Yarmouth holds off Waynflete in epic state final
PORTLAND—They saved the best title game for last Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Then, a new champion saved its greatest effort and display of heart for last.
As a result, the Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team is first.
The Clippers and perennial powerhouse Waynflete Flyers waited nearly two hours to get their Class B Final underway, but was it ever something special once it commenced.
Yarmouth, featuring a dozen seniors who had never played in a state final, was the more poised and effective team in the early going, racing to a 3-0 lead, but as expected, Waynflete settled down and rallied, tying the score before the Clippers got one back to take a 4-3 advantage to the half.
Early in the second half, Yarmouth appeared doomed when senior standout Becca Bell received her second yellow card, forcing her to sit the remainder of the contest, but classmates Natalie Salmon, Devin Simsarian and Danielle Torres, along with everyone else in blue and white, made sure the Clippers wouldn't falter.
Even though Yarmouth fell behind at one juncture, 6-5, Salmon scored twice to put her team on top. The Flyers tied the score, Torres put the Clippers on top, then Waynflete tied the game again.
Then, with just under seven minutes to play, Torres, a captain and the team's heart and soul, fittingly, scored the winner on a free position and Yarmouth's defense and senior goalie Stephanie Moulton, who sparkled on this night, held the fort before the Clippers were finally able to run out the clock on their inspirational 9-8 triumph.
Yarmouth finished 14-1, won its third championship in six seasons and its fifth ever and ended the valiant Flyers' fine runner-up season at 12-3.
"I couldn't have picked a better way for us to win this game," Torres said. "It's so meaningful to me knowing that everyone on the team contributed so much to win this game and to get us here. I've (watched) so many championship finals. It was such a joy to play in it and to win it is overwhelming. It was such a great game. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. (Waynflete's) a great team. I wouldn't have wanted to win by a great (margin). This is just the way it had to be."
Yarmouth came into the 2011 season still feeling the sting of last year's 9-5 regional final ouster at the hands of fierce rival North Yarmouth Academy, the third straight season the Clippers had lost to the Panthers in the playoffs. Making it even worse was the fact Yarmouth swept NYA in the regular season. A scoreless second half spelled doom, however, in the game that mattered most.
With a senior-laden roster, fierce will and heart and a commitment to settle for nothing short of playing on June 18, the Clippers got off to a hot start this spring and by regular season's end had established themselves as the best team in the state.
Yarmouth opened with an emphatic payback victory at NYA 16-9. The Clippers then cruised past defending and eventual Class A champion Scarborough (16-11) and Cape Elizabeth (16-6). After being bested by a goal at Waynflete, 11-10, Yarmouth bounced back with home wins over York (18-10), Freeport (17-7), Marshwood (6-2), Falmouth (13-12) and NYA (8-5), before rolling at Falmouth (13-8) and Greely (17-8). In the regular season finale, at home, on Senior Night, the Clippers left no doubt that they were title-worthy with a 13-8 win over Waynflete, giving them an 11-1 record and the top seed in Eastern B.
Yarmouth toyed with No. 4 Morse in the semifinals, romping, 21-3, then finally vanquished NYA in the regional final, having to come from behind to do so, 6-5.
Then, there's Waynflete, which seemingly makes it to the state final every year. The Flyers saw their two-year title reign end last spring with a 7-3 setback to NYA in the finale and after graduating standouts Amy Allen and Morgan Woodhouse were expected to come back to the pack in 2011.
Instead, Waynflete wound up first in Western B for the fourth year in a row. 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 (22-11), 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.
Waynflete had its toughest road yet to a regional crown, but passed two big tests. In the semifinals, the Flyers held off unheralded No. 4 Greely's upset bid, 12-11. Then, in the regional final, Waynflete had to come from behind to defeat No. 3 Cape Elizabeth, 8-7.
Both teams have storied traditions and the case can be made that if the Flyers are the state's flagship program, then Yarmouth is No. 2.
Since Cathie Connors took over the Waynflete program in 1993, the Flyers have won 10 championships. Yarmouth won four titles in that span and the teams met five previous times in the state game, with Waynflete taking three of them.
