FREEPORT—Both Freeport and Yarmouth took something positive out of Wednesday evening’s regular season-ending field hockey contest at the Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field.

The Clippers proved they could hang with one of the region’s elite squads for 60 minutes, even though victory wasn’t in the cards.

The Falcons, meanwhile, got a stern test and found a way to pass it.

Freeport, which handled host Yarmouth with ease last month, took a 1-0 lead with 13:27 to go in the first half, when junior Autumn Golding rattled the cage, but the scoring and intensity would pick up in the second half.

Less than three minutes in, Clippers junior Abby Hill scored a highlight-reel goal to tie it.

The Falcons were able to go back on top with 12:21 left, when junior Aynslie Decker tipped home a shot from junior Ally Randall and just over a minute later, sophomore Kyla Havey scored for a 3-1 lead, but Hill answered with her second goal with 8:24 to play.

Freeport was able to hold on from there to win, 3-2, and finish the regular season 9-3-2, dropping Yarmouth to 6-7-1 in the process.

“Yarmouth came out strong, fighting hard,” Decker said. “We didn’t expect this would be easy.”

Ups and downs

On the heels of its best season in two decades, Freeport hasn’t experienced much of a drop-off in 2019, despite some difficult results.

The Falcons 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), Freeport got back on track with a 3-1 victory over Fryeburg, then blanked host Yarmouth (4-0) and dominated visiting Wells (7-2). The toughest loss of the season then followed, as the Falcons surrendered a tying goal to visiting York on a penalty corner after time expired, then lost in overtime, 2-1. Freeport responded in fine form, however, winning at Greely (4-1), at Cape Elizabeth (4-0) and at St. Dom’s (4-2). Last Wednesday, the Falcons settled for a 0-0 tie at Poland.

“We all played a lot in the offseason and we were ready this year,” Decker said. “We were pumped. We’ve worked as a team and done a good job.”

Yarmouth, meanwhile, dropped two of its first three, sandwiching 3-0 losses at Lake Region and at home against defending Class B South champion York around a 2-1 victory at Cape Elizabeth. The Clippers then won at North Yarmouth Academy, 5-0, and edged host Greely, 2-1. After a 4-0 home loss to Freeport, Yarmouth blanked visiting Gray-New Gloucester (2-0), then fell at home to Cape Elizabeth (2-1) and at Fryeburg Academy (5-0). After a 4-0 victory at Sacopee Valley, the Clippers edged visiting Poland in overtime (3-2). Last week, Yarmouth fell at home to Greely (2-1) and settled for a scoreless home tie versus Lake Region.

In the teams’ first encounter Sept. 21, Decker and Randall scored first half goals and Golding and junior Sydney Silva added second half goals to lead Yarmouth to victory.

The Clippers had won eight of 12 meetings since the teams started playing regularly in 2010, but Freeport had captured the past three.

Wednesday, on a breezy and chilly 54-degree evening (which was dramatically cooler than the teams’ first encounter), the Falcons, on their Senior Night, went out and earned a ninth victory this autumn, making it three years in a row they’ve reached that number, a feat the program last accomplished between 2000-02.

Freeport senior Faith Cleaves had some good looks early, but was denied by Yarmouth sophomore goalie Cassie Walsh.

The Clippers’ first chance came with 17:57 left in the first half, but Hill’s rush resulted in a shot which was turned aside by Falcons’ senior goalie Piper Sherbert.

After Freeport junior Hannah Groves had a shot saved by Walsh and a rebound opportunity was cleared by the defense, the Falcons finally broke through with 13:27 remaining before halftime, as Golding rushed in, then shot past Walsh for a 1-0 lead.

Freeport was able to hold that lead at halftime, thanks to a breathtaking defensive save from senior captain Rachel Harmon, who dove over a prone Sherbert to swat away a sure goal off the line with 3:59 remaining.

