NYA girls' lax beats nemesis Waynflete, 7-6; Panthers ride sparkling defensive effort to victory
YARMOUTH—For one day at least, the powerhouse Waynflete girls' lacrosse team appeared mortal and the North Yarmouth Academy Panthers took advantage to earn a huge victory Friday afternoon.
The host Panthers, coming off a 12-8 loss at rival Yarmouth, dominated in the draw circle, collected almost every contested ground ball and rode a sensational defensive effort which shut out the potent Flyers offense for nearly 29 minutes as NYA ended Waynflete's 22-game win streak, 7-6.
The Panthers took the lead for good on standout junior Lily Wellenbach's free position goal in the second minute of the second half, eventually stretched their advantage to 7-4, then held on for dear life down the stretch and improved to 2-1 on the season while dropping the Flyers to 1-1.
"We're really excited," Wellenbach said. "It really feels great. We worked so hard. We were feeling frustrated after the Yarmouth game. We came out today, it's a sunny day and we gave it our all."
Turning the tables
Waynflete has long had NYA's number (as well as every other team in the state, for that matter). The Flyers have beaten the Panthers in six of the past nine state championship games, including last year, 9-5.
Both teams have a new look in 2010, but both expect to be very good.
Waynflete opened in style, routing Greely, 14-3, at home.
NYA enjoyed an 11-4 win at Freeport to start the year, then went down to defeat at Yarmouth Wednesday night, in a game which saw the Panthers issued five yellow cards, including two each to Wellenbach and senior standout Courtney Dumont, who both had to sit out the latter stage of the game as a result.
NYA was the last team to beat the Flyers, 10-8, on May 27, 2008, in Yarmouth. Last year, Waynflete dominated the regular season meeting, 12-3, in Portland, then won the state title at the Panthers expense.
Friday, NYA got a measure of revenge, although it didn't come easily.
Early on, the Flyers threatened to run away as they forced several turnovers and unleashed a series of shots on Panthers senior first-year goalie Ashley Salerno.
Just 27 seconds in, Waynflete went up 1-0 on an unassisted goal from its senior standout, Morgan Woodhouse.
With 22:13 to play in the first half, NYA drew even when Dumont set up Wellenbach.
Over the next several minutes, the Flyers possessed the ball and tested Salerno, but she came up big time and again and the scored remained tied.
"After Yarmouth I learned to go out and have fun and that was my approach to this game," Salerno said. "When you face a lot of shots at once it helps, but my defense played amazing. They weren't giving them quality shots and they pushed them to the outside."
"Ashley is fantastic," said Panthers coach Julia Sterling. "We're very lucky to have her. Her confidence keeps getting better."
Waynflete went up 2-1 with 14:44 left in the half when junior Scout Haffenreffer scored unassisted, but Dumont set up Wellenbach for another goal at the 10:50 mark and it was 2-2.
"They have a very tough, skilled defense," Wellenbach said, of the Flyers. "It took us a few minutes to work our way around. We saw the openings and we went for it."
With 9:16 to go in the half, Woodhouse fed Haffenreffer for a goal and a 3-2 lead, but the Flyers wouldn't lead again.
"We could have been up by more early, but we took silly shots and had missed opportunities," lamented Waynflete coach Cathie Connors.
With 6:20 left in the first half, sophomore Katherine Millett beat Flyers freshman goalie Katherine Torrey and the game was tied again, 3-3. A minute, 18 seconds later, the Panthers took their first lead, 4-3, when sophomore Katie Cawley scored an unassisted goal.
Waynflete drew even on an unassisted goal by Woodhouse just seven seconds later and the game would go to halftime deadlocked at 4-4.
In the first 25 minutes, the Flyers had a 16-4 edge in shots and forced 18 turnovers, but couldn't seize control.
That would haunt them in the second half as NYA took the lead and held on.
Just 43 seconds in, Dumont had a chance to put her team on top, but her free position bid was saved by Torrey. With 23:04 to go, however, Wellenbach had a free position opportunity and cashed it in, putting the Panthers on top, 5-4.
With 18:44 to play, Wellenbach set up Dumont for a goal and NYA was up by two.
Three minutes later, the Flyers had a chance to answer when Panthers junior Frances Leslie got a yellow card, but Salerno stopped Waynflete senior Amy Allen's free position shot and with 12:02 left, Wellenbach again set up Dumont for a goal and NYA was seemingly in command, up 7-4.
Connors called timeout, but the Panthers won the ensuing draw and ran three minutes off the clock. After Woodhouse was denied on a free position with 5:44 to play, on a shot which deflected off Salerno and the post, NYA milked nearly four more minutes before the Flyers got the ball back.
Finally, with 1:01 remaining, Allen scored unassisted, ending an astonishing 28 minute, 54 second scoring drought.
Waynflete won the ensuing draw and raced right back down to score again, as Woodhouse converted unassisted, with 48.5 seconds left, suddenly making it a 7-6 nailbiter.
The Panthers won the all-important draw, but turned the ball over. The Flyers' comeback hopes were dashed, however, when a pass to Woodhouse, who could have easily raced down to force overtime, was broken up by an alert Wellenbach.
"I wanted to get possession of the ball and get control," Wellenbach said. "I saw the ball going to her and I realized I had to get it."
"We had them on their heels at the end, but we just couldn't get another one," Connors said.
NYA then ran out the clock and celebrated its 7-6 victory.
"It's a huge win," Salerno (11 saves) said. "Our team came into it hoping to have some fun. The last minute was definitely nerve-wracking, but we got through it.
"We're going to face them again down the road. It's a big game for us, but we're not happy with this. I think with each game we're getting better, so we're definitely heading in the right direction."
"(Waynflete is) a very good team," Sterling added. "Always very well coached. We don't beat them very often. You can never be ahead enough against them. The girls learned a lot from the Yarmouth game and learned to keep their hands to themselves. We knew we had to get ground balls and keep the ball and attack their zone. We had to adjust and cut."
Wellenbach finished with three goals and two assists. Dumont had two goals and two assists, while Cawley and Millett, two of the team's many promising younger players, both scored once.
"The young girls on the team are doing an amazing job," Wellenbach said. "It's very different from last year. It's great to see the young players out there."
"You can tell that the new kids are just getting better and better," Sterling added. "We made adjustments. People played in different places and it worked out for us."
NYA won 11 of 15 draws and had a mind-boggling 50-28 advantage in ground balls (this coming two days after the Panthers only had 39 ground balls to 63 for Yarmouth in their loss). Dumont had a game-high 10, Millett managed eight, Cawley six and senior Rebecca McKelvy and sophomore Kylie Dalbec had five each.
"We worked on ground balls and we stepped that up," said Wellenbach, who had four. "We worked on our transition and our ground balls in practice."
Waynflete got three goals from Woodhouse (as well as one assist), two goals from Haffenreffer and one from Allen as the Flyers managed their fewest goals since a 12-6 playoff loss to Cheverus in June, 2007. Torrey made three saves. Woodhouse led the team with six ground balls. The Flyers had a 24-12 edge in shots and forced 28 turnovers (while giving the ball away 15 times).
"It was a very good game," Connors said. "NYA looked really strong. They played well. They were aggressive and we were a step slow. We scored twice in one minute at the end. I can use that for the rest of the season."
Waynflete will look to get back in the win column Tuesday when it hosts Freeport. The Flyers welcome Yarmouth Thursday.
The Panthers are home with Falmouth Tuesday and go to Greely Thursday.
NYA travels to Waynflete for the rematch May 25.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com