The Flyers beat Yarmouth, 7-6, to win the title in 1994, Two years later, the Clippers beat the Flyers, 5-4. Waynflete downed Yarmouth, 13-8, in the inaugural Maine Principals' Association-sanctioned title game in 1998 and beat the Clippers again in 1999, 5-3. In the most recent state final meeting, 2006, Yarmouth dominated the Flyers, 12-5.
The Clippers also won state crowns in 2002 (13-8 over Kennebunk) and 2007 (7-5 against Kennebunk).
In addition to their three championship game wins over Yarmouth, the Flyers won states in 1992 (over Freeport, in the MAISAD Final), 1997 (7-5, against Greely, in the Division I Final), 2001 (9-5 over NYA), 2003 (7-5 against Brunswick), 2004 (9-5 over NYA), 2005 (5-4, in overtime, against NYA), 2008 (12-8 over NYA) and 2009 (9-5 against NYA).
Saturday, a severe rain, thunder and lightning storm rolled through just before the teams were going to warm up, forcing everyone on hand to take cover.
The contest was scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m., but when play finally began, it was 7:20 p.m.
The hour and 50 minute delay proved to be worth the wait for anyone who appreciates this great sport.
Even though none of the Yarmouth players had ever taken part in a lacrosse state final, the Clippers came out poised and sizzling and raced to an early lead.
Just 1 minute, 8 seconds into the 25-minute first half, Torres gave Yarmouth a 1-0 lead after finishing a pass from Salmon.
"We came out really strong," Torres said. "I think the (weather delay) helped us out a little. We were just in the bus, having snacks, hydrating, singing some songs. I think it helped calm us down. On our Senior Night, we had a rain delay and it was a good outcome. We thought it was a good omen for us."
With 21:35 to go, Waynflete had a great chance to draw even when sophomore standout Sadie Cole earned a free position, but the shot was saved by Moulton, who got a big early dose of confidence.
"I felt great after that," Moulton said. "It set the bar for the rest of the game. I was pumped on energy after that one. I had prepared myself before the game like it was a regular game."
Thirty-three seconds later, Flyers senior Liv Chap hit the post with a shot. With 18:52 left in the half, senior Mica Thompson earned a free position, but Moulton turned aside that shot as well.
The Clippers went up 2-0 when Bell took a pass from Torres and beat Waynflete sophomore goalie Katherine Torrey with 18:08 left. With the clock showing 16:40, Simsarian picked up a loose ball and shot past Torrey to make it 3-0.
"I was just trying to be as aggressive as I could," Simsarian said. "I knew it was our last opportunity. I wanted to savor every minute I had in the game."
That goal caused Connors to call timeout and as has been the case countless times in her 222-win career, her team responded.
With 14:08 left before halftime, Thompson took a pass from Cole in transition and fired past Moulton to get the Flyers on the board.
With 10:21 to go, less than a minute after Cole was again denied on a free position, the sophomore took a pass from sophomore athletic wonder Martha Veroneau and scored to cut the deficit to 3-2.
With 8:35 left, Salmon looked to turn momentum back to the Clippers, but hit the post. Seventeen seconds later, Simsarian had a free position, but Torrey made the save.
Then, with 4:40 to go in the half, Cole scored on a free position and Waynflete was even.
After a timeout, Torres put Yarmouth back on top at 3:22 as she took a pass from Simsarian, made a double move on a defender, then turned and beat Torrey for a 4-3 advantage.
With 3:07 remaining, Bell was given a yellow card for slashing. While Bell had to come off the field for three minutes, it seemed like an innocuous play, but it would lead to a huge, game-altering situation in the second half.
Waynflete won five of the eight first half draws and forced 13 turnovers (while committing a dozen). The Clippers won 24 ground balls to 20 for the Flyers and outshot Waynflete, 12-10. Each goalie made five saves.
In the second half, the Flyers got a huge break, while Yarmouth suffered a seismic loss, but in the end, the Clippers' seniors simply refused to buckle and earned the program its first title in four years.
Waynflete was the aggressor to start the second half as junior Lucy Crane hit the post 39 seconds in. With 23:59 to go, Crane earned a free position and finished to tie the score.
