TURNER — Queens of the comeback this season, the Leavitt Hornets thought they'd inaugurate the Western Class B field hockey playoffs with a slightly different philosophy Tuesday: Take a lead and protect it.
Sadie Royer punched in a rebound from the left side of the cage after a drive by Emma Martineau and a flip from Brianna DeGone for the game's only goal as No. 3 Leavitt jumped in front early and hung on for a 1-0 victory over No. 6 Falmouth.
"We've given up a lot of first goals this season," Leavitt coach Wanda Ward-McLean said. "It was nice to have the lead. We had an opportunity for a couple more, too, and they had a couple, too, but we limited their good opportunities."
Royer's goal — only 7:41 into the contest — capped a quick turnover sequence for the Hornets (12-3-0), who transitioned from about 30 yards out and quickly put pressure on the Falmouth defense. Martineau turned from the top of the circle and fired toward the cage.
"The goalie kind of stepped on the ball and it rolled under," Royer said. "She was so far out. I saw the ball coming toward me, and all I could think was that I needed to get my stick on the ground and get the ball in. As soon as I hit it, I saw a defender there and I was thinking, 'I hope she doesn't stop this.' It went right past her."
"I think we were all disappointed by (the first goal), but Leavitt's a very good team, very skilled," Falmouth coach Robin Haley said. "They played a great game, a lot of give-and-gos, and I've said all season long, looking at this league, it's the team that makes the least number of mistakes in a game. They did today."
For most of the remainder of the first half, Leavitt continued to press, looking for a cushion on which to rest. None materialized.
Leavitt also started strong in the second half, but the Yachtsmen (8-5-2) began to counter.
"We came out the second half, I thought we played calmer," Haley said. "They certainly were very nervous in that first half, and you could see it. They were very tight. Playoffs are always very difficult.
"Overall I was very pleased with what they did in the second half," Haley said. "We just had a couple of tough breaks, some drives that didn't go where we needed to have them go. We just couldn't finish it off."
One drive in particular forced Leavitt keeper Sierra Santamango to make her best save of the afternoon. The drive came from the keeper's left, and she dove across the front of the cage to force the ball wide.
"That was a beautiful save on a nice, hard shot," Ward-McLean said.
Two Falmouth strikers in particular — Sarah Sparks and Leika Scott — drew the Hornets' attention most of the afternoon.
"(Sparks) and (Scott) are great players for Falmouth," Ward-McLean said. "We tried to limit their opportunities to touch the ball."
With Falmouth continuing to generate chances, Leavitt called a late timeout.
"For a while we were dominating the second half, and then it swung," Ward-McLean said. "We wanted to compose ourselves a bit. We just needed to remember that we were winning, and that Falmouth was the team that needed to be rushed, not us."
On the other end, save for Royer's early tally, Falmouth keeper Hillary Nash allowed her team to stay close during the early onslaught.
"As I tell my team, and I tell my goalies this, it has to get through 10 others before it gets to the goalie," Haley said. "She does a great job; she's kept us in a lot of games and we've won a lot of games as a result of her play."
With the win, Leavitt advances to the semifinal round, where it will face No. 2 Fryeburg Academy (13-2-0) in Fryeburg on Saturday afternoon.