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Waynflete holds off Greely's upset bid, reaches regional final again

Sports

Waynflete holds off Greely's upset bid, reaches regional final again

PORTLAND—The Waynflete Flyers and Greely Rangers girls' lacrosse teams have produced some postseason thrillers over the years.

Saturday afternoon's Western Class B semifinal round matchup wasn't expected to be one of them.

The Rangers, however, proved that their season of rebirth was no fluke, giving the perennial powerhouse Flyers fits for every one of the game's 3,000 seconds.

In fact, the contest wasn't decided until a last-second Greely shot went just wide and Waynflete was allowed to exhale and celebrate its 12-11 victory.

The Flyers took the lead in the first half behind four goals from sophomore Sadie Cole, rode the tenacity of sophomore Martha Veroneau and turned to their storied defense and ability to run time off the clock to hold on for dear life in the second half as they improved to 11-2, ended the Rangers' year at 6-7 and moved on to Wednesday's regional final versus No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (10-3).

"It's the playoffs, so really anything can happen," said Veroneau. "We were definitely a little frantic there. (Greely's) a great team and they proved it and showed they could play great lacrosse. They improved like everyone has. This is the time of year that you have to step it up in the end and we did and that's all that matters."

Renewing acquaintances

Waynflete has played more postseason games versus Greely over the years than any other team as Saturday marked the ninth all-time meeting.

In many of those years, the teams were dead-even in talent, but the Flyers almost always somehow found a way to prevail as longtime coach Cathie Connors and her players consistently broke the heart of Greely's longtime mentor, Peter Wiles, and his kids.

The first encounter came in the 1997 Division I state final, a 7-5 Waynflete win.

The next year, the Maine Principals' Association began sanctioning the sport and the Flyers and Rangers were lumped together in the same region. In 1998, during Waynflete's undefeated run to a championship, the Flyers crushed Greely, 17-6, in the semifinals.

After a year's hiatus, the teams met again, this time in the 2000 semifinals, where the Rangers beat Waynflete for the only time in June, 10-9, in overtime.

The squads didn't square off in 2001 or 2002, but would battle each of the next four seasons in increasingly dramatic and memorable games.

In the 2003 regional final, title-bound Waynflete rolled, 15-7.

The next year, in the semifinals, the Flyers, who had lost both regular season meetings, upset host Greely in a defensive struggle, 5-2, and went on to the championship.

In 2005, on a sizzling hot day, Waynflete only scored five goals in the semis, but that was two better than the Rangers' production and again, the Flyers advanced and ultimately celebrated another crown.

The 2006 semifinal game was one of a kind. For starters, due to poor field conditions at Waynflete, the contest was played at Fitzpatrick Stadium. At 8 a.m. Underdog Greely led most of the game, but the Flyers, behind their storied "Magnificent Seven" seniors, then riding a 34-game win streak, improbably snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with an epic rally in the waning moments and pulled away to win in overtime, 8-5. The run ended two games later with a state final loss to Yarmouth.

The most recent playoff matchup came in the 2008 regional final and it was all Waynflete, 16-5, as again the Flyers went on to the championship.

Entering this season, the prospect of Waynflete and Greely squaring off in a meaningful June contest appeared unlikely.

The Rangers were coming off a one-win campaign and had missed the postseason for the first time in the MPA era. Wiles stepped down after 2010 and was replaced by Sara Dimick, a one-time Greely star player (and the school's Spring 2003 Female Athlete of the Year), who went on to play at Wheaton College.

The Rangers opened with a 16-7 loss at Falmouth, but soon hit their stride. After downing visiting Wells, 15-10, and falling at home to Cony, 16-8, Greely shocked defending Class B state champion North Yarmouth Academy, 13-12, in overtime. A 15-1 home triumph over Fryeburg followed and the Rangers were above .500 for the first time since 2008. After road losses to Waynflete and Kennebunk, Greely rattled off three successive wins, over visiting Freeport (7-6), host Wells (14-11) and at Fryeburg (13-2). The regular season ended with a 17-8 home loss to powerhouse Yarmouth and a 9-7 setback at Cape Elizabeth.

Still, the Rangers' 6-6 mark gave them the No. 4 seed in Western Class B.

Waynflete wound up where most expected it to be, as the number one seed in the region. The Flyers, the state's signature franchise, with eight state titles since the MPA began sanctioning the sport in 1998, were upset by NYA in last year's state game (7-3) and faced plenty of question marks coming into 2011 after graduating a pair of standouts, Amy Allen and Morgan Woodhouse.

