NYA returns to girls' lacrosse state game with 10-7 regional final win at Yarmouth
YARMOUTH- For the first time in six tries, the road team carried the day in a Yarmouth-NYA girls' lacrosse regional final.
The Panthers, who came so close to winning at the Clippers in the regular season, never trailed Wednesday in the Western B Final, riding a pair of three-goal flurries to their second straight regional crown, fourth in six years and fifth in the past nine seasons, 10-7, over their fierce rival.
NYA broke a 2-2 tie with three straight goals in the first half, then essentially put Yarmouth away with a three-goal second half run to extend a 6-4 advantage to 9-4. The hosts got back to within three, 10-7, in the waning moments, but the Panthers held on to win, thanks to four goals from junior standout Courtney Dumont and 11 saves from senior goalie Abigail Moss.
"It feels really good to pull it out," said Moss. "The difference this time was that we tightened up our defense. Last time, they were able to penetrate easily, this time we tightened it up and played as a team."
Rite of spring
If it's June, the Panthers and Clippers have to meet with high stakes on the line. NYA beat Yarmouth at home in the 2004, 2005 and 2008 regional finals, while the Clippers held serve in 2006 and 2007.
This time, the Panthers took plenty of confidence with them on the very short trip to Yarmouth High.
Back on May 27, in easily the best girls' game of the 2009 campaign (and one of the more memorable of any), NYA and Yarmouth went back-and-forth through 50 minutes of regulation and six minutes of overtime before another OT session (this one sudden victory) was needed to decide matters. The Clippers got to celebrate that night when senior Lanier Bolmer scored the game-winner, but the Panthers licked their wounds and hoped for another shot.
NYA (which won at Yarmouth last year in the regular season) knew they could have easily won the previous meeting and was bolstered by the return of senior Bugsy Clemetson, who missed the first contest.
This time, the Panthers never trailed and were in control much of the way.
Just 2 minutes, 57 seconds in, NYA went up 1-0 when senior Lucy Gerrity scored unassisted.
"It was big to come out and score," Dumont said. "We wanted to play more aggressive than we did last game and take it to them."
The Clippers drew even just 17 seconds later, when sophomore Danielle Torres scored unassisted.
With 16:16 to go in the first half, the Panthers regained the lead, 2-1, when Dumont fed sophomore Lilly Wellenbach for a goal. Five minutes later, Yarmouth tied the score again on an unassisted goal from senior Tess Beem.
NYA then scored three times in less than five minutes to take the lead for good.
Wellenbach's free position with 8:53 to go made it 3-2. Dumont added an unassisted strike with 5:25 left and senior Rachel Darby (from junior Rebecca McKelvy) scored with 4:11 to go for a 5-2 advantage.
Yarmouth got back to within 5-3 at the break when junior Molly Curry scored a late goal.
The Clippers had a 5-2 edge in draw controls and won 15 ground balls, but did themselves in with turnovers.
The Panthers extended their lead to 6-3 with 22:55 to go in regulation when Dumont scored on a free position. With 19:24 left, Yarmouth again pulled within two, when sophomore Becca Bell set up senior Hannah Coleman for a goal.
The game then turned for good when Dumont set up Darby for a goal and moments later, Moss denied Bolmer on a free position.
"It's always a comfort when we have a lead," Moss said. "I'm so proud of my team. We played amazing today."
"I thought Abigail was tremendous," added NYA coach Julia Littlefield.
Dumont then scored unassisted and added another tally on a free position for a commanding 9-4 advantage with 7:56 to play.
To its credit, Yarmouth would fight to the end.
With 5:44 remaining, Beem scored unassisted after a steal, but 34 seconds later, Wellenbach scored on a free position for a 10-5 lead. Coleman (from Torres) and Beem (free position) countered, but the hosts could draw no closer and NYA held on to win, 10-7.
"I think having Bugsy back really made a difference," Dumont said. "I think we weren't as nervous coming in. This time, we were the underdogs. That really helped us get over the pressure. We never thought we had it. I didn't even know what the score was. We played the whole time like we were losing. It's huge. Every year, this game is so big. It's the only thing we're focusing on."
"It's really exciting," Littlefield added. "We felt good. We worked hard. Yarmouth's got a great defense. We had to settle our attack down. Defensively, we had to tighten it up a little bit. We had to be patient. We knew we had to beat them to the ball. Ground balls were huge today. We forced a lot of turnovers. We did well on the draw.
"Yarmouth came out after us. We had to take care of the ball and tuck in our sticks. It worked out. The extra goals at the end really helped, but they came right back."
Dumont led all scorers with four goals. Wellenbach added three, Darby had two and Gerrity one. McKelvy added an assist.
The hosts were sparked by three goals from Beem, two from Coleman and one each from Curry and Torres.
The Clippers finished with a 9-8 edge in draws and outshot the Panthers 14-9 in the second half, but 10 turnovers in the final 25 minutes were too much to overcome. Ground balls were relatively even with Dumont and Torres leading their respective teams with eight apiece. Yarmouth senior Kelley Kasper stopped nine shots in her swan song.
Yarmouth finished 11-3.
"They just were better than us today," said Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. "That's what it came down to. We just didn't bring our 'A' game today. We had a ton of turnovers. The draws pulled through, but the turnovers killed us. Ground balls and turnovers win games.
"I felt we came back in the second half and did a good job. I'm proud of the girls. It was great lacrosse. It's what we coach for."
Yarmouth will say goodbye to the likes of Beem, Bolmer, Coleman, Kasper and defensive standout Lexi Wing, but many younger players got a tremendous amount of playing time this spring and will be even stronger in 2010.
"We're losing great players, but we're young," said Holt. "We have nine or 10 sophomores who are ready to step up. We'll be building next year. It'll be fun."
The final showdown
NYA (11-3) now turns its attention to what has thusfar been a futile task: trying to beat Waynflete in the state final.
The Panthers lost to the Flyers in the state game in 2001 (9-5), 2004 (9-6), 2005 (5-4, in overtime) and 2008 (12-8). NYA also suffered a 12-3 loss at Waynflete on May 30.
"Playing against Waynflete is definitely the biggest rivalry," Dumont said. "Yarmouth's big, but you can't compare Waynflete. Playing at their place was daunting for us. Hopefully, playing on turf will be different. The key for us is to play well in transition and to play well on offense."
"We've got to keep our defense strong," Moss said. "We have to work on penetrating their zone, which will be tough, but I think we can do it. We have to play our game and not get intimidated."
"It'll be huge on Saturday," Littlefield added. "Just getting there is a blast. We have to play our game. They're tough. I think it's anybody's game, anybody's day. I think we'll do the best we can do. I believe we can beat them."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org