“Rachel is fabulous,” said Yarmouth coach Tracy Quimby. “She made a fantastic save.”

In the first 30 minutes, the Falcons out-shot the Clippers, 5-2, and had a 3-1 edge in corners, but four saves from Walsh kept Yarmouth within hailing distance.

Things got very interesting early in the second half, as the Clippers responded.

With 27:06 to play, junior Hannah Swift played a long hit into the box and instead of settling the ball, Hill simply redirected it past Sherbert and just like that, the game was tied, 1-1.

Yarmouth then nearly went on top with 16:14 remaining, as after a long run and eluding multiple defenders, Hill crossed the ball to sophomore Ari Rustad, whose bid rolled just inches wide of the post.

Freeport then earned three straight penalty corners. After failing to convert on the first two opportunities, the Falcons broke through with 12:21 to play in regulation, as Randall fired a shot which Decker managed to tip past Walsh for a 2-1 lead.

“Ally took a shot and I just tried to stay on post, so if the ball came to me, I could tip it in,” Decker said. “I scored and that got everyone going.”

It didn’t take long for Freeport to gain some breathing room, as with 11:16 showing, Havey finished for a 3-1 advantage.

“Once we get a goal, it’s often a snowball effect,” Falcons’ coach Marcia Wood said. “These girls all complement each other really well. Ally and Autumn on (the near) side work beautifully together. Hannah and Aynslie on the far side work together really well. You never know who will be the high scorer in a game.”

But the Falcons weren’t yet home free.

With 8:24 left, Hill outraced a defender to the ball, then took on Sherbert one-on-one before firing into the cage to cut the deficit to 3-2.

“Abby wants to score and people realize she can get the ball down the field, so we need to get it to her,” Quimby said.

Yarmouth wasn’t able to put another shot on goal, however, and Freeport held on and celebrated its 3-2 victory.

“In previous games, we’ve struggled with holding off other teams,” Decker said. “Coach reminds up to stay strong for the entire game. We pushed ourselves so they wouldn’t score.”

“Yarmouth gave us a battle,” Wood said. “They had a good tie with Lake Region, so we knew from that score that they could hold an aggressive team scoreless and that they’d be different team and they were. Even when we had a cushion, they fought back.

“We learned from (the) York (game). We talk about finishing the game. We’re never safe. We talk about time management. If we’re up, we shouldn’t be trying to score, but trying to prevent goals. We don’t do well when we play frantic.”

The Falcons out-shot the Clippers, 8-5, on frame. Sherbert stopped three shots and Harmon made a defensive save. Freeport took seven corners to Yarmouth’s one.

The Clippers got five saves from Walsh and turned heads with their effort.

“That was exciting,” said Quimby .”A couple shots could have gone either way. We’re coming off a couple really good games and the kids are figuring out passing and moving the ball down the field.”

Title dreams

Yarmouth will likely be the No. 6 seed in Class B South and project to travel to No. 3 Fryeburg Academy (9-4-1) Wednesday of next week. On Oct. 1, the Clippers lost, 5-0, at Fryeburg. The teams have played twice previously in the playoffs with Yarmouth winning both, including a 5-1 victory in the most recent meeting, the 2016 Class B South quarterfinals.

“We have a really fast forward line, but (Fryeburg’s) grass slows us down, so we’ll have to figure it out,” Quimby said. “We have nothing to lose.”

The Falcons will be the No. 2 seed and will likely host No. 7 Leavitt (8-6) in the quarterfinals next Wednesday. The teams didn’t play in the regular season. They met just once before in the playoffs, a 4-0 Hornets’ victory in the 2014 Western B quarterfinals.

“We have to work as a team, push each other and stay strong,” Decker said. “We just want to win our first playoff game.”

“It’s very much there for the taking,” Wood said. “I don’t know anything about Leavitt, so that’s tough, but being on turf was our goal. We’d love another shot at York.

“Let the fun begin.”

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

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