FALMOUTH—The Blazes kicked off their autumn with a tough road-bout on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 1, traveling to the Yachtswomen’s home turf and coming away with a 1-1 tie. Falmouth posted their point first in the outing, but Westbrooker Kaitlin Talbot wasted little time bringing her girls even again; from there the teams reached stalemate.
“We were talking about before, I think this year’s going to be fun all-around,” Westbrook head coach Theresa Hendrix said. “I think every game this year’s going to be a battle for everyone. I don’t really believe there are top teams and bottom teams; it’s whoever’s going to show up and play right away, and Falmouth came out strong.”
Play seesawed up and down the field to start, often knotting at midfield and occasionally settling in one team’s zone for a taut stretch. While the Blazes logged chances, the Yachtswomen perhaps logged better ones: The home team earned a couple couple corners throughout the uphill half (failing to capitalize), and in the final minute, Isabella Roy sent a redirect from Liberty Ladd just wide of Blazes’ netminder Kimmie Goddard.
To top it all off, Falmouth peppered Goddard with a flurry of shots in the 20 seconds before the break; Goddard, though, is both experienced and talented, and she rebuffed every ball blasted her way.
Hendrix commented on Westbrook’s defensive situation: “We lost most of our defense, and a key midfielder, who’s now playing in college, ” she said, “so our midfield and defense are fairly new. We have Kim in goal – she did a fabulous job today. But it’s really going to have to be a team effort for us this year.”
Westbrook earned their first corners in the early minutes of the second half, but they couldn’t convert,and it was the Yachtswomen who broke the 0-0 deadlock: Falmouth’s Emma Cohen hammered one home, a shot past Goddard, from roughly 10 yards out, dead-center, with 21:07 left in the game.
The Blazes immediately responded, though, flipping the switch on their intensity and assembling four and a half minutes of nigh-continuous pressure; With 16:26 on the clock, Talbot got the better of Falmouth keeper 97.
“It was almost like we didn’t have that urgency,” Hendrix said, asked about the Blazes’ sudden surge following the Yachtswomen’s goal. “And right when Falmouth scored, it was like, ‘Oh, yeah, we have to score to win.’ And the girls really picked it up.”
Westbrook continued to ratchet up their pressure as the game went on, and the action reached a manic pitch in the regulation home stretch. The Blazes burned through a rapid-fire trio of corner chances without scoring around the seven-minute mark, and earned another with 1:18 to play. They didn’t score on that opportunity either, but it did lead to a penalty stroke, which Avery Tucker took.
Alas, Tucker’s shot blitzed just centimeters wide of the left Falmouth post.
“We practiced that the other day,” Hendrix said of the Tucker’s attempt. “We would put Tucker on that line 500 out of 500 times. Sometimes you miss it by half an inch. But we would put her right back out there to do it again.”
The game headed into OT1. There, Goddard delivered perhaps her most spectacular save of the day, thwarting a Falmouth drive by charging from the cage and essentially slide-tackling the onrushing Yachtswomen ball-carrier.
The game headed into OT2. Two and a half minutes in, Blaze Mary Keef, dashing up the right side on the attack, dumped inward to Tucker, who was mirroring Keef’s trajectory, but up the middle. Tucker’s redirect sailed just wide, but the play stoked Westbrook’s flame still further, and they seized control for the last 3:30 or so.
Their efforts, though – including one last corner attempt – weren’t enough, and the buzzer tolled on a 1-1 ending.
“At first we just weren’t getting those touches,” Hendrix said of the waning minutes and Westbrook’s heavy pressure. “Then we were starting to transition as a team, and we had another goal that could’ve gone in and went right off that post again. But as we started getting tired, as we started losing that pressure, and they were able to get out a little more easily.”
“One of our goals is to come out those first two minutes the way we ended today’s game,” Hendrix said. “Because against good teams, you can’t wait until the second half to start playing.”
A tie might be a frustrating way to begin the season for both crews, but both can at least walk away satisfied that even a tie is going to be worth good Heal Points as the season progresses. These are two top teams, after all.
“Falmouth is going to beat some good teams,” Hendrix said. “And this is kind of where you want to start, to be able to learn and grow, and hopefully peak at the right time.”
Westbrook hosts Sanford on Wednesday, Sept. 5; they travel to Portland two days later. Falmouth visits Scarborough on Wednesday and hosts Deering on Saturday the 8th.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Blaze Alexis Witham dives between a pair of Falouth defenders.
Avery Tucker is arguably Westbrook’s chief offensive weapon.
Kaitlin Talbot dribbles forward for the Blazes.
Katie Champange hounds a Falmouth opponent.
Westbrooker Mary Keef fires on-net vs. Falmouth.
Westbrooker Arianna St. Clair plays a key role on a defense that’s recovering from big personnel losses to graduation ’18.
Abby Symbol blasts a ball forward for the Blazes.