Waynflete, however, has gotten superb contributions from everyone on the roster and met almost all of its challenges. The Flyers opened with an impressive 18-10 victory at Falmouth, then, were upset at home by longtime rival Kennebunk, 12-10. Waynflete bounced back and won nine in a row, rolling at Freeport (18-3), registering impressive back-to-back home victories over Yarmouth (11-10) and NYA (12-10), then disposing of visiting Greely, before rolling at Cheverus (10-6), Cape Elizabeth (13-6), Falmouth (12-8), NYA (17-4) and York (16-7). In the finale, June 1, the Flyers suffered a 13-8 loss at Yarmouth, which might have served as the perfect tonic to get the team refocused heading into the postseason.

In the regular season meeting between the teams, Greely hung tough in the first half, before Waynflete dominated the second en route to a 22-11 victory.

This time, the game would remain tight from the get-go.

The Rangers won the opening draw and it led directly to a goal as one of the team's several standout sophomores, Paige Tuller, fed another, Meg Finlay, whose shot got past Waynflete sophomore goalie Katherine Torrey for a quick 1-0 advantage.

The Flyers bounced right back, tying the score with 22:22 to go in the 25-minute first half as senior Scout Haffenreffer set up Cole for a shot which Greely junior goalie Catherine Fellows couldn't stop.

The hosts took their first lead, 2-1, on an unassisted goal from Cole (after a pretty spin move) at 19:20. A little over a minute later, the Rangers pulled even when sophomore Julia Mitiguy threaded a nice pass to Tuller, who finished.

Two goals in 36 seconds from senior Mica Thompson (the first from Cole, the second unassisted) put Waynflete up, 4-2, but with 14:06 remaining in the half, Mitiguy scored an unassisted goal to make it 4-3.

With 12:40 left, Finlay looked to tie the score on a free position shot, but Torrey made the save.

The Flyers then went up two goals again when Cole scored on a free position with 11:33 showing. Greely came right back and made it 5-4 when junior Audrey Parolin slipped through the defense and scored unassisted with exactly 10 minutes showing.

Enter Veroneau, who made her offensive presence felt by eluding three defenders before beating Fellows with 8:06 to play. After senior Liv Chap just missed giving Waynflete a three-goal lead when her shot hit the post, the Rangers got back to within one, 6-5, when Mitiguy set up Finlay for a turnaround shot and a goal at 4:18.

As they so often do, however, the Flyers closed the half strong.

First, Cole scored on a free position with 1:49 showing. Then, with just eight seconds left, senior Izzer Berrang scored on a free position. Waynflete won the ensuing draw and raced down for one more shot, but it was released after the horn. Regardless, the Flyers appeared poised to pull away, up 8-5.

The first half stats favored the hosts, as they won nine of 14 draws, forced 10 turnovers (while committing only six) and had 16 shots to eight for the Rangers. Greely did have a 25-18 advantage in ground balls.

But the Rangers simply wouldn't go away in the final 25 minutes and took this one right down to the final horn.

With 22:35 to play, Mitiguy scored on a free position to start the second half scoring. Waynflete answered with 21 minutes to go as Berrang scored unassisted, but a free position goal by Tuller with 19:21 left caused Connors to call timeout with her team clinging to a 9-7 lead.

Greely drew even closer with 17 minutes remaining as Tuller set up Mitiguy for a goal. Undaunted, the Flyers went back up by two, 10-8, when Veroneau scored a free position goal 59 seconds later.

Again, the Rangers crawled back within one when Tuller set up freshman Teal Otley for a goal with 13:42 to play and 26 seconds later, Finlay had a shot to draw her team even, but Torrey made the stop.

With 11:18 to go, Waynflete made it 11-9 when Cole threw a high pass to Thompson, who finished her favorite type of play with a quick catch-and-shot.

"I think we've been practicing the quick passes," Cole said. "It works for the team. We pulled it off really well."

"We wanted to make it well rounded," Connors said, of the offense. "We're working on feeding to everyone."

With 9:40 showing, Veroneau set up Chap for a goal and a seemingly safe 12-9 lead, but the Flyers wouldn't be able to truly exhale for a long while.

Greely pushed to answer and at first was stymied by Torrey, who denied sophomore Etta Copenhagen after a three-minute possession, then turned away a Finlay shot on a free position.

Finally, with 5:15 to go, Tuller set up Mitiguy for a goal, which cut the deficit to 12-10.

The Rangers won the ensuing draw when Veroneau had a false start, but Waynflete senior Liz Lewis stole a pass. At the other end, Veroneau looked to ice it, but her shot was denied by Fellows. After a Rangers' turnover, with 1:30 remaining, Veroneau again had a bid to make it a three-goal lead, but again Fellows made the save.

