Poland’s Nyah Levesque battles for the ball with Freeport’s Hannah Groves during the Class B South field hockey quarterfinals in Freeport on Tuesday. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald)

FREEPORT — It has been a long time coming — 2002 to be exact — since the Freeport High School field hockey team earned a quarterfinal win in the postseason. On Tuesday evening, Poland was looking to stand in the Falcons’ way.

No. 3 Freeport erased a two-goal deficit with three second-half goals, including the game-winner by Alexa Koenig off a Hannah Groves helper with two minutes remaining to slip past sixth-seed Poland 3-2 in a Class B South quarterfinal at Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field.

“We’ve been practicing that a lot. Instead of just hitting in the circle, we’ve been passing in the circle,” Koenig said. “Hannah passed it straight to post and luckily I was there enough to get a reverse spin and hit it behind me to get the goal. We’ve practiced that a lot so it was really amazing to see us execute it.”

The Falcons will travel to face No. 2 Fryeburg Academy, 2-1 winners over Lake Region in overtime on Tuesday, in the semifinals. Poland concludes its season at 7-8.

The two Western Maine Conference schools were familiar with each other coming into the game, having faced each other once this season, when Freeport came away with a 4-0 victory on Sept. 24 in Poland.

Tuesday’s matchup played out differently, something Poland coach Mara Balboni was expecting.

“They are an offensive team. We knew this team as we played them earlier in the season and we’ve watched a lot of film to kind of see ourselves and see where our big gaps were,” Balboni said. “The whole week in practice we were focusing on defending their offense. And I think everything came together on everything we’ve worked on this year.”

Despite the early pressure by Freeport, Poland struck where it counted most, scoring the game’s first goal just 1:43 into the contest when Hwida Nawass assisted Alexa Murphy’s shot that ran past Freeport keeper Katelyn Rouleau for the score.

Less than five minutes later, Brianna Doucette put the Knights ahead by two goals when she blasted a shot to the back of the cage.

“They out-hustled us in a lot of that game. This game is all about momentum,” Freeport coach Marcia Wood said. “We had a hard time getting a goal in, then they get that momentum with one goal in, that momentum shifted and they got another.

“We knew that No. 12 (Doucette) and 13 (Nawass) were their guns and we needed to mark them out immediately. We did OK at it, but we could’ve done a lot better with marking them out and not letting them have the ball.”

Freeport continued putting pressure on the Poland defense, but were never able to put quality shots on goal. Koenig had several chances, but her shots were either deflected or just wide of the cage.

“She may have been trying to press too hard,” Wood said. “She dealt with being marked out all game.”

Poland took the two-goal lead into the halftime break, putting six shots on net to Freeport’s one. The Falcons held a slight advantage in penalty corners, 5-4.

Freeport opened the second half with a little more urgency, but again came up short on its runs down the field. Poland continued to frustrate the Falcon offense, and Wood felt a little panic.

“Absolutely there was panic. You could see we weren’t playing our game,” she said. “The last time we played Poland we were moving the ball all around the field, we weren’t doing that.

“Once they (Poland) scored, and scored again, we just started to do everything individually. I stressed to them during halftime that ‘you need to play your game’ because once they start passing, they’re good.”

Nine minutes into the second frame, sophomore Aynslie Decker came off the bench and sparked the Falcons offense, registering a goal off a pass from Kerry Lefebvre.

“Aynslie coming off the bench and getting that first goal was huge,” Wood said. “We could feel that momentum coming back our way.”

Just two minutes later, Freeport received even more momentum when Groves took a pass from Ally Randall and connected for the equalizer, beating Knights keeper Ashton Sturtevant and getting a huge roar from the home crowd.

Over the next 15 minutes, both teams made modest runs, but both goalies and the defenses in front of them kept the score tied. Sturtevant turned away a pair of shots in net, while Freeport’s Rouleau had six saves in the win.

“We talk about, just get it out, it doesn’t have to be fancy, just clear it,” Wood said of her defenders. “Katelyn also played great in net for us.”

Freeport was too much, putting four shots on net in the second-half, including the game-winner from Koenig.

Poland continued its fight until the final whistle.

“They did, that’s one of our strengths is our girls don’t give up and they fight the entire time,” Balboni said. “We’re low on numbers and they played the whole game and fought the entire time.”

Freeport is happy for its group of seniors to be advancing, but knows it’s now time to prepare for Fryeburg, a team they’ve already seen twice this season.

“Super proud of them of being able to come back from a two-goal deficit. It’s a special group. The seniors have been with me since their freshman year, all of them have been on varsity and I know they want it,” Wood said. “We’re heading to Fryeburg — we lost one, tied one (with the Raiders), so we’re hoping what’s left is the win.”

Freeport’s Rachel Harmon battles for the ball with Brianna Doucette of Poland during the Class B South field hockey quarterfinals in Freeport on Tuesday. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald)

Freeport’s Natalie Anderson jumps into the arms of Alexa Koenig after Keonig scored a late goal to give Freeport a lead over Poland during the Class B South field hockey quarterfinals in Freeport on Tuesday. Joining in the celebration to the left is Kerry Lefebvre. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald).


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