Falcons stun second-seeded Raiders

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

DENIED — Fryeburg Academy senior sniper Sage Hennessy sees her point-blank shot stuffed by Mountain Valley goalie Emily Gallant during second half action Tuesday. The seventh-ranked Falcons upset the Raiders on their home turf, 2-0. (Rivet Photo)

FRYEBURG — Emily Gallant did something no other goalie dared to do against Fryeburg Academy’s quick and aggressive front line — she went on the attack.

Often playing 12 to 16 feet away from the goal crease, Gallant gave Raider shooters very little time or angle to get shots off Tuesday as Mountain Valley stunned second-ranked Fryeburg Academy 2-0 in the Class B West field hockey quarterfinals.

Fryeburg (12-3) certainly had plenty of scoring opportunities, firing 24 shots. But, Gallant rejected each try with quick pad saves to totally frustrate the high-powered Raider attack.

“She is one of a kind, no question. We watched them play on Saturday, and it was so neat because she really is their strength. They have two fantastic midfielders and then a goalie. I’m not saying this to be mean, but she is everything to them. I was very impressed by her,” Fryeburg Academy Coach Dede Frost said. “That fearless energy is impressive. We had some tough breaks and some things just didn’t fall our way. Statistically, we out played them by almost three times. We had opportunities. We had twice the amount of corners and twice the amount of shots, but just came up empty.”

Statistically, the Raiders indeed dominated with 12 penalty corner chances to the Falcons’ six, and 24 shots to MV’s nine.

Gallant, however, was a difference maker. And, she may have had a little luck on her side as well. Coach Frost questioned whether the Falcon netminder could have been whistled for a couple of infractions, which could have turned the tide.

“We felt the far official missed two calls that could have been potential penalty strokes. When you have that kind of play, there were a couple of times she (Gallant) was way out of the cage and it appeared to us that she had her hand over the ball. That’s not legal,” Coach Frost said.

Despite the non-calls, Coach Frost was quick to credit Gallant with an incredible effort.

“She was phenomenal,” the coach said. “Our kids were frustrated. We just couldn’t figure a way to get around her. It just didn’t happen for us today.”

Mountain Valley (9-4-2) beat Wells 4-0 in the prelim round to earn a shot at the Raiders. Seeded seventh, the Falcons had lost twice to third-seed Spruce Mountain (Jay/Livermore) and dropped games to Lisbon and Winthrop.

The Falcons came out flying Tuesday, and put the Raiders on their heels early when Nicole Burgess executed a reverse stick flick shot from the left side that beat Raider goalie Brittany Fox to her stick side with 19:43 left in the first half.

“Brittany got a stick on it, which impressed me. That goal didn’t bother me. I felt if we played our game, we would get that goal back,” Coach Frost said. “At halftime, I was totally optimistic. The kids felt they were the better team and felt they could come back. The last 10 minutes of the first half, we had 11 shots and they didn’t get the ball over the 50. We had so many opportunities.”

The game definitely featured two contrasting styles. Fryeburg is a finesse team that likes to use its speed, dodging skills and passing to attack their opponents. Mountain Valley is the complete opposite. With size on the defensive front, led by Ayla Allen, the Falcons rely on big hits to move the ball up the field. The Falcons tend to be physical. Both teams were handed “cards” after players were knocked down.

With a 1-0 lead, the Falcons clogged the defensive end, leaving little room for the Raiders to maneuver. FA had a golden chance to tie the game with 2:30 left in the half when Maddy Smith zipped past two defenders and unloaded a couple of drives at Gallant. Off a rebound, Smith sent the ball across the goalmouth, but winger Ellen Bacchiocchi’s redirect just missed the right corner.

Fryeburg continued to pressure the Falcon goal early in the second half. Four minutes in, Sage Hennessy motored past a defender along the right sideline and fired a crossing pass to Christina DiPietro, who tipped the ball. Gallant made the save, but the ball went high into the air. Coach Frost pleaded for a penalty corner, but the plea fell on the deaf ears of the Central Maine board official.

A minute later, the Raiders again swarmed the Falcon goal as Smith found Hennessy in front of the cage. Two quick drives were blocked by Gallant.

Momentum, however, can shift quickly in field hockey.

Despite the Raiders’ onslaught, the Falcons delivered the knockout punch with 20:30 left in the game. Off a penalty corner, Payton Provencher’s drive beat Fox to the left lower corner. Again, there was some question about the goal.

“We questioned whether the shot came from outside of the circle,” Coach Frost said.

After some discussion between the game officials, the goal stood.

Fryeburg had a few more penalty corner chances over the final 13 minutes, but as the clock started to wind down, both stress and fatigue seemed to take its toll on the Raiders.

“When they scored that second goal, I got a sense that some panic was setting in. There was 15 minutes left in the game when I called timeout. I told the kids that we had scored three goals in one minute before, and the game was long from over,” Coach Frost said. “We just couldn’t penetrate. They made stops and cleared the ball. At some point, I think our kids really wondered, ‘How am I going to get the ball past her.’ Fatigue became a factor. We did more running. They wind it down and chase it. We didn’t stop the ball until it reached our third tier.”

Over the final five minutes, the Falcons consistently knocked down crossing passes and made strong clearing drives out of the attack zone. When the siren sounded ending the game, Gallant leaped into the arms of two of her defensive players.

Meanwhile, the Raiders had no real answers as to their quick playoff exit.

“There are times when a team loses and you feel that the better team did win. Today, I didn’t feel that way. We were a better team. They had a couple tremendous athletes and tremendous drives, but we had the better team unit. We dominated play, but unfortunately, we didn’t put the ball in the net. They did,” Coach Frost said. “It’s hard to walk away from a loss when your kids showed a lot of determination and desire, which is the heartbreaker.”

Coach Frost admitted it probably would have benefited the Raiders had they played the Falcons in the regular season “to get a feel for what they do.” However, the Raiders looked forward to the challenge because they wanted to start a “new tradition.”

“We have never before beaten a team from their conference. We always have had to travel there. And, we lost each time,” Coach Frost said. “We were hoping to change tradition today.”

Emily Gallant, however, kept the other “tradition” going.

In defeat, it would be easy to forget the incredible journey the Raiders had in 2011. Watching tears flow down the cheeks of senior players, the coach reminded the team that they had a phenomenal run.

“Great season, 12-2, only team to beat York, we showed a lot of talent and skill. I stressed the fact that they worked very hard to be 12-2. They way they played and scored. We just didn’t scrape out wins, we won 4-0 or 3-1. They were at a different level of play than in prior years,” Coach Frost said.

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