FALMOUTH—Three days removed from a stunningly lopsided loss to Cape Elizabeth, the Falmouth girls’ lacrosse team found itself at an crossroads when it hosted Western A contender Marshwood Friday evening.
A little more than eight minutes into the game, the Yachtsmen were down three goals and even though it was only their third outing of the young season, they were facing a character test.
Did they ever pass.
With the offense struggling, turning the ball over more often than it managed to shoot, the defense came to the rescue, blanking the Hawks the remainder of the half. That allowed Falmouth to chip away and with 30 seconds to go in the half, the Yachtsmen got an inspirational goal from junior Sabrina Smithwick, who was returning from injury and playing in her first game of the season. That cut the deficit to 3-2 at the break and Falmouth’s offense kicked into gear in the second half.
After again falling behind by three, the Yachtsmen scored four in a row, capped by senior Molly Ryan’s tally, to take the lead for the first time.
The rest of the game would be nip and tuck and neither squad led by more than one. Falmouth also led 7-6, 9-8 and 10-9, when senior Angie Mallis scored with 6:32 remaining, but two minutes later, Marshwood tied the score for the sixth time.
The Yachtsmen finally went ahead to stay with 1:50 showing when senior standout Alex Bernier, who assisted multiple teammates on the night, got to finish a scoring play.
Falmouth’s defense then had to hold on and it came down to freshman goalie Sarah Hutcheon facing Hawks sophomore Lindsey Poirier on a free position with 10 seconds left. Hutcheon stood tall, made the save and the Yachtsmen ran out the clock on a palpitating 11-10 triumph.
Ryan had four goals, Smithwick and senior Geneva Waite both had two and Bernier was an all-around star, scoring two goals, adding a half-dozen assists and collecting a whopping 16 ground balls as Falmouth improved to 2-1 and dropped Marshwood to 2-1 in the process.
“We’ll take it,” said Yachtsmen coach Robin Haley. “It’s definitely a confidence builder for us. We did a lot of things really well defensively today. We forced a lot of turnovers. We had better possession of the ball in the second half. They were a lot calmer today. I think that was the difference. The girls are just working hard. We had good practices to get ready. (Marshwood’s) considered a top five team and we’re not, so to beat them, it’s big. We figured out a way.”
Falmouth opened the 2013 campaign with an impressive 16-7 home victory over Yarmouth (Bernier had eight goals), but Tuesday, never threatened as the Capers romped to an 18-5 triumph on the Yachtsmen’s turf.
Falmouth was reeling, but focused on regrouping.
“I think coming off the Cape loss, people were devastated at practice,” Bernier said. “Heads were down. We had to rally and put that game in the past.”
“The Cape game certainly stung,” Haley said. “It reminded (the girls) of what they don’t want to face again. You have to put that in the rearview mirror. You have to close that chapter and move forward.”
Marshwood, meanwhile, wasn’t tested in its first two games, a 16-0 home win over Noble and a 16-3 victory at Westbrook.
The teams also met last year in a crossover, when Falmouth eked out a 13-10 victory at the Hawks.
Friday was a tale of two halves, as the teams combined for just five first half goals before tallying 16 in the second half.
Perhaps still a bit staggered from the Cape Elizabeth loss, the Yachtsmen turned the ball over 11 times in the first half while only managing four shots.
As a result, it didn’t take long for Marshwood to get the jump.
The visitors struck first with 20:30 to play in the first half when sophomore Korinne Bohunsky fed senior Jillian Gori for a goal.
With 17:53 left before halftime, the duo did it again and the Hawks were up, 2-0.
The third goal came a minute later and this time, Poirier scored unassisted to put Falmouth in a hole.
The Yachtsmen managed to get a good, settled offensive possession and got on the board with 13:02 to play in the half when Bernier fed Waite, who managed to shoot past Marshwood senior goalie Meghan Lewis.
“We had a rough first half,” Bernier said. “We hadn’t played against a zone defense this year. It’s similar to what Waynflete does.”
Prior to the ensuing draw, Smithwick, who in the preseason was pegged to see a much bigger role this spring, only to have to sit the first two games with a hand injury, was inserted into the game.
She made her presence felt big-time as time wound down in the half.
Again it would be Bernier setting the table, threading a nice pass to Smithwick in front, who, with 30.3 seconds showing, fired a shot past Lewis and just under the crossbar to pull the Yachtsmen within a single goal, 3-2, at halftime.
“It feels awesome to be back,” said Smithwick. “I’m really glad. It was rough to watch the team play without me. It felt really good to score. It gave me a lot of confidence and I think the team too. We knew we could get shots off and get going.”
Smithwick wasn’t the only one happy she was back in action.
“I love having (Sabrina) back,” Bernier said. “I love playing with her. We missed her a lot. It’s nice having that one extra girl out there who can put the ball in the net. I think everyone’s excited she’s back.”
“Having Sabrina back is tremendous,” Haley said. “It’s a huge factor having her in there. She’s a key part of our offense. It made a difference tonight.”
In the second half, Falmouth would have a big edge in possession as it cut down on its turnovers and Ryan took over in the draw circle, but before the Yachtsmen could pull it out, they faced another three-goal deficit.
Just 65 seconds in, Marshwood snapped a 17 minute, 59 second drought as senior Janay Wright scored unassisted.
With 23:05 left in regulation, Poirier scored unassisted and the Hawks had seemingly restored control, up, 5-2.
