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Marcia Wood knew the kids could play. But could the Freeport High field hockey team’s seven freshmen, many of whom were going to need to play big roles,  help the team win?

“That was exactly my thought,” the Falcons’ coach said.

That question has been answered. With freshmen Emily Groves, Reed Proscia, Liza Flower and Lilliana Larochelle flourishing in the forward positions and Lizalyn Boudreau anchoring the midfield, Freeport has become one of Class B South’s hottest teams, winning 8 of 9 games to finish with a 10-3-1 regular-season record.

“I’ve been watching them (for) years and years,” Wood said. “I knew when they got here it was going to be amazing. I just didn’t expect it this soon.”

Freeport’s a prominent example, but this fall freshmen are making a significant impact for several of the top field hockey teams in southern Maine. Cheverus and Biddeford have been boosted by the midfield play of Joey Pompeo and Kayla Magnant. Groves and Thornton Academy’s Martina Prat have become leading scorers. Cape Elizabeth’s Lulu Stoecklein and Scarborough’s Sabrina Ocampo have been playmakers at forward. Gorham’s Annabelle Collier, with five goals, is the Rams’ highest-scoring freshman in years.

With the playoffs set to begin, first-year players could have a hand in deciding who goes on long runs.

“Looking at all the rosters, there are a handful of freshmen that are contributing,” said Cheverus Coach Theresa Arsenault. “I think it’ll be cool to see which of those girls start to stick out.”

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Cheverus freshman midfielder Joey Pompeo has two goals and 10 assists. Drew Bonifant photo

Arsenault has a good one in Pompeo. The sister of NCAA Division I players Sophia, a senior at Providence College, and Lucia, a sophomore at Quinnipiac, Pompeo has become one of the leaders of the 14-0 Stags’ lethal midfield game, scoring twice while adding 10 assists.

“She’s big on our transition, from defense to offense. She’s really good at setting up her teammates and distributing the ball,” Arsenault said. “Her stick skills (are good), but her ability to see the field and see her teammates, and her field hockey I.Q. … She doesn’t play like a freshman.”

Arsenault said Pompeo “fit right in” on a Cheverus team that returned 10 of 11 starters. Pompeo wondered if she would.

“I was nervous coming in a little bit as a freshman, wondering how I’d fit in,” she said. “I felt my way into the role, but I’ve played club too my whole life. I’ve always been kind of a playmaker, not really a scorer.”

At Biddeford, Coach Caitlin Tremberth raved about the impact Magnant has had in the midfield. She went through the roles on the team: Cece Keller scores the goals, Ayla Lagasse gets breakaways, Eliza Doyon gets the ball on defense and Kiki Jackson is the “quarterback.”

And Magnant’s role?

“Kayla’s our playmaker, for sure,” she said.

Tremberth compared Magnant’s skills as a freshman to former standout Abby Allen’s freshman year in 2017.

“We’ve been able to put her at the left side, the right side, mid, forward. She can even play some defense, she’s good at every single position,” she said. “Her passes are always smart. It’s a pass to space or it’s a pass to get someone open.”

Magnant, who has three goals and 12 assists, was playing U-16 field hockey this summer at 14 years old.

“The first game, I was obviously nervous to be on the field with great players,” Magnant said. “But right as we stepped on the field, my mindset switched and we connected instantly. I was out there just playing my game with girls I consider family.”

Cape Elizabeth’s Stoecklein only started playing field hockey three years ago. Now, she’s a major factor for the Capers (12-2), working to set up teammates Grace Gray and Kaitlyn McIntyre from her right forward position.

“She’s sort of that missing piece,” Coach Maura Bisogni said. “It’s her willingness to sometimes not score, but to set up the play or to pull people out so someone else can go in. That selflessness is really important, too.”

Stoecklein, a former soccer player, said the playmaker role has come naturally.

“That’s what I’ve always kind of done. In soccer, I did that, and in lacrosse, I do that,” she said. “I felt pretty comfortable going in that way.”

Freeport’s Groves, meanwhile, has impressed as a finisher with 19 goals this season, the most by a player in Wood’s 10 years as coach.

“(Wood) told me that I was going to play a big role, and the seniors kind of welcomed us in,” Groves said. “I could feel a little bit of pressure going in, and I was a little nervous. But as the season went on, I realized that we were all there to support each other.”

Of all the freshmen Falcons, Groves was the toughest to keep off the score sheet.

“She has that competitive nature. If she’s in front of the goal, she’s going to get it,” Wood said. “Anything in there, she’s constantly keeping at it, keeping her stick on it, pushing through, being aggressive. And she’s got a really good eye for the ball, so she’s in the right place, too, at the right time.”

The playoffs can be a different test. Groves, however, expects the experience to pay off for her and her classmates.

“We worked for our spots,” she said. “I think that we deserve to go far in the playoffs.”


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