Olivia Napolitano drives up the sideline for BE. Adam Birt / American Journal

STANDISH—Bonny Eagle surged out front of visiting Gorham on a pair of rapid-fire goals – one by Sage Drinkwater and another by Emma Burnham – midway through the second half on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 16.

The Rams, though, got the last laugh – the last two laughs, really: Molly Murray piled on two more for her girls in the downhill minutes, securing a 4-2 triumph for the team.

Despite the Scots’ loss, head coach Amethyst Poirier had good things to say about their efforts:

“They played incredibly well,” Poirier said. “We went into the game today just wanting to leave everything on the field; no regrets. We knew it was unlikely a post-season was going to happen for us, and I couldn’t be happier with the effort and intensity they played with.”

“I knew it was going to be a good game,” Gorham head coach Becky Manson said. “We did not take [Bonny Eagle] lightly in any way. First of all, I didn’t know they had those drives. We hadn’t really been able to watch them play this year. And they’re always scrappy. In years past, if we’ve been the higher seed, they’ve come out and scored on us first. That didn’t happen this year, but they came back.”

The Scots attacked early; the action then stuck at midfield for a stretch. Slowly, the Rams seized control of the field. Gorham struck first in the outing, just over 11 minutes in: Sydney Connolly did the honors, tipping past Bonny Eagle netminder Lily O’Connor a ball dumped inward from high in the zone. 1-0.

Gorham continued to control, but the Scots pushed back with roughly nine minutes to play before the break. BE cranked out a couple corner opportunities during that time, but failed to capitalize: Corners proved problematic for Bonny Eagle all afternoon, in fact.

“We struggled, early on, with executing on those corners,” Poirier said, “and then, these last couple weeks, a majority of our goals have been off of corner opportunities. So we’ve been like, ‘Okay! Finally, it’s all clicking.’ And today it was just falling apart; we couldn’t even get the shot off.”

“Gorham’s defense was strong on [corners],” Poirier continued. “I think they’re probably the toughest defense we’ve seen on corners. Their players came out with full intensity and we broke down a little.”

The Rams struggled for a while with a practiced play of their own: With under three minutes on the clock, Murray and Alyvia Caruso alternately lined up at the left BE post, each waiting to swipe home a feed. The feeds came, but neither girl could quite get a stick on the ball for a redirect.

Manson sounded off on the left-post stroke. “We practice seeing it: using our peripheral vision for the goal cage but seeing the ball the ball to your stick. It’s kind of like a no-look shot, even though you’ve already looked prior to getting the ball. There were a couple misses in the first half, where it was inches – an inch, maybe – past the goal cage and past a stick that was more swept and not a controlled collect-and-shoot all in one.”

Bonny Eagle pressure early in the second half turned up nothing; the Scots couldn’t even get a shot off on the corner they generated. But neither could Gorham pull further ahead: Murray lifted a beautiful shot in O’Connor’s direction around 26:20, but sent the ball just wide of the cage. Caruso, around 24:58, missed on another left-post redirect opportunity.

To be fair, a hard-hit field hockey ball rattles bouncily across a real-grass field, making it difficult for anyone to land a stick on it, let alone to send it somewhere in particular.

Drinkwater tied things up for the Scots at 22:29, plunging powerfully up the middle and splitting the Gorham defense to earn a face-to-face with goalie Lauren Bachner. Momentarily, Drinkwater punched the 1-1 notch home.

“Sage’s goal was exactly what we have been trying to get them to execute this season,” Poirier said. “We have so many shots on goal that are just square-on to the goalie: at the pads, at the pads. We’ve been working on moving the goalie, taking her from post to post and creating that open space. Sage couldn’t have executed that better.”

“The biggest thing about Sage this year is that her mentality and her IQ has improved in the game,” Poirier said. “She’s always had the skill and the effort, but now she’s working on her intelligence in the game. That moment was an intelligent one – pull the ball away from the goalie and put it in.”

45 seconds later, Burnham pushed BE out front, pulling the trigger of a blast from the top of the Rams’ circle.

“Emma’s goal was, again, something we’ve been working on and trying to execute.” Poirier said. “She has so much natural strength; when she puts that behind the ball and pushes it in there, it’s lights-out.”

Bonny Eagle defended their lead admirably for a short while: Shayla Harriman, e.g., grabbed a ball out front of O’Connor around 20 minutes and promptly unwound into a hard clear. But Ram Sophie Gagne soon enough evened the tally, finally converting at the left post for the team. Four minutes later, Murray mirrored Gagne’s goal, ushering Gorham ahead for the last time. Murray then capped the day with a penalty point at 13:26.

4-2 the final.

“We basically rotate six forwards, and they’ve all scored more than one, more than two, three, four goals each,” Manson said, happy with her squad’s offensive spread. “I think that’s Murray’s 12th; if it’s not 12, it’s 11 – so she’s been unbelievable. And I moved her up to left wing and put somebody else at mid, which I think fired her up and got us some opportunities in the circle.

Bonny Eagle ends their 2019 just outside the bracketing, in 13th place at 3-10-1. The Scots picked up wins this autumn against Portland/Deering, Falmouth, and (most impressively) Windham the tournament nine-seed at 7-7.

Poirier reflected on Bonny Eagle’s season, which ends at 3-10-1, leaving the Scots a slot back from the tournament – the top 11 teams reach the bracketing, but BE lands in 12th. “It was a lot of up-and-down,” she said. “This league, in general, is ‘any given day, any given team can win’ – with the exception of a few outliers on both ends of the spectrum. For the most part, it’s a toss-up, and it comes down to right-time, right-place for a lot of these goals. I would say both teams wanted it equally today.”

“They have,” Poirier said, asked if her girls have come at all far, this autumn. “It’s tough, first season being with them; it takes a while to get the mojo going. You’re basically starting from scratch – even though they’ve been playing for a while. You add a new person and it takes a little while to get that momentum going. Second half of the season, they’ve really clicked and come together. I have no regrets, and I know they don’t either – regardless of record. They played their hearts out.”

Third-ranked Gorham moved to 9-5 on the W. The Lady Rams earned a bye through the playoff prelims, and have their first post-season bout on Wednesday the 23rd, at home vs. No. 11 Falmouth, who upset No. 6 Scarborough on Saturday to earn their shot in the next round.

Chiara Root contends for BE. Adam Birt / American Journal

Mackenzie Yaskula chases a ball for the Rams. Adam Birt / American Journal

Riley Heacock, left, and Emma Burnham celebrate Burnhams goal. Adam Birt / American Journal

Riley Heacock, left, and Sage Drinkwater celebrate Drinkwaters goal. Adam Birt / American Journal

Faith Dillon controls for Gorham. Adam Birt / American Journal

Sydney Connolly added one for the Rams on the day. Adam Birt / American Journal

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