Yarmouth bounced right back and went back on top, 5-4, when Bell took a pass from Salmon in transition and one-timed a shot past Torrey with 22:13 showing.
Less than a minute later, Bell would be done for the game.
That's because she received a second yellow card at 21:17 for a "dangerous play," a controversial call, especially considering the magnitude of the game. By rule, Bell had to sit the remainder of the contest.
Bell left the field in tears, the Clippers were stunned, knowing they'd have to go the rest of the way without their draw specialist, one of their grittiest and most inspirational players and a top scoring threat, while the Flyers seemed to be given a gift that they would take and ride to another state crown.
Both sides felt that the call was unfortunate.
"That was huge," Connors said. "I felt sad for her. She's a great kid. I really like her."
"It was definitely hard, a big loss," said Simsarian. "Becca's a big part of our team."
"Becca had an unlucky call," Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt said. "When she went out, everyone was nervous. I told them it was going to be OK and then she was so supportive of the team."
Bell wasn't even sure what had occurred.
"I'm not really sure entirely what happened," she said. "I think I let the energy get to me and I played a little too physically. Obviously, I was devastated to go out my last game of the season, but I tried to turn it around and support them as much as I could from the sidelines."
Sure enough, Waynflete pounced as it raced down and Veroneau hit the post on a free position. Then, with 18:26 left, Veronau scored unassisted and the game was tied.
After Moulton saved another Veroneau free position with 17:22 to play, Cole scored on a free position 19 seconds later to give the Flyers their first (and what proved to be their only) lead, 6-5.
Holt called timeout to settle her team and to its credit, Yarmouth rose to the occasion in stirring fashion.
With 13:35 left, Salmon tied the score with an unassisted goal.
"I had a really tough angle," Salmon said. "I had a lot of anger built up. Seeing Becca so upset, it fueled me. I wanted it in the back of the net so badly so I took the shot and I think that got us going."
Then, with 12:02 showing, Salmon cut through the defense and beat Torrey to put the Clippers back on top, 7-6. After Torres' bid to extend the lead on a free position was denied by Torrey and Simsarian's shot in close was saved, Cole scored unassisted in transition and with 11:02 to go, Waynflete was even, 7-7.
That deadlock lasted all of 32 seconds.
With 10:30 remaining, Simsarian found Torres, who bounced a shot past Torrey to make it 8-7.
"Devin had an amazing game," Torres said. "It was a blast to play with her today. We've played together for so long. This game showed our ability to read each other. We made some passes we couldn't have made with other people. Devin's such a big leader. So powerful and strong. I rely on her so much on the field. It was kind of a lucky shot. It made its way through."
Yarmouth won the ensuing draw and had a chance to extend the lead, but it turned the ball over. Veroneau took advantage, racing three-quarters of the field, past helpless defenders, before firing a shot that Moulton couldn't handle and it was 8-8 with 8:27 to play.
Waynflete, which historically closes games better than anyone, never could go back on top, however.
With 7:49 left in regulation, Salmon got a good look, but shot wide. Twenty-five seconds later, it was Salmon again, shooting in close, but Torrey made the save.
Then, the Clippers got the eventual game winner.
With 6:40 showing, after the Flyers were called offsides, Torres was awarded a free position. She calmly ran in and beat Torrey and Yarmouth had a 9-8 lead to protect.
"(On free positions) I usually get nervous and sometimes mess them up, but I stayed really calm for some reason," Torres said. "It was a great goal. It was a lucky chance that I was there and got to shoot straight from the top."
Waynflete would have its chances to answer.
After the Clippers won the ensuing draw, but turned the ball over, Flyers senior Izzer Berrang had a great look, but her shot hit Moulton in the arm and bounced out of harm's way.
"I didn't move very quickly and it nailed my arm, but at least I got my body in front of it," Moulton said.
"After we scored and they scored and we scored, our defense knew we couldn't let another one in," said Clippers' senior defensive leader Kate Dilworth, who missed most of the season with injuries. "We were crashing and getting fouls, but we were working our best and trying hard. It was so nervewracking the entire game. Not a moment when we felt like we pulled away."
