Leavitt’s quick start stings Raiders in field hockey quarterfinals

BRIDGET TWEEDIE fired a hard drive on a first half penalty stroke chance, but was denied by Leavitt's netminder. (Rivet Photo)

BRIDGET TWEEDIE fired a hard drive on a first half penalty stroke chance, but was denied by Leavitt's netminder. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — As Coach Dede Frost watched her team warm up, she felt confident the Raiders were “pumped up” and ready to take on Leavitt.

The first minute, however, hardly went Fryeburg Academy’s way and seemed to set the tone for the rest of the Class B quarterfinal field hockey playoff game.

Sixth-seeded Leavitt stunned the home crowd by scoring in just 53 seconds en route to a 2-0 upset victory last Wednesday.

“The first minute of the game — and this sounds crazy — we attempted three skills and did not execute all three. We had the ball at the start and attempted an aerial, and didn’t get the ball off the ground. We stole the ball and attempted to pass down the sideline and it went off the field. We got a free hit and hit the ball in the air. Right after the high lift, they got the ball down there and scored,” Coach Frost said. “It was almost like being blindsided. You’re still thinking about making a mistake, and they score. It was a shock.”

The Hornets earned a penalty corner, and made it count. The ball crossed the front of the Raider goal, and reached the far post where Kiersten LeClerc tapped into the corner for a goal.

Leavitt struck again with 16:43 left on the first half clock. Kaitlyn LeClerc deflected a drive, which sailed to the right top corner past Raider goalie Bridget Fahey for a 2-0 lead.

“We didn’t get off to a good start and for some reason couldn’t overcome it,” Coach Frost said.

With her team frustrated by their inability to penetrate a stifling Hornet defense that clogged up the middle of the scoring circle and were quick to clear passes out.

“I called a timeout, which is rare for me (I’ve called three all season), but when you can tell your kids aren’t clicking it was necessary. We couldn’t recover. We were on the run for 14 minutes. We had opportunities, but didn’t execute well enough to score,” Coach Frost said.

FA had a chance to change momentum and gain some confidence with 13:41 remaining in the half. Senior Nicole Thurston and sophomore Jade Fox pressured Leavitt goalie Hailey DeMascio, who kicked one drive aside, but had a rebound shot nearly squirt through her pads. A scramble ensued resulting in the netminder dropping to her knees, and subsequently pinning the ball.

Fryeburg was awarded a penalty stroke at 7:48 — a big chance to cut the deficit in half. Junior Bridget Tweedie, who has a strong drive and has been effective all season lifting the ball high into the air on free hits, stepped to the stroke line, bent down low and fired a wrist shot on net. But, the ball sailed about waist high to DeMascio’s left and was stopped.

As time wound down, Tweedie nearly scored when a line drive from the top of the scoring circle missed the left inside post by inches, rolling out of bounds.

“It was a huge difference in the game. When a team is down by two, a team spends a lot of energy trying to dig out of that hole. To cut the score to one would have been huge. Yet, I really felt we could come back from 2-0,” Coach Frost said. “The kids were totally prepared for a difficult game. Down 2-0 knocked some wind out of our sails and trying to play catch up took us out of our game. We just couldn’t flip flop from their game to ours. We were always reacting instead of acting the whole game.”

In the second half, the Raiders unloaded several quality shots on goal, but were unable to beat DeMascio.

“We were still playing more defensive because the girls knew they couldn’t afford to give up that third goal. Understandable,” Coach Frost said. “We still had a tough time moving the ball inside the Leavitt circle because (defender) Chantel Eells was right at the top of the circle and shut us out. We couldn’t get the ball around her, and we didn’t use the whole field.”

Coach Frost could sense her team was unable to find their stride — the one that made them a top offensive threat all season.

“When we play well, we have tremendous offensive push. Today, we couldn’t bring all the pieces together. We had some of the pieces some of the time, but not all of the pieces at once,” she said. “When you don’t play your best in the regular season, it’s not the end of the world. You get another chance. In the playoffs, if you don’t play your best, it’s your last game. If we had played our best, there would have been no tears today. I wouldn’t be disappointed. That’s competition. That’s what the playoffs are all about. It’s a little harder to swallow when you just can’t quite step it up.”

Although the loss was tough to accept, Coach Frost reminded her players after the game that it was important to focus on how they got to that final point.

“It’s a journey. If someone told me we would win 11 games, I wouldn’t have believed it. The 11-3 (record). The blood, sweat and tears. They worked very hard. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and they should be so proud of that phenomenal season,” she said. “Obviously, you want to go as far as you can. I am so proud. For the seniors, the last game is always hard. It’s an end of an era. We won a lot of games, not because of skill but because of heart and soul. We were scrappy, and wanted it more. And, we were good sports. They earned every single win. It’s been a great run. They are great girls.”

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