BOX SCORE

North Yarmouth Academy 10 Freeport 9

NYA- 4 6- 10
F- 7 2- 9

First half
20:40 F K. Tracy (unassisted)
20:30 NYA Holt (unassisted)
15:20 F S. Tracy (unassisted)
12:44 NYA Casey (Tran)
12:01 NYA Holt (free position)
11:28 NYA Sharp (Tran)
9:50 F S. Tracy (unassisted)
8:06 F Olsen (unassisted)
5:58 F Havey (Driscoll)
2:15 F Driscoll (K Tracy)
8.7 F K. Tracy (free position)

Second half
21:35 NYA Tran (unassisted)
17:39 NYA Holt (free position)
17:21 F S. Tracy (unassisted)
12:38 NYA Yilmaz (Tran)
6:34 NYA McKenney (Tran)
6:11 NYA Holt (unassisted)
2:55 F S. Tracy (Driscoll)
1:01 NYA Tran (unassisted)

Goals:
NYA- Holt 4, Tran 2, Casey, McKenney, Sharp, Yilmaz 1
F- S. Tracy 4, K. Tracy 2, Driscoll, Havey, Olsen 1

Assists:
NYA- Tran 4
F- Driscoll 2, K. Tracy 1

Draws (Freeport, 14-7)
NYA- Holt  7 of 21
F- S. Tracy 12 of 15, K. Tracy 2 of 6

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Shots on cage:
NYA- 13
F- 14

Saves:
NYA (Gee) 5
F (Williams) 3

FREEPORT—Someone forgot to tell the North Yarmouth Academy girls’ lacrosse team that the Freeport Falcons were planning to return to the Class C state final.

So Tuesday evening at the Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field, the Panthers spoiled the Falcons’ party.

And instead, improbably punched their ticket to the big game instead.

NYA took an early 4-2 lead behind a couple goals from senior standout Maggie Holt, but the Falcons got their offense going and scored five straight goals to end the half, the last a free position from junior star Kate Tracy with just 8.7 seconds showing, to take a 7-4 lead to the break.

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But the Panthers, playing for a first-year coach in Molly Moss-Stokes and featuring numerous girls who are new to the team, saved their best for last, roaring back in the second half.

A goal from senior Emilia McKenney with 6:34 to play tied the score, 8-8, then Holt scored the go-ahead goal 23 seconds later.

Freeport refused to go quietly, rallying to tie the score at 9-9 when senior standout Savannah Tracy scored with 2:55 to play, but with 1:01 left, junior Vy Tran put NYA ahead and after forcing a turnover, the Panthers were able to run out the clock and pull off a stunning 10-9 victory.

NYA improved to 10-5, brought a sooner-than-expected end to the Falcons’ season at 10-4 and in the process, advanced to Friday’s Class C state final, where it will meet No. 4 Wells (12-3) at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, at a time to be announced.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Tran said. “We’ve worked really hard all season. We had a lot of bumps in the road. All the failure led us here. It hurts to lose and we’ve used those losses to fuel our energy.”

Lessons learned

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Freeport was left crestfallen after a 9-8 state final loss to Waynflete a year ago, in a game that the Falcons were higher seeded, playing a squad they had beaten during the regular season.

Ever since walking off the field in the aftermath of that defeat, Freeport has been focused on winning the 2022 state title and other than losses to Class A contender Cape Elizabeth and Class B powers Greely and York, the Falcons passed every test (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

Freeport had no trouble with No. 7 Morse in Friday’s state quarterfinals, advancing by virtue of a 17-2 victory.

NYA, meanwhile, started with an overtime win over Waynflete, but was up-and-down from there.

The Panthers eliminated No. 14 Oceanside (12-2) in the preliminary round, then ended No. 6 Waynflete’s reign in Saturday’s quarterfinals, 8-6.

The teams had met three previous times in the playoffs with the Panthers winning all of them, including a memorable 17-16 overtime victory in the most recent encounter, the 2019 Class C state quarterfinals. NYA also beat the Falcons in the 2002 divisional preliminary round (15-3) and the 2008 Eastern B semifinals (14-6).

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Tuesday, in front of a huge crowd, it was supposed to be Freeport’s turn, but instead, the Panthers played like the champions they’re potentially 50 minutes from becoming.

North Yarmouth Academy senior Lila Jackson leaps to receive a pass early in the Panthers’ 10-9 upset victory at Freeport Tuesday. Hoffer photos.

The Falcons struck first, just over four minutes into the game, when Kate Tracy scored unassisted, beating NYA senior goalie Acadia Gee.

A mere 10 seconds later, after winning the draw, Holt scored to tie it.

Freeport went back on top with 15:20 left in the half, as Savannah Tracy scored unassisted.

The Panthers then went on a run, pulling even when Tran set up freshman Lyla Casey for a goal with 12:44 on the clock, taking the lead for the first time on a Holt free position 43 seconds later, then going up by two when Tran set up senior Emma Sharp for a shot Freeport junior goalie Piper Williams couldn’t deny with 11:28 left.

The Falcons then roared back and dominated the rest of the first half.

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With 9:50 to go, Savannah Tracy scored unassisted.

After Gee denied a shot from senior Ellie Whittier, she couldn’t stop junior Emily Olsen, who finished after a crease roll, to tie the score again.

With 5:58 left in the half, senior Megan Driscoll set up classmate Kyla Havey for a 5-4 lead.

After Olsen hit the post and Gee denied Kate Tracy twice and Savannah Tracy once, Kate Tracy set up Driscoll for a goal with 2:15 on the clock.

