Ponies ready for huge semifinal matchup with Dexter
The third-seeded Foxcroft Academy field hockey team earned an impressive 5-0 win over #6 Winthrop in an Eastern Maine Class C quarterfinal game in Dover-Foxcroft on Tuesday. The 14-1 Ponies will now battle #2 Dexter at Husson University Tuesday evening at 7:45. (The time and location were changed due to unplayable conditions in Dexter.)
Alli Bourget assisted Fern Morrison and then Madison Fadley to give the Ponies an early 2-0 lead on Tuesday. Bourget scored a goal of her own in the second half to increase the lead to three, and Julia Annis (who assisted Bourget’s goal) scored the game’s final two goals, one coming on a Morrison assist.
Coach Stephanie Smith was pleased with her team’s effort and execution in the playoff opener. “The girls played hard, skilled, focused, and as a team for the entire 60 minutes,” she said. “We will need to continue to build on this type of play to be on top at the end of this week. We will face the type of competition where one let up, missed opportunity, or defensive breakdown could very quickly end the season.”
The improving duo of Madison Chadbourne and Abby Simpson split the Winthrop game in net, and the Ponies’ rock-solid defensive unit deserves a great deal of credit for the team’s 12th shutout of the year. “I knew going in to this season our defense would be solid with returning players Avery Carroll, Aliviah King, and Abby Simmons,” said Coach Smith. “These players have provided a tremendous amount of confidence and leadership in our defense, and they made it easier for the other positions on defense to develop and grow strong. One such player is Deseray Lablanc, who I knew would have to be on the field this year but was not sure where. She always played offense in the past, but she recognized and took advantage of the open position on defense and has done extremely well. She is our most improved player and has become a very tough and determined defensive player.”
If the Ponies are able to get by Dexter, they’ll compete for the Eastern Maine Regional title at Hampden Academy on Thursday, with the state title game to be played at Thomas College on Saturday (starting times to be determined). Coach Smith understands that the Ponies face an enormous challenge in their quest to repeat as Class C champs, but she believes they are ready to go. “I certainly get the impression from this team that they are in it and ready to take on this challenge,” she said. “It is remarkable how each game we have a wide spread of contributors to our success. If one player is heavily guarded, someone else steps up. These girls have made it very difficult to defend them. The whole team is tough!”
Photo taken by Matthew Kim ’16. Click here to see more of his great work from the Winthrop game.
Ponies get by Waterville, advance to Class B
The 9th-seeded boys’ soccer team defeated #8 Waterville 2-1 in the preliminary round of postseason play at Thomas College Saturday morning, marking the second straight year Coach Luis Ayala’s team has knocked off a higher seed to open the playoffs. The Ponies, who finished the regular season at 8-5-1, now have the tall task of traveling to Ellsworth on Tuesday to square off with the top-seeded Eagles. Ellsworth went 13-0-1 on the season, their lone blemish a 1-1 tie at Foxcroft on October 14.
The team departed from FA at 6:45 Saturday morning after heavy rain pushed the game back from Friday afternoon. Despite the early start, the Ponies did not look sluggish at all, seizing a 1-0 lead just three minutes into the game when Antonio Ayala won the ball at midfield, slipped past two defenders, and delivered a beautiful through ball to the speedy Justin Diamond, who one-timed it past the keeper for his 11th goal of the year.
Waterville responded just a minute later when Dalton Henderson corralled a long cross from Ethan Cayer and deposited it in the back of the net. Both defenses settled in for the rest of the half, though Foxcroft did appear to score a go-ahead goal with five minutes remaining, only to have it wiped out by an offsides call.
The two teams appeared evenly-matched in the second half, with both creating a few strong scoring chances. The Ponies managed to break through after 15 minutes when Nick Boyd was taken down in the box and a penalty kick was awarded. Dylan Harmon-Weeks made the most of the opportunity.
“Dylan is our penalty kicker,” said Coach Ayala. “There were no second thoughts about who was going to take it. He is a kid that thrives under pressure. When he stepped up to the ball, I just knew he was going to make it. He is clutch!”
Goalkeeper Logan Butera (six saves) and the Ponies’ underrated defense made sure the lead held from there. Ayala, who was named PVC Coach of the Year over the weekend, loves what he saw from his team in Waterville. “I was very proud of how we played, especially after one of our goals was called back,” he said. “That could have easily taken us off our game, but this is a mature team and they continued to play hard. We fought through that adversity and still won.”
