Yarmouth senior Hannah Swift launches a backhanded shot during Saturday’s home game versus Freeport. The Falcons rallied for a 2-1 victory.

YARMOUTH—Freeport’s senior-laden field hockey team is bound and determined to make the most of every second this COVID-shortened season and Saturday afternoon at rival Yarmouth, the Falcons saved their best for the final seconds.

In a thrilling, end-to-end struggle, Freeport fell behind in the first period when Clippers senior Anna Pires converted a penalty stroke and after the Falcons drew even in the second quarter on a goal from senior Syndey Silva, frustration set in for the visitors.

In the fourth quarter, Freeport had six different penalty corner opportunities, but failed to take advantage.

It turned out that the seventh would be the charm.

With time winding down, senior Hannah Groves got the ball up top to senior Ally Randall and Randall’s shot found the mark with just 3.2 seconds showing, giving the Falcons a thrilling 2-1 victory.

Freeport improved to 2-1 on the year, beat Yarmouth for the fifth straight time and dropped the Clippers to 2-2 in the process.

“We didn’t want to go into overtime,” said Randall. “We wanted to finish it. Our whole starting lineup is seniors. We’re very close and wanted to play with each other this year. It would have been heartbreaking if we couldn’t play. We want to win as much as we can. That’s a big thing for us.”

All 60 minutes

Freeport is coming off another strong season. After getting to the regional final in 2018, the 2019 Falcons went 10-4-2, losing, 3-2, in double-overtime, to visiting Fryeburg Academy in the Class B South semifinals.

Freeport opened the 2020 campaign with a 1-0 loss at Mt. Ararat, then beat host Brunswick, 3-1, Monday.

Yarmouth, under new coach Molly Saunders, began its season with a 4-1 win at Cape Elizabeth, then lost at Falmouth (2-1) and beat visiting South Portland (5-2).

Last year, Freeport swept Yarmouth, 4-0 in Yarmouth and 3-2  at home.

The Clippers had won eight of 13 meetings since the teams started playing regularly in 2010 (see below for previous results), but Freeport had captured the past four.

Saturday, on a glorious autumn day (66 degrees and climbing at the start), Yarmouth sought its first win over the Falcons since Sept. 28, 2016, but Freeport wound a way to overcome a slow start and steal it at the end.

The Clippers came out strong and nearly got the jump in the third minute, but a shot from senior Hannah Swift off a penalty corner rolled just wide.

Late in the first 15-minute period, the Falcons got their offense going, but first senior Autumn Golding was denied by Yarmouth junior Cassie Walsh, then Randall had back-to-back shots from the doorstep turned aside by Walsh.

The Clippers transitioned to offense and senior Abby Hill, after a long run, got into the circle and was brought down hard. Play was stopped and a penalty stroke was awarded.

Pires did the honors and beat Freeport junior goalie Victoria Balla with a low shot and Yarmouth was up, 1-0, with 1:26 remaining in the first period.

Yarmouth senior Anna Pires beats Freeport junior goalie Victoria Balla on a penalty stroke for the game’s first goal.

The Falcons would answer in the second quarter.

After the Clippers couldn’t convert and double their lead on a couple of penalty corner opportunities, Randall redirected a shot by senior Hannah Moore just wide, Groves had a shot deflect wide and Randall was robbed by Walsh.

Finally, with 1:33 to go before halftime, Freeport drew even, as Silva got the ball in the circle, turned and ripped a shot that Walsh couldn’t stop.

That sent the contest to half deadlocked at 1-1.

“We have 14 seniors and a lot of them have been on varsity since their freshman year and I don’t let them get away with anything,” said Freeport coach Marcia Wood. “We’ve talked about the slow starts. We’ve talked about switching up warmups for more intensity. The slow starts can’t happen.”

The Falcons had a 5-1 edge in shots on frame in the first half, but four Walsh saves kept the game tied.

Both teams had good looks in the third quarter, but couldn’t finish.

Just 53 seconds in, Yarmouth senior Samantha Bailey’s bid was denied by Balla.

Two minutes later at the other end, off a penalty corner, Randall was robbed by Walsh.

Later in the period, Bailey’s bid on the doorstep was saved by Balla and the contest went to the fateful fourth quarter still tied, 1-1.

