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Yarmouth begins new era with 6-2 win at NYA

Sports

Yarmouth begins new era with 6-2 win at NYA

YARMOUTH—While it had all the earmarks of a sloppy season-opening game, Friday afternoon's 6-2 victory was a thing of beauty for the Yarmouth boys' lacrosse team.

Playing at fierce rival North Yarmouth Academy, the Clippers raced to an early lead and rode their defense and the goalkeeping of junior Alex Kurtz to give new coach Steve Moore his first win.

Five different Yarmouth players scored (sophomore Nick Ronan led the way with two goals) and the host Panthers were doomed by 37 turnovers in the first of three likely meetings between the neighbors this spring.

"It's a good start," said Ronan, one of many new Clipper faces in new places this season. "We came out strong then we didn't play well in the third quarter, but we picked it up in the last quarter."

Changing of the guard?

The Yarmouth program has been as dominant as anyone over the past decade, winning state titles in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009, finishing runner-up in 2005 and last season and winning every single home game dating back to May 24, 2002.

While the Clippers have produced several college-caliber players in that span, graduation has hit the program especially hard the past couple seasons and this year's edition is viewed in many quarters as one that's rebuilding.

The team hoping to take advantage of that is NYA, which has long played second fiddle to Yarmouth in Eastern Class B (including a 17-7 loss to the Clippers in last year's regional semifinals).

Friday, the Panthers hoped to show their rivals they were ready to become the team to beat in the region, but for one game at least, Yarmouth managed to hold serve.

The Clippers, who lack the Rob Highland, Steven Petrovek-type prolific scorer they've long boasted, will rely on a more balanced offense this year and that showed in this game.

With 7 minutes, 26 seconds to go in the 12-minute opening stanza, Ronan broke the ice, taking a feed from Christian Henry before beating NYA freshman goalie Weston Nolan.

A minute later, an unassisted goal from junior Bart Gallagher gave Yarmouth a 2-0 advantage, a lead it would take to the second period.

Forty-five seconds into the new quarter, junior Sam Torres fed Matt Watson for a shorthanded goal and it was 3-0. When Gallagher set up senior Matt Murphy for a goal with 9:23 remaining in the half, the Clippers were in control, up 4-0.

NYA, which turned the ball over 19 times in the first half, finally tickled the twine with 2:01 left before halftime when junior Forrest Milburn bulled through three defenders before firing a shot past Kurtz.

That momentum didn't last as 29 seconds later, Torres set up senior Kyle Groves for a goal, giving Yarmouth a 5-1 lead at the break.

The Clippers would go almost the entire second half without scoring, but they managed to hold the Panthers at bay.

With 6:57 to go in the third, NYA cut the deficit to 5-2 when senior Finn Hadlock set up sophomore Oliver Silverson for a goal. The Panthers had ample opportunities to get closer, including several man-up situations, but they simply couldn't take advantage as Yarmouth forced turnover after turnover and Kurtz stepped up when he had to.

The game remained 5-2 until 1:55 was left in the fourth quarter. Then, playing a man up, the Clippers iced it as Ronan set up Groves for the goal which accounted for the 6-2 final score.

"We just weren't focusing (in the third quarter)," said Ronan. "We just threw the ball away. We picked it up and moved it around quick in the fourth quarter and made more opportunities. If they scored once more, they could have come back, but that last goal put it away."

"A win's a win," added Moore. "Obviously, it's a great rivalry. I think it was a great game. For the first one to be close and emotional, I think it's a good way to start for both teams. Our kids worked hard. I think we dominated and were composed in the first half. In the second half, they came out emotional and that caught our kids off guard. We let emotions get the better of us. We were unsettled on offense.  I think that last goal took the wind out of their sails and gave our kids confidence. Our defense and Alex Kurtz in goal were phenomenal."

Yarmouth got two goals from Ronan and one each from Gallagher, Groves, Murphy and Watson. Torres added two assists, while Groves and Henry each had one. Kurtz made eight saves.

"(Kurtz) was pumped and did well," Ronan said. "He was on his game."

"(Alex) was very poised and made key saves considering the scoreboard," added Moore. "Had those shots gone in, it could have turned the tide. He's very emotional and he did a great job of controlling those emotions and being positive and supporting from the cage out, through the defense and to the offense."

The Clippers won six of 10 faceoffs, grabbed 55 ground balls (junior Josh Britten had a game-high nine) to 36 for NYA, outshot the hosts, 31-20 and turned the ball over 28 times.

“We had help from our longstick middie Josh Britten," Moore said. "Billy Clabby did a great job on faceoffs. Sam Torres really had a great effort. We settled down in the fourth quarter and controlled the ball. We had a lot of penalties. It hurt us, but the kids stuck to it on defense and stuck it out.”

NYA's goals came from Milburn and Silverson. Hadlock added an assist. Nolan had a stellar debut with 15 saves. Sophomore Isaac Lipton and senior Tim Millett both had a team-high five ground balls.

Ultimately, the Panthers were doomed by their 37 turnovers and inability to score in man-up situations.

“Our offense was struggling today," said NYA coach Chris Carpentier. "It showed right from the get-go. Once we started getting ground balls and getting in transition, it tightened things up and kept things interesting. Their goalie came up huge and had big saves.

"We learned our weaknesses. I think it could have gone either way, but they definitely outplayed us in the first half. It's about confidence, getting the monkey off our backs. We'll see them again.”

Week off

The Panthers return to action April 27 at home versus Greely. NYA goes to Yarmouth May 18.

The Clippers are also idle until April 27 when they have their home opener versus York. A Brunswick-Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth stretch follows.

“It's pretty hard because we lost most of our team and we have new coaches, but it's coming along well," Ronan said. "We're becoming more of a team. We still have a lot before us.”

"It's a great way to start the year, but we have a long way to go," Moore said. "We're rebuilding, but we have solid lacrosse players. It's just a matter of giving them time to play together. It's a learning process for everybody. We hope to be in contention at the end of the year. I think we will be."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. He can be followed on Twitter @foresports

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

NYA's Finn Hadlock fights to control a loose ball while being hounded by a pair of Yarmouth defenders.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

NYA's Wesley Bright is hounded by Yarmouth's Drew Grout.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth's Sam Coleman keeps a close eye on NYA's Forrest Milburn.