PORTLAND— Just about everyone expected the Western Class B girls’ lacrosse final to be over quickly Wednesday afternoon.
Everyone that is, but the Cape Elizabeth Capers.
Less than a month after losing 11-2 at home to mighty defending state champion Waynflete, the Capers traveled to the Flyers to take part in their first regional final of the Maine Principals’ Association-sponsored era.
If Cape Elizabeth was supposed to play the role of the Washington Generals, it never got the message, hanging tough from start to finish and giving Waynflete everything it could handle and then some, before finally going down to a 9-5 defeat.
The Capers pulled within a goal, 6-5, with 15:48 to play, but the hosts responded 20 seconds later, then ran several minutes off the clock while scoring twice more to win, 9-5, ending Cape Elizabeth’s season at 8-6.
“I was really proud of my girls,” said Capers coach Kurt Chapin. “We preached all week that we thought we could beat them and the girls finally started to believe. Had we tied it up in the second half, who knows what could have happened?”
Cape Elizabeth went 7-5 in the regular season and earned the No. 3 seed in Western B. The Capers traveled to No. 2 Wells Saturday and came away with a 14-8 semifinal round victory as senior Nora Daly went off for six goals. Senior Maggie Darling, sophomore Anna Darling, sophomore Karyn Barrett and junior Katie Lavallee each had two goals. Senior goalie Katie Mowles stopped six shots.
That set the stage for the trip to a top-ranked Waynflete team that was riding a 19-game winning streak.
The teams had met four prior times in the postseason (with Waynflete winning all four), including each of the past two years. In the 2007 quarterfinals, the Flyers were 13-3 winners. Last spring, in the semifinals, Waynflete cruised, 11-1.
Just 16 seconds in, the Flyers hinted at another runaway when junior Morgan Woodhouse won the draw, fed senior Mariah Monks, who passed to classmate Ellie Cole, who set up junior Amy Allen for a goal and a quick 1-0 lead.
With 21:04 left in the first half, Monks fed Allen for a second score and Waynflete appeared to be in good shape, up 2-0, but a minute later, the visitors got on the board when Daly scored unassisted.
With 15:18 left in the first, Waynflete went up 3-1 on Allen’s third goal (unassisted), but again, the Capers answered when Maggie Darling scored at the 13:14 mark to make it 3-2.
The back-and-forth routine continued when Cole scored on a free position with 7:47 to go in the half, but just 10 seconds later, Barrett (who won the draw) raced in and fired a shot past Flyers junior goalie Sasha Timpson (who starred for the Capers’ girls’ hockey team this winter) to make it 4-3.
With 4:05 left, Monks set up Cole for a goal while the Flyers were playing with a man-advantage, but Waynflete wasn’t able to extend its lead and with 1:24 to go, Barrett scored unassisted again. The Flyers would get the final tally in the half when Cole set up senior Anna Libby with 24 seconds left, but midway through, Cape Elizabeth was very much alive, down just 6-4.
“I thought we did a good job of pressuring the ball up top and didn’t let them get any easy passes to their tall girls in the middle,” said Chapin. “We didn’t give up too many free position goals and that kept us in the game.”
The first half stats were razor-thin. Waynflete had a 6-5 edge in draw wins and a 21-20 advantage in ground balls, but the Capers had 13 shots to 12 for the hosts and turnovers were almost even (Cape Elizabeth 8-7).
If anyone thought the Capers were going away in the second half, that expectation was quickly dispelled when Cape Elizabeth continued to make life difficult at both ends of the field. When Barrett scored her third goal, on a free position, with 15:48 to go, the champs were on the ropes.
Longtime Flyers coach Cathie Connors called timeout and it worked like a charm.
Woodhouse gained control of the draw, set up Monks, and Monks scored to give her team a little breathing room.
Still, the Capers had a chance, if only they could have gained possession.
An underrated part of Waynflete’s game is its ability to milk time when it has a lead and close out games.
The Flyers killed the better part of four minutes before Libby scored on a free position to make it 8-5. Then, Waynflete ran even more time off the clock and left Cape Elizabeth frustrated and frantic before Cole essentially iced it, scoring with 3:45 to go after a pass from Monks.
The Capers’ valiant effort wouldn’t be enough as they went down to a 9-5 defeat.
“We wanted 25-30 shots on goal and we were on target in the first half, but when they started to stall with 13 minutes left, it took us out of our game plan,” Chapin lamented. “We had to press and that gave them the opportunity to pull our defense out. They are too good of a passing team to let them throw the ball around for 13 minutes.”
Connors was relieved her team was able to advance to yet another state final date against North Yarmouth Academy, but wasn’t shocked Cape Elizabeth played as well as it did.
“I’m not surprised because they’re an athletic team with a lot of strong players,” she said. “They gave us a great game.”
In addition to Barrett’s three goals, Darling and Daly had one apiece. Mowles stopped eight shots. Barrett also had a team-high nine ground balls. Timpson had 11 saves for the Flyers.
While disappointed, the Capers had plenty to hail in 2009. They played well against the toughest teams in the state and peaked in June.
“I was happy with the season,” Chapin said. “When we started, I wasn’t sure how we would do. We didn’t have a real star player and I was starting five sophomores. The seniors stepped up and each filled the star role when called upon. We had a lot of close games that we couldn’t finish. Scarborough, NYA, Yarmouth and Kennebunk all were one- or two-goal games.”
Cape Elizabeth graduates seven seniors, but the returning players will look to build on this year’s experience and finish the job next spring.
“I think the younger girls learned a lot from this season and hopefully will be battle tested in the coming years,” Chapin said. “Goalie will be a position we will need to fill. Our entire defense will return, led by Maddie Spagnola and Paris Bethel. We will return Anna Darling and Katie Lavallee at the midfield and Karyn Barrett will return at the attack.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com.