Freeport controlled play in the final period, but needed nearly all 15 minutes to finally rattle the cage.

After Groves had a shot saved by Walsh, the Falcons’ first corner of the frame saw Randall have a shot blocked by a defender.

Another corner didn’t result in a shot.

Freeport then had three straight corners, but two shots from senior Autumn Golding resulted in a block and a deflection which sent the ball just wide.

With 6:06 remaining, the Clippers had their last, best chance to go back on top, but senior Lizzie Guertler was robbed by Balla and on a rebound bid by Hill, Falcons’ senior Myah Jensen swept the ball away at the last second.

With 3:15 to go, a Freeport corner was cleared.

With 1:59 remaining, Randall had a shot saved by Walsh, then Randall’s rebound attempt was knocked aside by Walsh as well.

As time wound down, the Falcons earned one final chance at a corner and this time, they wouldn’t be denied.

With the clock ticking under 15 seconds, the ball was inserted by senior Amelia Farrin. It came to Groves, who swept it over to Randall up top. Randall found some room, settled the ball, then fired a shot which Walsh couldn’t save.

With 3.2 seconds to play in regulation, Freeport had a 2-1 lead.

“It was getting frustrating, but we had to keep our heads up,” Randall said. “Our only mindset was to get a corner. We were able to achieve that and we were excited. We just had to focus and finish. Amelia got the ball to Hannah Groves, then I had some room. We try to read the defense to know where the space is to have enough time to get a hard shot off and we noticed that that play worked. I was aiming for the left corner where (senior) Aynslie Decker could hit it in, but I did it myself.”

“Corners are what we spent the rest of practice working on yesterday,” Wood said. “Our first two games were on grass and our approach on grass is just to get the ball up. In practice yesterday for turf, we worked on different options and switching things up. I’m glad we did that. I don’t think we could have done overtime.”

All the Falcons had to do from there was run out the clock and celebrate their inspirational victory.

“We always have great competition with Yarmouth,” Wood said. “They always show up. It’s a great little rivalry.”

Freeport finished with a 10-5 advantage in shots on cage, an 11-4 edge in corners and got four saves from Balla.

The Clippers got eight saves from Walsh, but couldn’t generate enough offense to earn the win.

“(Freeport) had some great corners,” said Saunders. “They have girls with great stick skills. Their corners are quick and they finished when they needed to. We had some nice runs. We played with the ball too much in the circle. We just need to shoot. I’m so lucky to have these girls. It’s a great group. Very driven and determined. They just want to improve every day, which is something a coach always looks for.”

Makeup games

Yarmouth won’t have to dwell for long, as it plays a makeup game at Greely Tuesday, goes to Gray-New Gloucester Wednesday, then hosts Gray-New Gloucester Friday. The Clippers are also looking very forward to meeting Freeport again Oct. 21 in Freeport.

“We play Freeport in a couple weeks to redeem ourselves,” Saunders said. “Losing in the last minute of the game is the worst way to lose. The only way to turn it around is use it as fuel the next time we play them. Luckily, this was just the first meeting. We’ll come back in the second.”

Freeport hosts Cape Elizabeth for a makeup game Monday, then hosts Mt. Ararat Wednesday.

“The approach is enjoying being out here,” said Wood. “Most of the girls are looking to play next year. They’ve committed their lives to field hockey. They want to have fun and to win. We never know when this might end. We’re thankful to play. It stings to not have playoffs, but (defending regional champion) York can’t even play. We’re fortunate.

“I like playing new teams. It’s nice to see new teams, but I hate grass (field) games. Any game is good and we’ve gone from eight games to 10. That’s great.”

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

Recent Freeport-Yarmouth results

Freeport 4 @ Yarmouth 0
@Freeport 3 Yarmouth 2

Freeport 6 @ Yarmouth 0

@ Freeport 3 Yarmouth 2

Yarmouth 5 @ Freeport 0
@ Yarmouth 5 Freeport 0

@ Yarmouth 2 Freeport 0

Yarmouth 2 @ Freeport 0 

@ Freeport 3 Yarmouth 2
@ Yarmouth 2 Freeport 0

@ Yarmouth 1 Freeport 0

Yarmouth 2 @ Freeport 1

@ Yarmouth 1 Freeport 0

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