Then, with just 8.7 seconds showing, Kate Tracy converted a free position and it appeared Freeport had all the momentum, taking a 7-4 lead to halftime.

The hosts had a chance to perhaps put the game away with a fast start to the second half, but instead, it would be NYA roaring back.

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NYA junior Vy Tran, who would score the winning goal, defends Freeport junior Kate Tracy.

With 21:35 remaining, Tran scored unassisted, ending the Falcons’ 5-0 run and a 17 minute, 17 second scoring drought.

With 17:39 on the clock, Holt finished a free position, beating Williams high, and the Panthers were back within one.

Savannah Tracy answered 18 seconds later, fighting through the defense before tickling the twine, but with 12:38 left, in transition, Tran found senior Alev Yilmaz for a goal which cut the deficit to 8-7.

Then, after Yilmaz and Sharp missed wide, Tran set up McKenney for the tying goal with 6:34 remaining.

After Savannah Tracy won the ensuing draw to Kate Tracy, NYA forced a turnover and Holt pounced, scooping up the loose ball and racing in and beating Williams to give the Panthers their first lead of the second half, 9-8.

It wouldn’t last, as even though NYA milked some time off the clock, Freeport got the ball back and with 2:55 to go, Driscoll lofted a perfect pass to Savannah Tracy in front, who turned and fired her 98th career goal past Gee to tie the score for the fifth and final time, 9-9.

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But NYA wouldn’t buckle.

Out of a timeout, Holt won the draw to Casey and the Panthers settled in and looked to take the lead.

After milking the clock for nearly two minutes, it appeared NYA would be content holding for a last-second shot, but instead, Tran, behind the goal, spotted some daylight and she raced in and beat Williams with 1:01 remaining for the biggest goal of her career and a 10-9 lead.

“When (Maggie) is getting face-guarded, they’re not looking at me, so that’s what I was capitalizing on,” Tran said. “I just saw a little room and I just took a risk. It was pretty exciting.”

“That was the biggest goal,” Moss-Stokes said. “We had a feeling they’d face-guard Maggie, so she tried to make some commotion and create opportunities for others. Vy got loose underneath and rolled the crease and in it went. It was a great goal for her.”

The Falcons still had life when Savannah Tracy won the ensuing draw to her sister, but Freeport threw the ball away and Panthers senior Jazzy Huntsman scooped it up.

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Huntsman then ran the ball into the offensive end before giving it up.

“I’m new to lacrosse, so when I don’t know what to do, I just run for it,” Huntsman said.

NYA just had to run out the clock from there and at 7:31 p.m., the horn sounded and the Panthers had their biggest victory in over a decade, 10-9.

NYA players rush the field in celebration following the victory.

“We just huddled up and talked about being composed,” Tran said. “Today, that was our main goal and that helped us. Last time we played Freeport, they (ran out the clock on us), so we knew what to do.”

“It’s awesome,” Huntsman said. “This is my first year. I wish I had started sooner. I think at the beginning of the year, our focus was just the basics and learning how to play since half our team is new. The connection was immediate. We’re all competitive and team-focused.

“We like to keep everyone on their toes. Being three goals down was nothing. It just came down to who wanted it more. Freeport’s a really fun team to play against. They’re really talented. It’s a really big win for us, not just to go to states, but that we beat a great team in Freeport.”

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“We knew it was going to be a battle, so we just decided to take it play-by-play,” added Moss-Stokes. “I just told the girls we’d been there before and we’ve had to come back from behind and we just had to chip away at it. We couldn’t get too overwhelmed by the process of being down.”

Holt was her usual superb self, scoring a team-high four goals. Tran added two goals and also had four assists. Casey, McKenney, Sharp and Yilmaz finished with one goal apiece.

Gee made five saves.

Stunned

For Freeport, Savannah Tracy bowed out with four goals.

“Savannah has just been key this year,” Falcons coach Marcia Wood said. “Today, she just hustled and came out of the crowd with the ball.”

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Kate Tracy added two goals and one assists, while Driscoll (two assists), Havey and Olsen had one goal apiece.

Williams made three saves.

The Falcons had a 14-7 advantage in the draw circle and a 14-13 edge in shots on cage, but still fell agonizingly short.

“It was mistakes,” Wood lamented. “Mistakes and nerves. We talk about redeeming yourself after making a mistake and we just needed to redeem ourselves more today. I don’t think we played badly. There were some calls that were missed that prevented us from shooting. We should have held on to the ball more. We needed to take care of the ball and make the most out of our possessions.

“It’s very disappointing, but what are you going to do? It’s sports. Hopefully we’ll learn from it.”

Freeport will graduate nine seniors, but should be strong again in 2023, when perhaps it will finally break through.

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“I have good kids coming back with some big playoff experience,” Wood said. “We’ll keep kicking at the door.”

One more step

NYA won, 11-6, at Wells in the regular season finale May 27. The teams have never met in the playoffs.

The Panthers played in six previous state finals, with a victory over Waynflete in the 2010 Class B game the most recent and their lone title.

This year’s group hopes to cap its stirring rise with the ultimate prize Friday.

“It feels amazing to go to states,” Tran said. “I missed my freshman year (due to COVID) and last year, we fell short. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing.”

“I’m so excited,” Huntsman said. “We just have to play the way we’ve been playing. It won’t be easy. We love a challenge. That’s what makes us want it more.”

“I love it that we’re going to states,” Moss-Stokes added. “I’m so proud of these girls. We know we’re going to give it our all. We’ll stick with the same game plan and play some good defense.”

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

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