Round One goes to Yarmouth; Clippers down rival NYA in girls' lax showdown, 12-8
YARMOUTH—A year ago, after losing to crosstown rival North Yarmouth Academy in the Eastern Class B Final, the Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team was left green with envy.
Wednesday evening, in the rivals' first showdown of the season, the Panthers saw too much of a different color, yellow.
NYA was done in by five yellow cards, including two each to standouts Courtney Dumont and Lily Wellenbach, who were forced to miss much of the second half. The Clippers took advantage, getting four goals apiece from juniors Devin Simsarian and Danielle Torres and three from senior Molly Curry as they drew first blood in the 2010 chapter of the rivalry with a 12-8 triumph.
Yarmouth took the lead for good late in the first half, got a crucial save in the waning seconds from new starting goalie, junior Carlie Woodson, then opened it up down the stretch to improve to 2-0 on the year, dropping the Panthers to 1-1.
"In the end, the girls held their own," said Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. "I'm so proud of them. We'll both be different teams the next time. It's just good competition. We respect them a lot."
NYA and Yarmouth aren't just linked by geography, they're also two of the most successful girls' programs in the state and have seen plenty of each other in recent seasons.
Since 2004, the rivals have met every June in the regional final. The Panthers won in 2004, 2005, 2008 and last year, before going on to lose in the state championship game to Waynflete each time.
The Clippers won the 2006 and 2007 matchups and went on to win Class B crowns.
Last year, Yarmouth enjoyed a stirring 12-11, triple overtime victory in the lone regular season meeting, but NYA got the last laugh in the regional final, winning 10-7.
This season, the Panthers won their opener, 11-4 at Freeport, breaking open a close game in the second half. The Clippers' first contest was just the opposite as they raced to a big early lead at York, then held on for a 13-11 victory.
Wednesday night, in the rain, both teams had their moments, but the hosts were able to keep their key players on the field and that proved to be the difference.
The tone was set just 17 seconds in when Wellenbach, a junior, was given a yellow card after making contact with a Yarmouth player. Just as her three-minute penalty was expiring, Dumont, a senior, received a yellow card for a dangerous shot. Luckily for the visitors, new senior goalie Ashley Salerno was sensational, making four clutch saves to keep the game scoreless.
The Panthers broke the scoring ice with 19:31 to play in the first half when Wellenbach set up freshman Molly Strabley for a goal. The Clippers answered when junior Lindsey Purpura fed Curry for a tally. With 14:02 left in the half, Yarmouth took its first lead on an unassisted goal from Torres.
NYA answered with goals from sophomore Katie Cawley (from Dumont) and Wellenbach (unassisted) for a 3-2 lead, but the Clippers came right back, tied the score on an unassisted goal from Simsarian, then went up 4-3 on an unassisted goal from Torres.
With 8:05 remaining in the half, just seconds after Wellenbach hit the crossbar with a shot, Wellenbach took a pretty pass from Dumont and beat Woodson to make it 4-4. With 3:36 left, Simsarian scored on a free position, but 57 seconds later, Wellenbach converted a free position tying the score for the final time, 5-5.
With 1:08 left before the half, Yarmouth junior Becca Bell scored on a free position to put her team ahead to stay, but the lead appeared in jeopardy when Dumont, who possesses an almost unstoppable rocket shot, was awarded a free position with 19 seconds to go. Woodson came up huge, however, making the save, and the Clippers clung to a 6-5 lead at the break.
"That free position save was huge," Holt said, of Woodson (five saves). "She was mentally tough. That's what got her through. She made key saves at key moments that could have turned things around."
Yarmouth won seven of 12 draws, had a 27-23 edge in ground balls and forced 13 turnovers in the first half, but it was still anyone's game as the second stanza began.
Early on, the Clippers extended their lead to 8-5 behind a pair of goals from Simsarian (both set up Curry), but the Panthers answered and drew within one when Dumont (from Wellenbach) finally got in the scoring column and Wellenbach followed with an unassisted goal with 12:23 to play.
NYA's comeback hopes would soon be extinguished, however.
With 11:49 to go, Wellenbach was given a second yellow card, necessitating her departure from the remainder of the contest. Thirty-seven seconds later, a Simsarian shot was saved, but Torres grabbed the rebound and fired it home, making it 9-7. Then, with 10:58 to play, Dumont got her second yellow card and also departed.
With 5:57 left, Curry scored unassisted to make it 10-7, but with 4:37 to go, junior Rozi Smith answered for the Panthers, keeping their faint hopes alive. Late goals from Curry (assisted by sophomore Claudia Lockwood) and Torres (on a free position) iced it and Yarmouth went on to celebrate the 12-8 decision.
"It's always nice to beat them," Simsarian said. "We have so much potential on this team. We're working so hard. I think our intensity was the difference. We came out really strong and we finished strong. It gives us a boost, but we can't get cocky. It's definitely a good start to the season."
"It's always a good, competitive game with (NYA)," said Torres. "We played them earlier in a scrimmage and learned a lot. We all came here today really wanting this game badly. We played as a team today. It was a really physical game. It's a competitive rivalry. We have a lot of goal scorers, which is a really good thing. We found whoever was open. We're really excited. We were brought together as a team a lot tonight, but we still have a lot to work on."
"We've worked on the little things," Holt added. "We have a young team. If we do the little things right, the big things will come. We played with our heart and wanted it. For the first time in a long time, we came out strong. We play well together. We've worked so hard. (The win is) a little payoff for the hard work."
The little things made the difference in the second half as the Clippers won eight of 10 draws (giving them a 15-7 edge for the game), grabbed 36 ground balls (to just 16 for NYA) and forced 13 turnovers.
Yarmouth got four goals from both Simsarian and Torres, three from Curry and one from Bell. Curry also had a pair of assists, while Lockwood and Purpura had one each. Curry, Simsarian and Torres, along with senior defender Lizzie Fischman, who missed the 2009 season with injury, led the way in ground balls with eight each.
"It was hard to get the ground balls in the rain," Fischman said. "Dorothy told us at the start that ground balls were a big part of the game. (The win) gives us enough confidence to go forward and play with confidence. It also tells us we still have a lot to learn. I think we're really good this year. The rivalry's pretty strong. It was definitely physical. They checked hard and we checked back."
NYA got four goals from Wellenbach in her limited time. Cawley, Dumont, Smith and Strabley also scored. Dumont had two assists, while Wellenbach added one. Salerno finished with nine saves. Strabley had a game-high nine ground balls, while junior Caroline Bowne grabbed eight.
"Yarmouth did a great job," said Panthers coach Julia Sterling, who previously spent over a decade coaching the Clippers. "They're very aggressive. Dorothy's got a good team. They're coached well. My team got off to a slow start with two yellow cards, which I thought was unfortunate. They called it close against us. I felt there was quite a lot going on both ways. I think our girls did a great job without those two. It's unfortunate to have to play without two great leaders. Ashley did an awesome job. It's always hard to play here. We'll learn from this and get better."
NYA's slate gets no easier. Friday afternoon, the Panthers host Waynflete (1-0, after Wednesday's 14-3 home romp over Greely).
"It should be a good game on Friday," Sterling said.
As for the Clippers, they'll go to Greely Friday and host Cape Elizabeth Monday.
In case you're wondering, Act Two will be May 19 at NYA.
"We'll get them at our place and see what happens," Sterling said.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com