Yarmouth then ran two minutes off the clock, but turned the ball over with 3:05 to go. Waynflete came down and set up for what it hoped would be a game-tying tally, but Torres forced a turnover.
With 1:11 remaining, Simsarian had a chance to ice matters, but shot high. The Clippers gave the ball away nine seconds later, but with 42.1 seconds to go, the Flyers had a turnover of their own.
That would seal it.
Yarmouth managed to run out the clock from there.
"Running out the clock was a challenge too," Torres said. "That's when the nerves click in. That's when you look at the clock and the time is running slowly. It such a team effort to get the ball out."
"It did seem like a long time to run out the clock," Simsarian said. "We were trying to control the ball, trying to not to do anything stupid. We wanted to run the time down and settle it down. I think everyone stepped up and had that passion and drive today."
When the game clock hit zero, at 8:46 p.m., the Clippers had reached the promised land.
"Even when we stalled, there was so much anxiety, because they're so good at breaking the stall," said Dilworth, who joined her older siblings Molly (2006) and Joe (2008) as a lacrosse champion. "When they got the ball back, our defense was so nervous and Steph was so nervous, but we got through to the end."
"This shows our depth," said Bell, who will attend Williams College next year, where she'll ski and possibly play lacrosse. "To be able to win playing a man down for pretty much the entire second half is an unbelievable demonstration of our success this season. I was going crazy on the sidelines. I had support from my teammates. They knew how much it meant to me. I was definitely the first one on the field when the final whistle blew. It's great to have our hard work pull through with the success of the team this season. We did a great job."
"I kept looking at the clock and was hoping we'd keep the ball down (to the other end of the field), said Moulton, who hopes to play lacrosse at St. Michael's next year. "This means so much. I never thought I'd win a state championship. I never thought I'd be a starting goalie. It feels so good. It just took everyone. We had freshmen, sophomores and juniors all stepping up. Our goal was to get here and win."
"I have to say it was the sweetest victory I've ever had in all my years of coaching," Holt added. "It took heart, grit and desire tonight. We didn't leave anything on the field. We started out strong. We let them back in when we weren't running through ground balls. We started winning them. That's what really made the difference. We forced turnovers. Steph made some big saves."
Torres, who will play lacrosse at Brown University next year, demonstrated once again why she's an elite talent, coming up huge on the biggest stage in clutch situations. She scored four times and added an assist in her swan song.
Bell scored twice before having to leave the game. Salmon, who emerged as a standout in the latter stage of the season, also scored two goals and assisted on two others. Simsarian had a goal and two assists. Simsarian led everyone on the field with a whopping 15 ground balls.. Torres had eight ground balls, senior Lindsey Purpura six. Moulton finished with nine saves, as she had her best game in the biggest spotlight.
"Steph deserves a huge amount of praise from the entire team," Dilworth said. "She worked from being a non-starter to what I feel is one of the best goalies. She saved open shots. We're proud of what she's done and what she's accomplished."
Even those who didn't make it into the scoring column played a big role in the victory.
"We had (sophomore) Olivia Conrad and (junior) Claudia (Lockwood) come in and step it up," said Salmon, the class valedictorian, who will attend Trinity next year, where she hopes to play soccer or lacrosse. "It shows the depth of the team. The bench players can play. They make a big impact on the game. Our nerves fueled us early. We got a little comfortable and they came back. Honestly, it shows we have the strength to rally."
"Becca's one of our best players, one of the best in the state and we were feeling for her," Dilworth said. "We wanted to do it for her and ourselves. We didn't dwell on it. We knew we had girls off the bench who could come in and play well. Olivia Conrad and Claudia came off the bench. (Junior) Jeanna (Lowery) started playing attack. It was nice for us to have more depth on the team and not lose because we lost Becca."
"It was such a challenge," Torres said. "Becca's one of our biggest leaders. Her absence was felt. We had to compensate. It showed the strength in everyone on the field. We kept fighting to come back. The defense played amazing. Kate and (sophomore) Claire (King) and Jeanna. Steph's saves were unbelivable."
