Poland’s Kloe O’Leary, center, and Fryeburg Academy’s Sophia Bruno try to gain control of the ball while Poland goalie Cassidy Lessard attempts to defend the goal during Tuesday afternoon’s field hockey game in Poland. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

POLAND — Both saddled with more than their fair share of hardship during an upside-down fall sports season, Fryeburg Academy and Poland were grateful for small favors during their field hockey matchup on Tuesday.

After rain postponed the game originally scheduled for Saturday, the Raiders and Knights weren’t sure if Tuesday’s showers would scrub their plans to meet again, or at least make the conditions sloppy if they did finally play. But the clouds parted just before game time and even allowed a little sunshine in.

That gave Fryeburg a chance to pour it on from the circle for two goals in each half and earn a 4-0 win.

Grace Murley notched two goals to lead Fryeburg (3-1), while Eliza Thorne and Camden Jones each added a goal and an assist.

“The first goal (by Thorne, assisted by Juliette Albert) was on a penalty corner, which was nice,” Fryeburg coach Dede Frost said. “It’s nice to be able to practice those. It hasn’t been the year to practice any kind of plays or defense, so it’s really fun to see a corner actually come to fruition like you’ve planned it.”

Little has gone as planned for either side this season.

Poland knew it would be in a rebuilding mode after graduating a large senior class that made the Class B South tournament last season.

Gaining game experience and maximizing her players’ ability to enjoy being together, active and outdoors are Poland coach Mara Balboni’s priorities for the Knights this fall.

“We have a really young team,” Balboni said. “We have two seniors, no juniors and the rest are freshmen and sophomores, so half of varsity team is starting freshmen.”

Fryeburg Academy’s Alegra Bartlett and Poland’s Emma Moreau battle for control of the ball during Tuesday afternoon’s field hockey game in Poland. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We’re just in it for the long game right now, just building up,” she added.

Even those objectives were put on hold last week when the school was closed and practices and games canceled due to a positive COVID-19 case at the high school.

“It’s tough because we didn’t have practice last week, so it was just different getting back into the groove,” sophomore Abby Bsullak said. “We just had a practice (Monday), so it was a little bit of a struggle today.”

The Knights (1-4) also had to play the game without a bench because they were minus an injured starter, which meant inserting their lone reserve into the starting lineup.

“We practice for it. We run a lot in practice and just have to suck it up and get through,” Bsullak said.

Fryeburg had a later start to the season than most because of Oxford County’s yellow designation for COVID-19 risk. Changed to green on Oct. 9, the Raiders had managed to play three games before Tuesday.

Poland’s Bri Viella and Fryeburg Academy’s Jade Blood chase after the ball during Tuesday afternoon’s field hockey game in Poland. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We had a long wait, so we’re very happy to be here,” Frost said. “Thank God this has never happened before, so we have nothing to compare it with, but after four months of practicing, literally July, August, September and October, we had not stepped on a field. We had both of our first games postponed. So I think we’re all just happy to be here.”

“All we’re doing is trying to take advantage of what we have and what we have left and trying to get a little better each day,” added Frost, whose team is keeping its fingers crossed while looking forward to a busy upcoming stretch of five games in eight days.

The Raiders, who start three seniors, including goalie Bailey Richardson, and three juniors, played like the more experienced team throughout Tuesday’s game. After shaking off some of their rust, the Knights were able to force more pressure offensively with a pair of penalty corners late. Even though they weren’t able to get on the scoreboard, it gave them something to build on.

“We really want to work on our talking and passing,” Bsullak said. “Especially with the low numbers, we really have to use our passing skills so we’re not running as much.”

“I feel like it was better,” Balboni said. “I think the lull of having that week off and coming back almost straight into a game was a little bit tricky for us.”

“We’re just focusing on the day-to-day,” Balboni added. “We set small goals that we can accomplish. We talk about the thing today you want to work on to get better. Pick that one thing, focus on that and just worry about your own strengths, just trying to teach that athlete mentality, how to be independent since they are so young. They don’t have that JV experience. Their jumping right into varsity field hockey, which is a step from middle school.”

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