This time Capers hold lead, win at Falmouth
FALMOUTH—For two seasons, over three frustrating games, the Cape Elizabeth girls' lacrosse team wasn't able to put Falmouth away.
Saturday afternoon, on the Yachtsmen's turf field, the Capers finally finished the job at the optimal time, in the Western B semifinals.
After blowing leads to Falmouth in both a regular season overtime loss and a semifinal round playoff setback a year ago and again in a contest earlier this spring, Cape Elizabeth discovered that it was better to come from behind than to play from ahead Saturday in the rain.
The third-ranked Capers were down 7-5 at halftime, but saved their best for the second half, taking the lead for good on junior Janessa White's goal with 14:21 to play and their tenacious defense and junior goalie Elin Sonesson held the desperate second-seeded Yachtsmen scoreless for the final 9:30 as Cape Elizabeth improved to 10-3 with a 14-12 win, ending Falmouth's season at 7-6.
Sophomore Talley Perkins had four goals, senior Paris Bethel scored three times and sophomore Lauren Steidl dominated in the draw circle as the Capers advanced to set up a regional final date Wednesday at top-ranked Waynflete.
"It feels awesome," said Steidl. "It could have been an emotional day because of our past, but we wanted to leave it all on the field and play like we play. We had a chip on our shoulder, went out there and left it all on the field."
Fourth time's a charm
While Falmouth's record didn't reflect it, the Yachtsmen were one of the best teams in the state this spring. Their schedule was brutal, with two games versus defending Class B champion North Yarmouth Academy and two apiece against the best Class B teams this spring, Waynflete and Yarmouth. If that wasn't enough, Falmouth also had to play perennial Class A power Brunswick in a crossover and also met Cape Elizabeth and vastly improved Greely.
The Yachtsmen managed to go 7-5, with their most impressive wins coming over visiting NYA (13-10 on May 5), the program's first-ever triumph over the Panthers, and the Capers (11-9 at home six days later). They also won at NYA, 15-5, in the regular season finale, but the Panthers were without several key suspended players.
Their wins were enough, however, to earn the No. 2 seed for the regional playoffs.
Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, lost only to visiting Yarmouth (16-6), at Falmouth and at home to Waynflete (13-6). It's 9-3 mark gave it the No. 3 seed.
Last year, in the semifinals, the Yachtsmen came from behind to win, 11-10. The teams had two other prior playoff meetings, preliminary round victories for the Capers in 2002 (14-2) and 2004 (16-6).
In this year's regular season meeting, Falmouth rallied to frustrate Cape Elizabeth anew, but this time around, the Capers had the last laugh.
The visitors took the lead when senior Anna Darling took a pass from Steidl and beat Yachtsmen junior goalie Moie Aaskov just 1 minute, 7 seconds into the 25-minute first half.
Falmouth bounced right back to go on top behind goals from senior Jess DiPhillippo (assisted by back-from-injury sophomore standout Alex Bernier) and junior Sam Smithwick (set up by senior Caitlin Costello), but with 18 minutes left in the half, freshman Hannah Newhall tied the score with an unassisted goal.
Sophomore Geneva Waite (from Bernier) beat Sonesson with 11:18 left to put the Yachtsmen back on top, but 32 seconds later, Perkins got her first goal, on a free position, to make it 3-3.
With 10:04 left in the half, Bernier fed Smithwick for a transition goal and 42 seconds after that, DiPhillippo assisted on a Bernier goal after a turnover for a 5-3 Falmouth lead.
The Capers got a goal back when Bethel scored unassisted at 8:12, but with 6:13 showing, Bernier set up senior Laura Fay for a picture-perfect catch and shot. With 3:41 remaining, Costello passed to Bernier, who faked twice before shooting past Sonesson to make it 7-4.
After a Cape Elizabeth timeout, Perkins scored on a free position shot with 2:47 showing to cut the deficit to 7-5 at the break.
The Capers probably should have had the lead since Steidl had won 9 of 13 draws, but eight turnovers and six Aaskov saves stymied the visitors.
Cape Elizabeth then came out in the second half and took control.
Fay (from Bernier) scored with 23:53 to play to restore the three-goal lead, 8-5, but that would be Falmouth's high-water mark.
Three goals in less than two minutes brought the Capers even.
First, Steidl scored on a free position with 22:35 showing. Forty-two seconds later, Perkins cut through the Yachtsmen defense and scored unassisted. Then, with 20:41 remaining, Bethel scored an unassisted goal and the game was deadlocked, 8-8.
Falmouth went back on top with 20:27 to play when Fay scored unassisted off a draw win, but that would be the last time the Yachtsmen were on top.
Cape Elizabeth answered 45 seconds later as Perkins scored unassisted. Then, with 18:33 to go, Bethel scored on a free position, making it 10-9, giving the Capers their first lead since 1-0, forcing Falmouth coach Robin Haley to call timeout.
The hosts did respond and tied the score one final time when Smithwick (from junior Vanessa Audet) struck with 16:02 to go, but in transition at 14:21, White (from Bethel) beat Aaskov and the Capers were ahead to stay, 11-10.