"Olivia Conrad stepped in," Holt added. "Claudia moved around. Devin stepped up in the draw circle and so did Danielle. It took a village to beat (Waynflete) and we had that tonight."
Waynflete, which lost in the state game in consecutive years for the first time, had plenty of strong performances as well.
Cole led the team with four goals. Veroneau added a pair. Crane and Thompson each had one. Cole and Veroneau also had an assist. Veroneau led the Flyers with 11 ground balls, Chap and senior Scout Haffenreffer both had five. Torrey made nine saves.
"We were trying to get the ball back at the end," Connors said. "We don't play man-to-man often. We caused two turnovers. That was good. We wanted to transition and move the ball. We had trouble at the beginning of the game, but at the end we did a good job.
"I'm super-proud of them. To come from behind like that against a team like Yarmouth. They are a beautiful, fast team. I'm sorry for my seniors and my team, but I feel like they played a fantastic game. They played really hard, stayed in it. Yarmouth's a skilled program. They're well coached. We ran out of time. It was a great state game. I have no regrets. I'm very proud of my kids. They played a great game."
Yarmouth wound up with an 11-8 edge in draw controls, winning eight of 11 in the second half. Bell was 5 of 11 in her time on the field. Simsarian had 5 wins out of 7 chances and Torres went 1 for 1. For the Flyers, Cole went 3 of 5, Haffenreffer 2 of 3 and Veroneau 3 of 11.
The Clippers had a 46-40 ground ball advantage. Yarmouth gave the ball away 23 times to 17 for Waynflete.
The Flyers finished with a 25-21 edge in shots on goal, but the Clippers had 18 shots on cage, to 17 for Waynflete.
The Flyers weren't highly touted in the preseason and Connors feared they would struggle, but by year's end, Waynflete was right back at Fitzpatrick Stadium and came oh-so-close to another title.
A big chunk of the team graduates, most notably Berrang, Chap, Haffenreffer and Thompson. The Flyers are happy to return Cole, Crane, Torrey and Veroneau and will also get the injured Catherine Veroneau (a junior-to-be) back. Others figure to step up and keep Waynflete the team to beat in Western B and perhaps the state.
"We lose eight," Connors said. "But we have good young talent back. We'll try to finish the job next time."
As for Yarmouth, the 2011 season was the culmination of an amazing journey, starring a dozen seniors who got to live the ultimate fantasy, bowing out as champions.
"There's no one on this team who's played in a championship game in lacrosse before, let alone most other sports," Salmon said. "It was kind of a surreal experience. There's so much pressure and excitement. When you win, there's no better feeling in the world."
"It's honestly amazing," said Simsarian, who is going to Elon University in North Carolina in the fall. "We've been so close every year, but lost to NYA in the regionals. This was our year. We were ready to go and we took it home."
"Words can't even describe how excited we all are," said Dilworth, who will attend Dickinson College and try to play lacrosse next year. "It kind of stunk having the rain since we were psyched and ready to go, but we went on the bus and waited for round two. In warmups, we were nervous. At the start of the game, we knew we wanted to give it our all since it was our last game together. We got the job done. It's a perfect way to end. So exciting. I couldn't have asked for a better season with a better team."
Torres said memories of her time in a Clippers' uniform will last a lifetime.
"I've just had such a great lacrosse experience at Yarmouth," she said. "I'm so lucky. I'll always look back at the connections I made with my teammates and coaches. I'm so looking forward to coming back and remembering all these experiences we had. "
Holt gave credit to the whole team.
"It's a tribute to these girls," she said. "The seniors are so happy. The underclassmen who play and practice and work really hard, it takes all of us. They went out in a dream fashion. I wouldn't want anything less for these guys. They all support each other and work hard. All 12 seniors push each other."
The 2012 Clippers will have a vastly different look, but don't write this program off. With the legacy left by the departing seniors and the promise the roster holds, next spring's team could be a worthy heir to the newly crowned champions.
"The younger kids got good experience," Holt said. "Every year we have graduation. This is a big one, but we have some great kids coming back. The kids coming back will want it even more."