Field Hockey: Gorham drops a bout to Sanford

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GORHAM—The Rams suffered a narrow defeat, 2-1, to the Spartans on Friday afternoon, Oct. 5: Gorhamite Faith Dillon notched for her girls late in the uphill half, evening the score at one apiece, but Sanforder Kimberly Works pushed the visitors out front again – and for good – as the latter half wound down.

“They played us hard,” Gorham head coach Becky Manson-Rioux said. “We needed to connect the pieces down in the circle. We had enough shots on goal, we just weren’t able to get a stick on in front of it and get it in the net. We were able to come back and tie it up, and then just a couple of defensive breakdowns – and that’s what happens.”

The first-half action looked balanced, with Gorham in possession a bit more often. Play ping-ponged up and down the field, both teams generating the occasional chance. The Spartans, though, struck first: just about 13 and a half minutes in, Sanforder Maya Joy capitalized on a corner. Joy’s shot, a slow-roller, came from the top right of the circle, and looked doomed from the moment it left her stick. But – somehow! – it wove past several warm bodies and into the Rams’ cage. 1-0.

Gorham pulled even again with 5:06 to play before the break. Dillon inserted on a corner, then ducked over to the Spartans’ doorstep; the ball rolled to the top of the circle, where it bounced over Lauren Green’s stick. Luckily, a fellow Ram followed Green up, clobbering a blast toward the net; Dillon, hungry, relayed the shot home for 1-1.

“The communication could’ve been a little bit better in the first half,” Manson-Rioux said. “That may’ve helped us score more in the first half than just the one goal. You’ve got to have that communication piece when you’re stepping up for somebody or doubling. But the passing was good, and they keep their space well.”

Gorham adjusted during the break, and charged onto the field for the downhill stretch looking ferocious.

“At the end of the first half, we kind of had picked it up. Our communication had improved, and we wanted them to keep that spark going after that goal,” Manson-Rioux said, asked what she and her assistants told their girls at halftime. “I think they did it, just, you’ve got to put it in the net, and we weren’t able to get a touch on it. We had a lot of crosses.”

Manson-Rioux didn’t think Sanford presented her girls with anything on defense they hadn’t seen before – anything to surprise them and thereby thwart them. “They used a lot of aerials to bypass a lot of space,” she said, “but it was really to open space – it wasn’t always to one of their own players. They used that quite a bit of that, more than other teams have used it this year.”

The Rams largely controlled play for the better part of the latter half – and yet, somehow, Sanford tallied the next, and last, point of the afternoon. On one of the Spartans’ few attacking forays, Works managed to bump the ball past both Gorham defender Kacie Walton and Gorham goalie Lydia McCrillis. 2-1.

The Rams suffered another uncharacteristic defensive breakdown with 6:30 left on the clock, but McCrillis, this time, turned in an impressive kick-save.

With time running low, Gorham cranked up their pressure. The Rams turned in a near miss with three minutes to go, and earned a corner with just 15 seconds remaining. That last opportunity, though – they couldn’t capitalize on it, and Sanford took the W.

Manson-Rioux took a moment to praise one of her girls in particular. “No. 2, Lydia Gaudreau, she’s just awesome out there. She brings it up the right wing, she’s had a lot of crosses. She’s a really consistent, all-around tough player, someone who’s reliable. She had a really good game today.”

The result drops Gorham to 9-3-1 on the autumn. The Rams, currently ranked fifth in A South, have also fallen to No. 6 Marshwood (7-5) and No. 1 Biddeford (12-0-1). The team closes its regular season with a road bout at Portland on Tuesday, Oct. 9. The Bulldogs, who sit in last place at present (0-11-1), aren’t worth many Heal Points – but then, Gorham only trails No. 4 Falmouth (8-3-2) by roughly half a point. So it’s conceivable the Rams might jump up a slot in the standings before the playoffs begin, especially if Falmouth loses their last battle. Interestingly, the Yachtswomen close their schedule at the Spartans, who can clearly give tough teams a run for their money.

Speaking of Sanford, the win bumps them just over .500, to 7-6. They occupy eighth at the moment.

“Last year, we finished in 12th place, so this is quite a step up,” Manson-Rioux said. She remarked as well on the consistently strong play more and more teams are bringing to the field. “The teams in this league have improved in the last three or four years, and it’s just the top 12 teams are legitimately the top 12 teams. Massabesic’s in 12th right now – we beat them in overtime. A lot of teams are, it’s a one-goal game, and that’s what it was today. Hopefully we’ll learn a lesson from that.”

Massabesic has, for several years now, regularly made mincemeat of most of their opponents. So their slipping in the ranks can be read as a sign that other programs are making great strides.

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Gorham goalie Lydia McCrillis tracks the action on her doorstep.

Molly Rathbun powers ahead for Gorham in their narrow defeat vs. Sanford.

Gorhamite Alex Ferrigan pushes upfield.

Lydia Gaudreau unwinds into a hit for the Rams.

Lauren Green clases with a Spartans opponent.

Hailey Morrill blasts a ball toward the Sanford cage.

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