Just 25 seconds later, Cape Elizabeth extended the lead when Steidl scored unassisted, but with 12:40 left, Smithwick scored again (this time from DiPhillippo) and it was 12-11.
Smithwick almost tied the score 29 seconds later, but her shot hit the crossbar.
At the other end, Perkins learned that turnabout is fair play when her free position shot hit the post.
With 11:02 to go, Fay looked to tie the score on a free position, but Sonesson made the save. At the 10:27 mark, Fay again had a shot, but again, Sonesson denied it.
Then, with 10:09 to play, Waite (from Steidl) scored and it was 13-11 Capers.
Falmouth bounced right back and made it a one-goal game when DiPhillippo (from Fay) scored with 9:30 remaining, but that would prove to be the final goal of the Yachtsmen's season.
With 8:26 to play, Smithwick had a tying bid that Sonesson saved. After Darling hit the post on a free position and Newhall's shot was saved by Aaskov, Darling scored unassisted with 3:32 to play to give Cape Elizabeth a two-goal cushion, 14-12.
Haley called timeout and hoped to spark a rally but it wasn't to be as Falmouth couldn't hold on to the ball. The hosts never released another shot, turned the ball over four times and the Capers ran out the clock on their inspirational win.
"This means a lot," said Perkins. "We had a swing and picked it up in the second half. We turned our game around. Losing by one last year to them in this exact game was motivation. I think we worked better as a team. Our passes were to sticks. Our defense picked it up and stayed on cutters. Elin had her best game. It was definitely a team collaboration. Fastbreaks got us going in the second half. Lauren winning the draw was a big part of it. We did a good job settling down, not getting hectic and staying calm on offense."
"The monkey's off our backs," Chapin said. "We've talked about that all week. Revenge, revenge, revenge. The girls have looked forward to this game and I'm happy for them. It's been two years of frustration. At halftime, we talked about maybe that's where we wanted to be, coming from behind. The kids played with more composure. (Falmouth's) a good team, but we knew we could come out and score against these guys. I think our defense played well when they had to. Elin came up with some huge saves. We were able to get into our defense a little more in the second half. We showed composure and moved the ball up the field."
Perkins had a team-high four goals and had plenty of help. Bethel added three, Darling, Steidl and White two and Newhall one. Steidl assisted on two goals. Bethel also had an assist. Perkins led all players with 11 ground balls. Bethel added nine. Sonesson made seven key saves.
For Falmouth, Smithwick had her finest effort of the season with four goals. Fay added three, Bernier and DiPhillippo two apiece and Waite had one. Bernier also had a whopping five assists. Costello and DiPhillipo each had two, Audet and Fay one apiece. Fay and Waite led the team with five ground balls each. Aaskov made 12 stops.
"I felt really good with how we played in the first half," Haley said. "Second half, (Cape) got some key draws. I think momentum shifted. That made the difference. The last three minutes, we had opportunities, but we couldn't seize them. We had turnovers, (Elin) made some saves and they won the game.
Falmouth loses nine seniors to graduation, including Costello, DiPhillippo, Fay and defensive leader Abbey Cavalero, but with the likes of Aaskov, Audet, Bernier, Molly Ryan, Smithwick and Waite returning, the Yachtsmen will be right back in the hunt in 2012.
"We graduate a lot, but we have a nice group coming back," Haley said. "I'm looking forward to that. I'm sad to see the seniors leave. They did an excellent job. We have some great athletes who worked hard. We get closer every year. It's disappointing to lose today. We're disappointed not to be playing Waynflete."
The Capers had a decided edge in the draw circle, winning 18 of 28. Steidl took all but one and won 18.
"Last time, I had trouble on the draws, but I realized if I pushed on the draws, it would help my team more," Steidl said. "It ended up working after the first few."
For Falmouth, Ryan was 6 of 14, Audet 4 of 13 and Costello 0 of 1.
Cape Elizabeth won the ground ball battle, 43-33, only had 17 turnovers (to 18 for Falmouth) and outshot the Yachtsmen, 31-24 (26-19 on cage).
Cusp of history
Cape Elizabeth has never reached a state final in girls' lacrosse since the Maine Principals' Association began sanctioning the sport in 1998. The Capers got to the regional final two year ago, but lost to Waynflete, 9-5. Cape Elizabeth also lost to the Flyers in the 1999 quarterfinals (10-4), 2003 semifinals (16-7), 2007 quarterfinals (13-3) and 2008 semis (11-1).
Wednesday, the Capers will go to the Flyers as the underdog, but that's quite alright with them.
"It's awesome to be the underdog," Steidl said. "No one expects us to come out, but I think we have a great team here and we'll leave it all on the field and go out and there and just do it."
"We have motivation again against Waynflete," Perkins said. "I think it plays in our favor. No one expects us to win. We'll play our hearts out."
"We've talked about three teams beating us this year so it's kind of lined up where hopefully we can go up against all three to end the season," Chapin added, alluding to a possible state final game versus Yarmouth. "I'm going to let these guys enjoy this until Monday. Sometimes, we look at that 'W' on the front of (Waynflete's) jersey and everyone kind of tenses up a little bit, but I think this year, we're a lot closer to them than we've been in the past. We know how they play. It's a matter of beating that Waynflete zone that everyone struggles with."