Tuesday’s game at Ellsworth will kick off at 5 pm and will be broadcast live online and on WDEA AM 1370. Coach Ayala knows the Ponies will need to play their best game of the season if they hope to move on. “It’s going to be a very intense and physical game,” he said. “They are going to come out hard early in the game. It’s going to be our job to match their intensity and not be intimidated.”
In other team news, seven Ponies have been honored by the Penobscot Valley Conference. Midfielder Antonio Ayala (10 goals, 11 assists) and defender Nate Church were named to the conference’s First Team while forward Justin Diamond (11 goals, 7 assists), midfielder Matt Baiamonte (4 goals), midfielder Julian Zepeda (3 goals, 6 assists), defender Eli Olson, and goalkeeper Logan Butera were all named to the PVC Second Team.
Coach Ayala’s PVC Coach of the Year award is his first as a soccer coach and will fit nicely on the mantle next to his two Maine Wrestling Coach of the Year awards.
Photo of Harmon-Weeks’s penalty kick taken by Matthew Kim ’16. Click here to see more of his excellent work in Waterville.
Football team knocks off MDI to lock down #3 seed in Big Ten
The Foxcroft Academy football team rushed for 390 yards and six touchdowns en route to a convincing 43-6 victory at Mount Desert Island High School on Friday. The Ponies improved to 6-2 with the win and have locked down the #3 seed in the Big Ten Conference. MDI slipped to 3-5 and will travel to Dover-Foxcroft to take on the Ponies in the playoff opener Saturday at 7 pm, with the winner heading to #2 Waterville the following weekend.
Toiling in wet and muddy conditions, the Foxcroft offensive line set the tone from the beginning, dominating the line of scrimmage and opening up gaping holes for quarterback Hunter Smith and tailback Pete Boyer. Smith finished with 167 yards and two scores on 19 carries to run his season rushing totals to 875 yards and 13 touchdowns. Boyer churned out 143 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries to go with 16 tackles from his spot at middle linebacker. The senior captain closes the regular season as the team’s leader in rushing yards (1262), rushing touchdowns (21), and tackles (95), and both he and Smith, who also had 256 receiving yards and four touchdown catches, should receive strong consideration for Big Ten Player of the Year. Chris Storer added 79 yards on just five carries, punctuated by a 61-yard scoring dash late in the fourth quarter.
Coach Danny White attributed much of his team’s success on the ground to a dominant performance by the offensive line. “The line has continued to improve as the season has progressed,” he said. “We’ve rushed for nearly 2700 yards in eight weeks, and that doesn’t happen without really strong play up front. Kaleb [Faloon], Sean [Cody], Clay [Carroll], James [Smith], Brandon [Brock], Brandon [Dyer], and Matt [Storer] have all worked very hard to get to this point and are peaking as a unit at the right time.”
The Pony defense limited the Trojans to 60 yards through the air and 163 rushing yards on 51 attempts. Billy Brock had 12 tackles at outside linebacker, and Connor Holmes continued to be very active in the middle of the defensive line, picking up 10 tackles after notching a career-high 11 a week ago. Gaige Pleninger (10 tackles and a forced fumble), Clay Carroll (8 tackles to finish second on the team with 82), Kaleb Faloon (6 tackles), and Hunter Smith (3 tackles and an interception) joined Boyer as defensive standouts.
The Ponies now must prepare to play the same opponent in consecutive weeks (as they did in 2012 when they hosted Mattanawcook Academy in week eight and again in the playoff opener), and they may be doing so in rough weather conditions again. Coach White believes that his team is up to the challenge. “We feel as though our best football is still ahead of us,” he said. “Our kids know what is on the line from here on out and are preparing themselves accordingly. The key this week will be to remain focused and not allow last week’s game to influence the way they prepare for this one. Regardless of what happens, it’s the last time our seniors will compete on Oakes Field, and that means a great deal to them.”
Photo taken by Cathy Cody. Click here to see more of her great work on a cold and rainy night in MDI. Game film (courtesy of assistant coach Tom Nason) can be viewed here.