Greely then transitioned and made things very interesting when Tuller scored on a free position with 29 seconds to go.

Neither coach called timeout, leaving it up to the players on the field.

The ensuing draw would be vital.

Again, Veroneau entered the circle to go head-to-head with Mitiguy. The ball shot into the air and Cole beat everyone else to it, giving the Flyers possession.

"We wanted to get the possession," Veroneau said. "I tried to get it out to myself or one of the players. Whatever works. Sadie got it, which was good. I had a false start on the first one, but came out and tried it again."

"I guess I just went where I thought it would go," Cole said. "I was determined to get it."

They wouldn't keep it as they turned the ball over, giving the Rangers a final chance.

Greely managed to race the ball down the field and as the final seconds ticked off, the ball came to sophomore Whitney Williams, who had a good look, but shot wide. Torrey cradled the ball and the horn sounded.

Waynflete 12 Greely 11.

"It was really scary at the end, but we pulled through," Cole said. "Playoffs changes everything. Greely has really good players. They're a really good team and I could tell they were really pumped. We didn't know what to expect in playoffs, but we were ready for anything."

"This was a really fun game," Connors said.

The Flyers were led by Cole's four goals. Thompson added three, Berrang and Veroneau two and Chap one. Cole added two assists. Haffenreffer and Veroneau each had one. Veroneau, who seemingly everywhere on the day, led Waynflete with eight ground balls. Chap added five. Torrey finished with seven clutch saves.

"Catherine had an awesome game," Veroneau said.

For Greely, Mitiguy led the way with four goals. Tuller had three, Finlay two and Otley and Parolin one each. Tuller also had four assists. Mitiguy added a pair. Finlay led all players with nine ground balls. Tuller had eight, Copenhagen seven. Fellows made nine stops.

"By far, it was our best game all season," Dimick said. "We really connected and pushed each other and played 110 percent. I couldn't have asked for more. It was very impressive. It's really fun to play such a strong team and stay with them and keep it close. I'm really proud of (the girls). I think they knew from the beginning that we were mentally in it. (The girls are) used to coming from behind, which isn't always a good thing, but they proved themselves today."

All in all, the 2011 season was a resounding success for the Rangers.

"It's tough sometimes when teams have a new coaching staff," said Dimick, "But they worked so hard all season. They pushed each other. They peaked when they were supposed to be peaking and this loss will only prepare us more for next year.  It's really a young group. I lose five seniors who played today. The majority of girls will be back. We'll build on this. It's very exciting."

Connors had nothing but praise for Greely's effort.

"They're very well coached and I wasn't going to underestimate them at all," she said. "Sara's done an incredible job with them and the way they kept with us in the first half in the first game, I knew it would be really, really tight. They played beautiful lacrosse."

Waynflete won 15 of the 25 draws as Haffenreffer went 13 of 22, Veroneau 1 of 2 and Cole 1 for 1. Parolin won 6 of 19 for the Rangers, Mitiguy 4 of 6.

Greely had a big advantage in ground balls, 46-28.

The turnover numbers were incredibly low considering the stakes. The Rangers, with much of their team playing in their first postseason game, had only 13, while the Flyers wound up with 11.

Waynflete outshot Greely, 26-21 (21-18 in shots on cage).

Another regional final

Waynflete has made it to the regional final or better in every year but two (2002 and 2007) during Connors' 19-year reign. Wednesday, the Flyers will host a red-hot Cape Elizabeth team, ranked third, which upset No. 2 Falmouth, 14-12, Saturday in the other semifinal.

Waynflete beat the Capers, 13-6, on May 17. That game was scheduled to be played in Portland, but was moved to the Cape Elizabeth turf due to wet field conditions. The Flyers have won the previous five postseason meetings, including a hard-fought 9-5 regional final showdown two years ago. Waynflete should have an advantage playing a turf team on grass, but as Greely proved Saturday, nothing will come easily this postseason.

"It's going to be a big one," Veroneau said. "They were very close with us in the regular season."

"It'll be really tough," Cole said. "Cape's a really good team. In the playoffs, everyone brings their best. It should be a really good game."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Meg Finlay, one of Greely's many standout sophomores, tries to get around Waynflete sophomore Martha Veroneau during first half action.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Greely sophomore Paige Tuller, with Waynflete sophomore Martha Veroneau (19) and senior Eliza Milliken looking on, chases after a loose ball.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Waynflete senior Liz Lewis attempts to chase down Greely junior Meaghan Labbe.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Greely sophomore defender Etta Copenhagen plays tight defense on Waynflete sophomore Martha Veroneau.