From underdog to the top dog

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

SIDELINE JUGGLER — Raider Kendra Fox lifts the ball past a Yarmouth defender during Monday’s 4-0 win at Fryeburg Academy. (Rivet Photo)

FRYEBURG — Dede Frost liked the underdog role.

Fryeburg Academy can no longer play that card.

The Raiders occupy the top spot in the Class B West Heal Ratings at 8-1, well ahead of Spruce Mountain (8-0, the Jay-Livermore combo) in the tournament index.

Although the limelight is shining brighter and brighter on this Raider edition following an impressive 4-1 victory over Falmouth last week, Coach Frost believes her team is staying humble and trying to improve its overall game as the playoffs near.

“Being ranked Number 1 is very different — not really a position I am enjoying. I don’t know why that is. I know a lot of coaches thrive on it, and maybe they’re used to it. I don’t like the limelight and I don’t like the Heal Points. The only thing Heal Points mean is if you are high enough in the standings, you get a home game. It doesn’t guarantee anything,” Coach Frost said.

Yet, Coach Frost is happy for her girls for reaching the field hockey summit.

“Because they have never been Number 1, it’s really exciting for them. So, I’m trying to enjoy their enthusiasm of being Number 1,” Coach Frost said. “It’s still just one game at a time. Number 1 means nothing, at this point. It’s not a great place to be right now (with half the season to go) because everyone is gunning for you. I like being the underdog.”

Wednesday’s duel featured two teams with blazing speed along the front line. Falmouth is now a turf team, which often works to the Yachtsmen’s advantage. But, the Raiders managed to pin Falmouth (4-3-1) in their own end for most of the first half, often times being a step quicker to the ball.

Fryeburg scored first with 21:39 left in the first half as Sage Hennessy knocked in a rebound shot after two quick flicks in front of the cage by Ellen Bacchiocchi. FA’s persistence resulted in four straight penalty corner calls, which set up the first goal.

Five minutes later, Hennessy’s crossing pass to the left side found a motoring Maddy Smith, who one-timed a drive past Falmouth goalie Hillary Nash for a 2-0 lead.

Second-ranked Falmouth scored in the closing seconds of the half to pull within 2-1.

“Their goal was tricky. Brittany (Fox) made a gorgeous save, and everybody celebrated. It was if everyone took a brief moment and felt, “Thank God.” Meanwhile, Falmouth kept playing and scored. It was a great lesson that you can’t let down for a minute. We weren’t ready. You could see that momentary disappointment on their faces, but we did comeback,” Coach Frost said.

The Raiders didn’t panic. They responded.

With 16:46 left, Christina DiPietro scored to give the Raiders a cushion. Bacchiocchi would ice it with a goal with 5:24 remaining.

“That goal (by Christina) was huge. You know the game could have taken a turn the other way. If they had tied it, there’s always the possibility that players then start to doubt their abilities. Field hockey is as much a mental game as it is skill. Thankfully, we regrouped and came back together and scored,” Coach Frost said.

Although the final score read 4-1, the Raiders were in a much tighter game than what the numbers said. Improvement was seen in all parts of the Raiders’ game, but their coach believes this team can be even better — hopefully, hitting its full stride once the playoffs begin.

“Twice today, we got back to playing Fryeburg hockey. Sometimes in the first half, we had some great passing and showed our breakaway speed. Then, the last 10 minutes of the game we started to move the ball well and took advantage of our speed,” Coach Frost said. “It came and went. There were moments of beauty and glory, and moments of very average, scuttle butt, not knowing where we should be play.”

Yet, Coach Frost knows her club had beaten a quality opponent (ranked second at the time).

“They’re (Falmouth) used to playing on turf where they move the ball very fast. Today, it was important for us to get to them before they could pass off. Cutting to the ball is huge. Who can get to that ball first? Who wants it more? That’s where it was won. You can’t do anything if you can’t get the ball,” Coach Frost said. “One of our goals was to cut to the ball and not allow them to move the ball quickly — try to keep control of the ball and anticipate. We did that at times.”

Falmouth had an advantage in penalty corner chances, but the Raiders defended their end very well all afternoon.

“It wasn’t as if they had a lot of scoring chances, we just kept making mistakes that gave them another chance. I saw some fatigue. It was interesting to see that we had some people get out to the ball really fast, but couldn’t finish the play. Again, it was a learning lesson,” the coach said.

The hectic game schedule may have brought a little fatigue to the Raider ranks. Hoping to keep the team fresh, both mentally and physically, Coach Frost did

something she never has in her two decades of coaching.

“It’s been a little difficult this season because we’ve played every Saturday and I think the kids are a little tired, emotionally and physically. There’s been no recovery time. So, I’m giving them tomorrow off (Thursday), something I haven’t done in 25 years — having a midweek day off. Friday, we’ll be back at it and Saturday, we have another game,” she said.

They responded with another victory over Cape Elizabeth, 1-0 Saturday — staying Number 1, at least for another week.

Up next: The Raiders travel to Wells today, Oct. 29 for a 6 p.m. game. Fryeburg hosts Cape Elizabeth on Saturday at 11 a.m. as part of Homecoming festivities. FA closes out the regular season with a trip to Falmouth next Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m. and a home game against Gray-New Gloucester on Oct. 11 at 3:30 p.m.

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