The scoreboard tells the story after an offensive explosion Thursday night.

FREEPORT—Trailing 3-0 just over 10 minutes into Thursday’s contest, Freeport’s girls’ soccer team didn’t panic.

Instead, it turned out the Falcons had the Greely Rangers right where they wanted them.

And they proceeded to embark on a stunning comeback that turned an apparent lopsided loss into a decisive victory.

Greely junior Katie Carlson sandwiched a pair of goals around a tally from freshman Kaylee O’Grady and the Rangers appeared primed to run away with it, but Freeport senior standout Rachel Wall and a freshman making her first varsity start, Rosie Panenka, had other ideas.

Panenka got the rally started with consecutive goals, then Wall struck twice to improbably put the Falcons ahead, 4-3, at halftime.

Wall then completed her hat trick with a goal early in the second half and Panenka soon followed suit.

One final goal from Wall, with just over 11 minutes to play, was the final blow and Freeport went on to a 7-3 victory.

Wall, who entered the game having scored just once this season, scored four times, Panenka added three goals of her own and the Falcons’ defense didn’t allow a goal in the final 69-plus minutes as Freeport improved to 2-3 and dropped Greely to 1-4 in the process.

“The girls showed a lot of heart and came back,” said Falcons coach David Intraversato. “There was no panic. We tightened it up and kept them off the board.”

Offensive explosion

Both teams made the playoffs a year ago and would have been contenders this fall if it were a normal season.

Freeport started with a 4-0 setback at Bunswick, then defeated host Mt. Ararat (5-3). The Falcons then lost at Yarmouth (2-0) and Tuesday at Mt. Ararat (2-1). 

Greely started with losses to visiting Cape Elizabeth (5-0) and at Falmouth (5-1), then upset visiting Yarmouth, 3-2, in overtime before being blanked at Cape Elizabeth Saturday, 8-0.

Last year, Freeport downed Greely at home, 6-2, then the teams settled for a 2-2 tie in Cumberland.

Thursday, on a 55 degree evening, with occasional hints of fog, both teams put their offensive acumen on display, but it was the Falcons who simply couldn’t be stopped.

Freeport threatened to strike first in the second minute, but senior Carly Intraversato headed a corner kick just high.

The Rangers then transitioned to offense and with 37:08 to go in the first half, Carlson struck for the first time, off a corner kick, redirecting senior captain Kaci O’Grady’s serve off the far post and in.

After Wall had a rush broken up by Greely sophomore goalkeeper Elise Ekowicki and Wall missed just wide twice, Greely made it 2-0 with 30:33 on the clock, as junior Chelsey Graiver set up Shaylee O’Grady in transition and O’Grady beat Freeport senior goalkeeper Leah Rusiecki.

“We’ve struggled, but we had no preseason and no summer soccer and that’s 18 games,” David Intraversato said. “Now, we’re here in game five and trying to find positions. We graduated nine kids and six were in the back.”

It took just over a minute for the Rangers to strike again, as Carlson collected a loose ball in the box and beat Rusiecki inside the far post for a 3-0 lead.

Everything was going the visitors’ way, but unfortunately for Greely, a ton of time remained for the Falcons to respond and respond they did.

With a vengeance.

Panenka sparked the comeback with 26:18 left in the half.

After Wall drew the defense, she passed off to Panenka, who beat Ekowicki to the diving goalie’s left to get the hosts on the board.

And there would be plenty more offense where that came from.

After Wall just missed on a good look, Wall had a shot saved, but Panenka was there to bang home the rebound and with 18:41 on the clock, Freeport was only down one.

“I was a little nervous because I’ve tried to earn playing time and it was my first start,” said Panenka. “We were back on our heels when they scored those early ones, but our defense stepped up and cleared the ball and we were able to finish on offense. Rachel was a big part of it. We were able to put pressure on their defense and get shots. We’d had trouble capitalizing in recent games, but we scored tonight, which was big for us.”

“This was Rosie’s first game starting,” said Wall. “When she scored the first goal, that set the stage for the rest of the game. She earned her spot tonight. From there, the energy from everyone started coming and we gave everything we had.”

“(Rosie) earned a spot yesterday and she answered the call,” added David Intraversato. “Big-time.”

It just took just over two more minutes for the Falcons to draw even.

