashley’s goal gave us momentum,” said Happny. “We brought that into overtime and the girls know how to play in overtime. When the numbers dwindle to 7-v-7, the girls know how to play on turf and move the ball in space.”

The Wildcats controlled the ball for nearly three minutes of the first OT before earning another corner.

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And that corner ushered in the end of the contest.

This time, York didn’t immediately register a shot, but the Wildcats managed to keep possession and Works passed to Oliver, who crossed the ball in front to Dickson, who was all alone and simply had to tap the ball past Sherbert and into the cage to win it.

York 2 Freeport 1.

“Bailey tapped it over to me and I hit it in,” said Dickson. “It was an amazing feeling. It was a really intense game. It felt like a football game with all the fans here. It felt good to beat them. It was unreal, really intense. As a freshman, it was a little intimidating. I think our energy just took over and we got excited and wanted to win.”

“It was so fun, the best feeling ever, honestly,” said Carney. “It’s crazy. We were wicked pumped going into overtime and we knew they felt down. We used all our energy and won the game.”

“That was pretty exciting,” Happny added. “I think the biggest thing with these girls and York field hockey in general, is they don’t give up. They keep fighting. They knew coming in it would be a huge game. We knew (Freeport would) be strong. I give it to my girls for continuing to believe. The momentum wasn’t going our way. When you’re undefeated, everyone comes for you. It didn’t go our way until that last whistle. It’s a big deal to win.”

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York had a commanding 18-8 shots advantage, got seven saves from Nowell and took 10 corners to the Falcons’ five.

Freeport got a sensational game from Sherbert, who stopped 16 shots, many in highlight reel fashion.

“Their goalie played an incredible game tonight,” Happny said.

“Piper was amazing and the defense played so well,” Wood said. “I wanted it to turn out in their favor.”

Following the game, tears and looks of disbelief summed up the Falcons sideline, as mere moments after a program-altering victory appeared at hand, agony was the end result.

“Disappointment is an understatement,” Wood said. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m so proud of my team. Time expired, but we need to finish. The girls played their hearts out all game. Its heartbreaking. (York) cheered so loud for beating us and they’ve never cheered for beating us before.”

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Closing stretch

It’s possible Freeport and York will meet again in the postseason, but both squads have several challenges awaiting in the interim.

The Wildcats look to stay undefeated Friday when they have another huge game, at Lake Region. A home test versus Fryeburg Academy follows Thursday of next week.

“We don’t think about going to states, but playing game by game and hopefully we’ll get (to states),” Carney said. “We have to focus on things we need to work on, like corners.”

“Even when we win, I know we have things to work on,” Happny said. “I want the girls to get better and keep their heads in the game. Everyone always comes for York and this year, they’re really coming for us.”

The Falcons have five games left, but four of them are on the road. Next Tuesday, Freeport is at Greely. The Falcons then go to Cape Elizabeth, St. Dom’s and Poland and close at home versus Yarmouth.

“I’m hoping this drives the girls and we see (York) again,” Wood said. “It’s hard to beat a team three times.  I’m glad the girls are upset. I want them to finish in the game so they’re not upset about it (afterwards).”

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

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