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Yarmouth fends off Marshwood's upset bid

Sports

Yarmouth fends off Marshwood's upset bid

YARMOUTH—The Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team faced a daunting dose of adversity Saturday afternoon, but demonstrated once again the heart, skill and determination which has placed it on the short list of favorites to win the Class B state title.

Already playing without injured senior defensive leader Kate Dilworth, the Clippers and their fans watched in horror as senior All-American Danielle Torres, one of the state's premier players and a team captain, left the game and didn't return after suffering an ankle injury just 8 minutes, 28 seconds into a challenging battle with unheralded Marshwood.

Yarmouth's high-powered offense was frustrated nearly all day by the Hawks, who employ a zone defense similar to one perfected by longtime powerhouse Waynflete, the lone team to defeat the Clippers in 2011.

At halftime, Yarmouth's lead was only 2-1, but in the second half, the Clippers produced just enough scoring to gain a little breathing room and went on to a 6-2 victory, their sixth in seven games this spring.

Seniors Lindsey Purpura and Devin Simsarian both scored twice, sophomore Olivia Conrad played well in Torres' stead and as usual, Yarmouth made life miserable for the opposition with its defensive tenacity and it prepared for a pair of huge tests next week with the tougher-than-expected victory.

"It didn't come easily," said Purpura, who's been solid and underappreciated all season. "Danielle being out was hard. We had to regain our composure and not panic."

True grit

Yarmouth excelled to start the 2011 campaign, winning at NYA (16-9), defending Class A champion Scarborough (16-11) and Cape Elizabeth (16-6) before falling by a goal at Waynflete, 11-10. Yarmouth bounced back earlier in the week with easy home wins over York (18-10) and Freeport (17-7), giving a goals per game average of 15.5 entering the contest.

Marshwood, meanwhile, has been stealing headlines this spring. The unheralded Hawks took Cape Elizabeth to overtime early on and upset previously undefeated Kennebunk Thursday, 9-8.

Last year, the Clippers beat host Marshwood, 16-5.

This time around, it wasn't as easy.

It was clear from the get-go that Yarmouth would dominate play, but it was equally obvious that Hawks sophomore goalie Meghan Lewis and her defenders wouldn't give the Clippers an easy look.

With 16:32 to go, after leaping to receive a pass, Torres landed awkwardly and stayed down. She was able to walk off the field under her own power, but was clearly favoring her left ankle and her day was over.

Showing its focus, just 30 seconds later, Yarmouth took the lead for good when senior Natalie Salmon set up Simsarian for a goal.

With 10:24 to play in the 25-minute first half, the Clippers doubled their advantage when Purpura scored unassisted, inducing Marshwood coach Bernie Marvin to call timeout.

With 2:32 remaining in the half, the Hawks got on the board as sophomore Janay Wright fed classmate Jillian Gori for a shot which got past Yarmouth junior goalie Steph Moulton making it a stunningly low-scoring 2-1 Clippers' lead at the break.

While Yarmouth only had a one-goal lead, it held a commanding edge in ground balls (29-10) and shots (19-4), but Lewis made 11 saves in the first 25 minutes, several of the highlight reel variety, to keep Marshwood's upset hopes alive.

The Clippers went up 3-1 when senior sharpshooter Becca Bell scored five minutes into the second half (from Simsarian), but with 17:10 to go, the Hawks answered as senior Shelby Minihane assisted on a goal by senior Erica Sedler.

Yarmouth would get some breathing room as Simsarian scored on a free position with 15:21 left and Salmon struck unassisted 11 seconds later after a draw win to make it 5-2. Purpura added a free position goal with 14 minutes remaining and that was all the offense either team would muster.

The Clippers got a couple key saves late in the game from Moulton and maintained possession most of the way before closing out the 6-2 win.

"We had to come out hard against (the Hawks) because they were coming off a huge win against Kennebunk," Purpura said. "We had to be confident, not cocky. We wanted to get it on attack, hold it, settle it and only shoot it when we knew we could get it in. We never got a big lead. They were right on us. They played really hard. We had some games for rest. We were ready to come into a big game."

"We knew it would be a battle," said Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt. "We needed a game like this. We went into a little bit of a panic mode when Danielle went down. She and Becca and Devin work so well together, but you pull one out and you see what a team we are. It took us the rest of the first half to get settled. We wanted to slow things down a little bit. Their goalie made some really key saves and to her credit, she was awesome."

Purpura and Simsarian scored twice for Yarmouth. Bell and Salmon had one goal each. Salmon and Simsarian added assists. Simsarian led all players in ground balls with 11. Bell grabbed 10, Purpura nine and Salmon eight. Moulton made the two second half saves.

"We're doing really well playing as a team," said Purpura. "I think our defense has stepped it up. Kate's always been an amazing talker down there, keeping everyone together. We've had a lot of girls, especially Caitlin Crawford, stepping it up so much on defense. Stephanie's doing amazing. Olivia stepped it up on offense."

"The girls rose to the occasion," said Holt. "Steph made some game-changing saves. The defense came up strong. Our shot selection got better in the second half and we got some breathing room. Olivia came in and played great. It was a great win. Marshwood played well and we had to step it up. It was fun to watch too."

For Marshwood, Gori and Sedler scored. Minihane and Wright assisted. Senior Mallory McPherson led the team with four ground balls and Lewis stole the show with 19 saves.

"Their goalie was amazing," Purpura said. "She made some great saves on the crease. She was always ready to get it back."

Each team won five draw controls. Junior Hattie Stiles went 5-of-10 for the Hawks, while Bell won 4-of-9 and Simsarian was successful in her lone chance for Yarmouth.

The Clippers dominated the other team stats, winning 60 ground balls to just 21 for Marshwood, forcing 27 turnovers (while committing just 17) and outshooting the visitors, 36-8 (including 25-4 on frame).

Upcoming tests

The Hawks (5-3 and sixth in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) host Mia Rapolla and Gorham Monday and go to defending state champion Scarborough May 23. Marshwood also plays host to Thornton Academy and visits Portland before the regular season ends.

Yarmouth (6-1 and first in Eastern B) hopes to get healthy, but will likely have to navigate a brutal slate next week without its key cogs (as Torres' prognosis was unknown at press time and Dilworth hopes to be back in a couple of weeks),. The Clippers host Falmouth Tuesday and NYA Thursday. They play games the following week at Falmouth and Greely before closing the regular season June 1 at home versus Waynflete. Homefield advantage for the playoffs is likely if Yarmouth takes care of business.

"We definitely have a good group of girls," Purpura said. "We all support each other so much. Everyone wants success. We have big games to come. We want to win. That's for sure."

"We're excited for next week," Holt said. "On any given day it's anyone's game. It's going to be great. I can't wait. This is the fun part."

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