GORHAM—A slow start doomed Falmouth’s field hockey team in a Class A South quarterfinal round playoff loss at Gorham Wednesday afternoon.

The third-ranked Rams needed just 66 seconds to go on top for good, as junior Molly Rathbun scored, and late in the first half, Gorham made it 2-0 on a goal from senior Faith Dillon off a penalty corner.

The 11th-seeded Yachtsmen hoped to rally in the second half, but the deficit grew steeper with 18:21 remaining when Rathbun scored a second goal and while senior Sammy Means scored for Falmouth with 1:41 left, it was too-little, too-late and the Rams went on to a 3-1 victory.

Gorham improved to 10-5, advanced to meet second-ranked Massabesic (14-1) in the semifinals Saturday at 11 a.m., in Waterboro and in the process, ended the Yachtsmen’s season at 7-9.

“Gorham just played an outstanding game today,” said longtime Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “When you play a team on its ‘A’ game, that’s pretty hard. Our whole season, the girls haven’t given up. They play to the final tick of the clock and I couldn’t be prouder of that.”

Cinderella

Falmouth got to the semifinals a year ago, but wasn’t expected to be as serious a contender in 2019. The Yachtsmen started with losses to visiting Scarborough (3-0) and at Kennebunk (1-0), then edged visiting Westbrook in double overtime (1-0). After a 3-0 loss at Windham and a 1-0 setback to visiting Thornton Academy, Falmouth beat host Noble (2-1), visiting Gorham (1-0) and host South Portland (2-1). A 1-0 home loss to Massabesic was followed by victories at Marshwood (3-1) and at home over Portland/Deering (5-1). The Yachtsmen then struggled to end the regular season, falling at home to defending Class A champion Biddeford (4-1), at Bonny Eagle (3-1) and at Sanford (1-0).

Falmouth earned the 11th and final playoff spot in Class A South and Saturday, upset No. 6 Scarborough, 1-0, in the preliminary round behind senior Mary Kate Bayer’s goal and 15 saves from senior goalie Sarah Greenlaw.

Gorham, meanwhile, started with 2-1 wins over visiting Westbrook and host Thornton Academy. After a 1-0 home loss to Noble, the Rams beat host South Portland, 5-1. Following a 2-0 home loss to Massabesic and a 1-0 setback at Falmouth, Gorham blanked visiting Marshwood (5-0) and won at Portland/Deering (7-2). Losses followed at Biddeford (5-1) and at home to Sanford (2-1), but the Rams bounced back to down host Cheverus (3-1), visiting Scarborough (2-1), visiting Windham (3-0) and host Bonny Eagle (4-2).

As the No. 3 seed, Gorham earned a bye into the quarterfinals.

In the teams’ regular season meeting, Yachtsmen senior Veronica Grobe’s goal was the difference.

The squads had met three previous times in the playoffs, with Falmouth taking all three: 2-1, in double-overtime, in the 2004 Western B quarterfinals, 4-1 in the 2016 Class A South quarterfinals and 2-1 in last year’s quarterfinal round.

Wednesday afternoon featured brilliant sunshine and 64-degrees and saw the home team come right out and make its mark.

The Rams pressured from the get-go and with 28:54 to play in the first half, Rathbun beat Greenlaw to make it 1-0.

“It was very important to set the pace, Rathbun said. “Starting out strong was super-important. The ball was near the goalie’s pads and to the side and I just whacked it as hard as I could.”

“It was awesome to get that first goal and be able to have momentum to keep us going,” said Rams’ coach Becky Manson. “Molly is an ice hockey player and has a quick stick. She’s fast and scrappy for us.”

Gorham kept the ball in Falmouth’s end and earned six consecutive penalty corners, but junior Lydia Gaudreau shot wide and Greenlaw denied junior Molly Murray, Dillon, Rathbun and Gaudreau to keep the Yachtsmen within a goal,

With 12:20 to play in the first half, Falmouth generated its first penalty corner opportunity and nearly pulled even, but a shot from senior Parker Spence was just wide.

Then, with 8:09 remaining in the half, off the Rams’ seventh corner, Gaudreau set up Dillon for a one-timer which found the cage for a 2-0 lead, forcing Haley to call timeout.

The Yachtsmen weren’t able to respond, as senior Sarah Wentworth missed just wide off a penalty corner, and Gorham went to the break up a pair.

The Rams had a commanding 9-1 shots advantage and took seven corners to Falmouth’s three in the first 30 minutes.

“To be up 2-0 at halftime was awesome,” Manson said. “The way we played them the first time isn’t how we’re playing at the end of the season. I don’t think they expected us to be so dominating in terms of passing. We had to keep the ball wide and get it up the field and get corners. We played our game and didn’t worry about what they were doing.”

Greenlaw kept Falmouth in the game early in the second half by denying Gaudreau on a corner and Dillon with a kick save.

The Yachtsmen tried to pull within a goal with 27:18 to play, but a shot from Means was turned aside by Rams’ freshman goalie Maeve Donnelly.

With 22:45 to go, Dillon nearly extended the lead off a penalty corner, but Falmouth junior Summer Staples made a highlight-reel defensive save at the last instant.

Gorham did make it 3-0 with 18:21 to go, as off another corner, Rathbun finished for the second time.

“That third goal was important to keep our confidence up,” Rathbun said. “That was an accident. I was supposed to pass it to someone else, but I shot it.”

Instead of buckling, Falmouth kept pressuring and after Donnelly denied a backhanded bid by senior Izzy Roy, then saved another Roy shot, the visitors broke through with just 1:41 on the clock, as Means got to a ball in the circle after a failed Gorham clear and ripped it into the cage to cut the deficit to 3-1, but that’s as close as the Yachtsmen would come and the Rams finished off their victory.

Gorham out-shot Falmouth, 16-6, got five saves from Donnelly and enjoyed a 12-6 edge in corners.

The Rams dropped a 2-0 home decision to Massabesic on Sept. 18, but they’re optimistic about their chances in the rematch.

“I feel like we’re a good team,” Rathbun said. “We play together. We just have to keep our confidence up and know we can beat them.”

“Our record doesn’t show how good we are, which I like,” Manson said. “We have in the past five games put the pieces together. We’re at a place now where it’s all straight ahead for us. We’re excited to face Massabesic Saturday. They’re extremely solid all around and I feel like we are too. It’s a matter of keeping the pressure on and getting scoring opportunities. It will be an excellent game.”

On to 2020

The Yachtsmen got 13 saves from Greenlaw in her swan song.

“We started out slow,” Haley said. “We struggled putting things together. We’ve had a hard time scoring this year. We’ve competed with teams, but it’s been hard putting it in the net.

“It’s been a tough season overall, but the girls hung in there and we made the playoffs. We graduated a lot of players, but we had some players really step up, including some who surprised us in positive way.”

Falmouth has to say goodbye to a dozen seniors, but figures to be back in contention in 2020.

“We’re graduating some great seniors, but we have a nice nucleus of kids who have varsity experience,” Haley said. “I’m hopeful and looking forward to next year.”

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

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