KENNEBUNK—The two best girls’ lacrosse teams in the state squared off Tuesday evening at Kennebunk High School and by evening’s end, the role of championship favorite had fallen to the Falmouth Yachtsmen.
If winning at defending Class B champion Yarmouth and perennial powerhouse Waynflete this spring wasn’t impressive enough, the Yachtsmen completed a dazzling trifecta behind a superb team-wide effort in a possible regional final preview.
Falmouth trailed for all of 16 seconds, took the lead for good on junior London Bernier’s goal with 7:12 to play in the first half and behind eight saves from junior goalie Sarah Hutcheon, took the lead to halftime, then broke open a one-goal contest behind goals from sophomore Sydney Bell, senior Lizzie Goodrich and Bernier early in the second half.
While the talented Rams fought hard until the end, Hutcheon never let them make things truly interesting and while the Yachtsmen didn’t score the final 13 minutes, 43 seconds, they were able to put the finishing touches on a confidence-building 10-8 victory.
Bell and Goodrich had three goals apiece, Bernier added two goals, nine of Falmouth’s goals were assisted and Hutcheon was clutch with 16 saves as the Yachtsmen improved to 8-1, handing Kennebunk its first loss in 10 games in the process.
“It’s a testament to the girls,” said Falmouth coach Kait Johnson. “We just talk about being a team and playing Falmouth lacrosse and making that a focus. These girls have put so much effort and work into being a team. They love each other. It’s not one or two of our players trying to win the game. I think that’s why we held on and won.”
From the start of the 2015 season, it’s been clear that Kennebunk and Falmouth were at another level and both teams understandably had May 26 circled on their schedule.
The Rams opened by dominating Gould Academy in the opener, 16-7, then enjoyed a rare win at nemesis Waynflete, 8-4. After an 18-1 home win over Wells, Kennebunk won at defending Class B champion Yarmouth, 10-7, at home over defending Class A champion Massabesic in an overtime thriller, 11-9, at home over Cape Elizabeth in a rematch of last year’s regional final (15-6), at Messalonskee (12-3), at home over Fryeburg Academy (14-4) and most recently, at York (10-7).
The Yachtsmen opened with an impressive 14-9 win at Yarmouth, then dominated visiting Fryeburg Academy, 18-1. Falmouth dropped a 7-6 home decision to Cape Elizabeth, before winning at home over Thornton Academy, 11-9, and prevailing with surprising ease at Waynflete (13-6) and rolling at Gorham (14-6). The Yachtsmen downed visiting York (11-2) last Monday, then dominated host Lake Region Thursday, 16-5.
The schools don’t have a lot of history (see sidebar, below), having met just four previous times in the regular season. Last year, Kennebunk held off host Falmouth, 9-8, but the last time the teams squared off in Kennebunk, the Yachtsmen won, 14-8, in 2013.
Tuesday, Falmouth staked yet another claim for being the team to beat as it became the first team to ever win at Yarmouth, Waynflete and Kennebunk in the same season.
The Rams struck first when junior Kyra Schwartzman scored unassisted with 23:49 to play in the first half, but senior Leigh Bernardy won the ensuing draw, the ball came to Bernier behind the goal and Bernier fed Bernardy for the tying goal with 23:33 left.
After Hutcheon made her first save, denying Kennebunk junior standout Jenny Bush, Bernardy shot wide on a free position. Hutcheon then stopped bids from Schwartzman, junior Liv Sandford and Schwartzman on the doorstep to keep the game deadlocked.
With 17:57 left before halftime, sophomore Devin Sarazin set up Goodrich for a one-timer which beat Rams junior goalie Bella Kudas for a 2-1 advantage.
Hutcheon continued to frustrate the hosts after the goal, robbing junior Carly Sandler after a turnover, then turning aside shots from Sandford and Bush.
With 7:33 to play in the half, a Sandler unassisted goal tied the score, but 21 seconds later, sophomore Olivia Stucker set up Bernier for a 3-2 Falmouth lead.
With Bush on the sidelines after receiving a yellow card, Bernier fed Goodrich for a man-up goal and a 4-2 advantage with 5:07 remaining.
“Lizzie was big all over the field,” Johnson said. “We’ve worked on leadership. She’s a quiet leader who works hard no matter what. Her shooting was great. She takes 100 shots a day, rain or shine, and it’s paid off. She has passion and genuinely loves her teammates.”
In transition, Bush assisted on a Sandler goal with 3 minutes to play before halftime, but with 41.2 seconds showing, Bell scored her first goal, eluding a couple defenders, rolling around the crease, then beating Kudas to make it 5-3.
That would be Falmouth’s only unassisted goal of the night.