Falmouth came roaring back, however, as Ryan scored on a free position with 22:16 remaining and after a Ryan draw win, Mallis set up Smithwick for a goal 17 seconds later, cutting the deficit back to a single tally, 5-4.
This time, the Yachtsmen completed the comeback as Bernier set up Waite for a goal with 20:05 showing, making it 5-5.
With 17:16 to play, playing man-up after Wright received a two-minute yellow card for a dangerous shot, Falmouth went on top for the first time, 6-5, as Bernier found Ryan for a goal.
Still playing man-down, the Hawks responded and drew even 36 seconds later as Bohunsky set up Poirier for a shot that Hutcheon couldn’t stop.
The see-saw battle continued with 15:54 left as Waite fed Bernier for a man-up goal for a 7-6 lead, but with 14:35 to go, just after returning to the game, Wright scored unassisted to forge another tie.
With 12:19 remaining, Marshwood found itself short handed again as Gori was given a yellow card for a dangerous shot. Her teammates picked her up, however, as Poirier scored man-down with 11:57 left, making it 8-7 Hawks.
That would be their final lead.
It took only 25 seconds for Falmouth to answer, as the Yachtsmen rose off the deck anew and drew even when Bernier again set up Ryan for a man-up tally.
With 10:49 left, arguably the best tandem around did it again, as Ryan finished a Bernier feed for another man-up goal and a 9-8 advantage.
With 6:58 to play, a Wright bid hit the post, but Bohunsky pounced on the loose ball and fed Gori for a goal which tied the score at the 6:52 mark.
It took the hosts only 20 seconds to retake the lead as Mallis scored unassisted.
Falmouth almost got some breathing room with 5:35 to play, but Smithwick was robbed in front by Lewis.
The Hawks would take advantage with 4:29 left, tying the score for the final time when Poirier finished unassisted.
With the game on the line, the Yachtsmen got more evidence it would be their night as Wright hit the post for the second time at 3:12, keeping the game deadlocked.
Falmouth then transitioned to offense and with 1:50 to play, after so much largesse, Bernier was on the finishing end, courtesy a nice feed from Ryan, shooting past Lewis and putting the Yachtsmen ahead, 11-10.
“Molly was able to find me,” Bernier said. “Someone had cut in front of me in front of the goal, so the right side was wide open. We knew we’d get the second or third cut and we did. It was great.”
“Alex did everything (tonight),” Haley said. “Big players have to make big plays. She didn’t put a lot of goals on the board, but she created scoring opportunities for us. She’s a well-rounded player who’s very smart on the field.”
Ryan won the ensuing draw, but with 1:01 to go, Falmouth committed a turnover, giving Marshwood one last chance.
The Hawks couldn’t solve the Yachtsmen defense for the better part of a minute, but with 9.4 seconds left, Poirier earned a free position, essentially leaving the win in the hands of a freshman goalie.
Hutcheon never buckled.
Poirier took a couple steps and shot, but Hutcheon snared the ball for the save.
“The pressure was on, but I had faced a few shots from her already, so I was confident,” Hutcheon said. “I felt I could do it. I wanted to help my team. I kept my cool and relaxed and watched the shot.”
“I was thinking it would be great for her to save it,” Bernier said. “I knew it would really boost her confidence. It was a great save for her. I’m not surprised. She’s a good goalie.”
“You have to love it,” added Haley. “It was a tough shot to save. She came up big. She’s like ice. She doesn’t get frazzled. It will certainly help her confidence.”
Hutcheon then passed the ball to Bernier, who flung it down the field as the horn sounded to complete Falmouth’s thrilling 11-10 victory.
“We clicked more as a team as the second half went on,” Smithwick said. “It’s good to know we’re still in it.”
Ryan paced the Yachtsmen with four goals, but was just one of five scorers. Bernier, Smithwick and Waite all had two goals, while Mallis tickled the twine once.
Bernier had six assists.
“I’m happy however I can contribute to the team,” Bernier said. “Certain teams play a different way. My role was different tonight against their zone defense. There’s not really any way to take it one-on-one. The slides are always there.”
Mallis, Ryan and Waite all had one assist.
Hutcheon made six saves, none bigger than the last one.
“You can’t let goals bother you,” Hutcheon said. “You have to think you’ll stop the next one. I’m really enjoying it.”
Ryan won 15 of 23 draws.
Falmouth won 44 ground balls (Bernier had 16, including several stylish one-handed snares off draws, while Ryan finished with 10) to 39 for the Hawks. The Yachtsmen turned the ball over 17 times, but just six came after halftime.
For Marshwood, Poirier scored five times, Gori had three goals and Wright tickled the twine twice. Bohunsky had four assists. Lewis saved five shots. Gori had a team-high 10 ground balls, while Poirier collected nine.
The Hawks turned the ball over on 14 occasions. They outshot the Yachtsmen, 22-17 (each team had 16 shots on cage).
Falmouth has another big week upcoming, as Wednesday brings a visit to Yarmouth and Friday features a home showdown with Waynflete.
Now that the ship has been righted, the Yachtsmen are seeking consistency and hope the wins keep coming.
“We’ll see if Yarmouth does anything different this game,” said Bernier. “We’re improving. The loss to Cape hit us and got us going.”
“It doesn’t get easier, but that’s OK,” Haley said. “We’ve worked hard to be in this bracket. We’ll take our lumps, but I think we’ll have success as well. Each game’s a good learning opportunity.”