Piquette qualifies for cross country state championship meet
Gabe Piquette ran 19:01.16 to lead the Foxcroft Academy cross country team at the Eastern Maine Regional Cross Country Championship Meet in Belfast on Saturday. The junior’s time landed him 25th out of 111 varsity runners and earned him a spot in the state championship meet back in Belfast this coming Saturday.
Overall the boys’ team averaged 19:58.45 to finish 11th out of 16 qualifying teams, narrowly missing out on a chance to compete as a team at the state meet for the first time since 2008. Cooper Nelson, who sped to the meet after helping the FA soccer team win its playoff opener in Waterville that morning, ran 19:34.48 to place 44th. Noah Simpson (20:02.33), Nathnael Feleke (20:30.55), Liam Casey (20:43.69), Kohei Kotani (21:10.88), and Hunter Giacomuzzi (22:25.41) also ran well for the Ponies, who plan to travel as a team to support Piquette this weekend.
Jen Clawson led the girls’ team once again, completing the 5K course in 24:45.52 to place 54th out of 106 varsity runners. Virginia Macomber (26:55.01), Anna Sedlackova (28:48.34), and Maria Cedeno (31:20.64) turned in some of their best times of the season.
Coach Brett Almasi was disappointed that his team just missed qualifying for the state meet but knows this was a very successful season. “I am very pleased with their combined effort in this last meet, and more importantly, over the entire season,” he said. “Gabe is slowly reaching his potential as our top runner, and qualifying for states shows that he is able to step up when it matters. Virginia Macomber ended her season on a solid note and has the potential to qualify for states in the next three years. Junior captain Jen Clawson ran the Belfast race through illness, once again showing her dedication to the team. And a very special thanks to Cooper Nelson for completing the grueling task of competing in a playoff soccer game earlier Saturday morning, then rushing to our race to help our team compete.”
Photo taken by Henry Chase ’17.
Girls’ soccer fights to the finish, eyes success in 2015
The girls’ soccer team wrapped up the 2014 campaign with a loss at Hermon last Monday. The Ponies fought hard right to the end for first-year head coach Chris Wesley. “The ladies’ attitude and effort was incredible all season long in practices and games,” he said. “Being another new coach to them, they kept themselves open-minded in trying new things. They knew I was going to be different from their previous coaches and never complained or questioned my drills or ideas in practices and games. It can be hard to maintain a positive attitude when you don’t win a game, but they were able to do that and remain focused each and every game.”
Coach Wesley noted that quite a few players made significant strides over the course of the 14-game season. “The defense was unsettled at the start of the season but sorted itself out due in part to Laura Shorey moving from forward to fullback and doing a great job,” he said. “Emily Sprecher, Des Brawn, and Annie Rich became a three-headed monster at the center fullback positions, Erika Chadbourne learned the fullback position and improved quite a bit as the season progressed, and lastly on defense was Avery Nelson, who held her own as a freshman playing varsity. Other players who rose to the occasion were Kendra Ewer as center mid after playing forward and defense last year. She became a calming influence in the middle of the field and was tough as nails. Jo Panciera as a mid played most of the game and never asked for a sub while she ran up and down the field on offense and defense, and Kayla McCorrison was a physical force for us and used her strong foot to start our offensive attacks many times. The forwards who stood out were Grace Bickford, who put constant pressure on the opposing fullbacks with her size and skill; Cass Panciera, who was one of our faster players, put pressure on the opposition, and was a ball of energy; Shayla Bickmore, with her lethal right foot for constant crosses at the goal and her relentlessness on-the-ball pressure; and finally another freshman, Jenna Clukey, who added another dimension to the team with her knack for the goal and the ball.”
Coach Wesley also praised his nine seniors (pictured above with Coach Wesley and assistant coach Jack Clukey) for their effort and leadership over the course of the season. “They were a dedicated group who led by example with their play on and off the field. They were willing to back me on new drills and team bonding events and pulled the team together from the get go. I wish more than anything that they could have felt the feeling of walking off the field as a winner, but they definitely laid the groundwork for a successful program moving forward. They were an incredibly caring group who looked out for each other, and I am just glad to have had the time with them that I did.”
With a lot of underclassmen earning significant playing time this year, expectations for 2015 are high. “I am looking forward to qualifying for the playoffs next year and showing the league that FA has arrived and is here to stay,” said Coach Wesley. “We will not only be competitive but resilient in turning into a winning team. I expect with a good portion of the team returning that we will have the experience needed to succeed in a tough Class B.”