This time, it would be Wall finishing, as she got to a rebound in front and with 16:30 left in the half, each team already had three goals.

Greely looked to retake the lead, but a long free kick from senior captain Hannah Cornish was saved by Rusiecki.

With 12:35 remaining, Wall appeared to put Freeport on top, but she was ruled offsides.

That only delayed the inevitable, as with 8:08 to go, Carly Intraversato served a corner kick into the box, Wall got to it, then chipped it past Ekowicki to put the Falcons ahead to stay.

“We’ve had trouble coming out slow in the first half, but we found a new gear and we didn’t want to lose again,” Wall said. “That was motivation to keep going. Props to my teammates for setting me up.”

Late in regulation, Freeport had some great chances to extend its lead, but Wall hit the far post, Wall missed wide on an open net and after being brought down in the box, freshman Taryn Curry took a penalty kick, but had it tipped over the bar at the last moment by Ekowicki.

When Wall headed a corner kick just over the crossbar with 17 seconds to go, the score at the half read Falcons 4 Rangers 3.

Freeport scored on four of its six shots on frame, while Greely went 3-for-5.

The Falcons then went out and extended their lead in the second half.

It only took 2:25 for Wall to complete her hat trick, scoring unassisted, as she had an initial shot saved by Ekowicki before burying the rebound to make it 5-3.

“Rachel was just unstoppable tonight,” said David Intraversato. “She only had one goal before tonight and was getting frustrated, but she finally broke out. She’s so strong and can run through anybody.”

Panenka then joined the hat trick club with 36:36 left, as Panenka took a corner kick from Ekowicki’s right and bent it in perfectly to make it 6-3.

“Yesterday, in practice, we did a lot of corners and Coach said, ‘I want you to try and hook it in,'” said Panenka. “That was kind of cool that it did.”

Greely tried to rally, but Graiver just missed wide, Rusiecki came out to break up a Graiver chance, Rusiecki saved a bid from Cornish, junior captain Carly Asherman missed just wide and Kaci O’Grady had a shot saved by Rusiecki.

Then, for good measure, the Great Wall of Freeport scored for the fourth time, taking a long pass from junior Molly Cobbs before dribbling around Ekowicki, who came out to challenge, and finishing.

Freeport ran out the clock from there and celebrated its 7-3 victory.

“I was a little worried at the beginning, but we had confidence and we got energy from our bench,” Wall said.  “We have a lot of younger girls who are stepping up after we graduated a big senior class. We’ve been figuring out what works best. I’m super-proud of our defense especially.”

The Falcons out-shot the Rangers, 10-8, on frame, got five saves from Rusiecki and took five corner kicks to Greely’s four.

The Rangers got three saves from Ekowicki, but saw a commanding lead slip away in the blink of an eye.

“The first 15 minutes, we looked great,” said Greely coach Josh Muscadin. “It was amazing, like we do in drills. It was downhill from there. After that, if I could tell you what happened, I’d be the richest guy in the world. The girls didn’t even know what happened. I asked the ladies, ‘What did we learn.’ They said, ‘We thought we had it.’ I said, ‘That’s the mistake.’ We have to get together. You can’t expect the goalie to do everything. We play against dangerous teams. When you give up when you’re up 3-0, thinking you have the game, that’s the learning experience.”

One more meeting

The teams play again Tuesday in Cumberland, part of a busy closing stretch.

Greely welcomes Falmouth Friday, then hosts Freeport, goes to Yarmouth Oct. 31 and closes at home against Fryeburg Academy Nov. 4.

“We have to work on some stuff,” Muscadin said. “We want to finish strong. We play to win.”

The Falcons first host Yarmouth Saturday, then finish with games at Greely, at Gray-New Gloucester (Oct. 29), at home versus Brunswick (Nov. 4) and at home versus Waynflete (Nov. 6).

“I just want to work hard and get that bond with my teammates who I’m not really familiar with,” said Paneneka. “It’s really exciting to play with girls who are older than me.”

“We want to show the younger girls what they can accomplish,” Wall said. “I’ve had a great four years with great teammates and I want to show them if they give everything they have, they can win and grow.”

“The girls answered the call tonight and I think we’ll bring it Saturday against Yarmouth too,” added David Intraversato. “We want to win our games, but we also want to get our young kids ready and find spots for them and get them to understand what (varsity’s) like.”

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

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