It looked like the Yachtsmen would have momentum at halftime, but with 18.3 seconds to go, Schwartzman set up Bush for a goal which cut the Rams’ deficit to 5-4.
Despite leading most of the way, holding its own in the draw circle and getting eight saves from Hutcheon, Falmouth was far from home free.
Kennebunk never could pull even, however.
The Rams did have a good look 31 seconds into the second half, but Hutcheon denied sophomore Marran Oakman.
The Yachtsmen then got some breathing room.
With 24:05 to play, Goodrich set up Bell for a goal and a 6-4 lead.
A mere 23 seconds later, Goodrich finished a Sarazin feed for a three-goal advantage.
After Hutcheon denied senior Hayley Fecko and Sandford, Bell set up Bernier for a man-down goal with 20:41 remaining, stretching the lead to 8-4.
“We knew they’d cut it to one and we needed to pull away,” Bell said. “We played confident, took care of the ball and pulled away.”
Not surprisingly, Kennebunk roared back as junior Molly Parent scored unassisted with 18:57 showing and Schwartzman finished a feed from Sandler with 15:25 left to cut the deficit to 8-6.
Falmouth didn’t let the Rams get any closer, however, as after Stucker was robbed by Kudas, Bell took a pass from Bernardy out of a timeout and finished to make it 9-6 with 14:01 to play.
Eighteen seconds later, Bernier set up senior Elle Fitzgerald for a goal and a 10-6 advantage.
The Yachtsmen wouldn’t score again, but managed to get out of town with a victory regardless.
The Rams pulled within three when Fecko set up Schwartzman with 13:19 to go, but Hutcheon kept the lead at 10-7 by denying Sandler and Schwartzman on free positions, then robbing Parent.
Bush set up Sandford for a goal with 2 minutes remaining, making it 10-8 but Bell won the ensuing draw.
Kennebunk got the ball back and had two final looks, but Bush’s free position was deflected by a defender before being saved and as time expired, Hutcheon fittingly put an exclamation point on the victory by denying Parent to give Falmouth a landmark triumph.
“This was really fun,” Goodrich said. “We were really hoping to win this one. They were the number one team, but we were pretty confident.”
“We go into practice making sure we put in a 100 percent effort,” Bell said. “We can’t afford to underestimate any team. Kennebunk’s a great team. We knew they could have come back.”
Keeping with a season-long trend, seven different Yachtsmen either scored goals or had assists, or managed both.
Bell and Goodrich both scored three times, while Bernier had two goals and Bernardy and Fitzgerald each added one.
Bernier had three assists, Sarazin finished with two and Bell, Bernardy, Goodrich and Stucker all assisted on one goal.
“Getting scoring from different people is our biggest thing,” said Goodrich. “When we win, we average like seven different scorers. Team play is awesome.”
“Lizzie played unbelievable, so did London and Leigh,” said Bell. “We have an assortment of plays. Tonight, we didn’t run many. We see the open player and get the pass off and it works out.”
“We do our best when multiple people score,” Johnson added. “Falmouth lacrosse is about everyone attacking and defending.”
Bernardy had a game-high10 ground balls, while Bell collected six.
Then there was Hutcheon, who made 16 crucial saves.
“I think we just came in really focused and that really helped,” Hutcheon said. “We marked up on cutters and played strong D. Communication is a big factor. (My defense lets) me know where the ball is and then I’m ready for it. I play (travel lacrosse) with a lot of (Kennebunk’s) girls, so I know their style. That gave me a little bit of an edge.”
“Sarah has really stepped up this year,” Bell said. “She comes up huge against great players and great teams. She makes unbelievable saves that without them, we wouldn’t have won the games we’ve won.”
“Sarah was amazing,” Goodrich said. “She seems to be awesome against the best teams. She’s improved so much.”
“Sarah did great,” Johnson added. “She’s stepped up leaps and bounds every game. Her fire sparks something and it goes all the way down the field. I’m so proud of her.”
For Kennebunk, Schwartzman had three goals, Sandler two and Bush, Parent and Sandford one apiece. Bush had two assists, while Sandler and Schwartzman each finished with one. Kudas made two saves.
The Rams had a 33-30 edge in ground balls (Bush had six and Fecko five), only committed nine turnovers and enjoyed a 26-16 shots advantage (24-12 on cage), but were defeated for the first time and left frustrated in the process.
“(The Yachtsmen) were the better team tonight,” said Kennebunk coach Annie Barker. “We just didn’t make good decisions with the ball. We shot right at the goalie. We didn’t move off-ball. You have to move the ball and move off-ball against a good aggressive defense like that.”
Each team won 10 draws.
It’s possible the Rams and Yachtsmen could meet again in the Western B Final June 17, but both have some tough games remaining and then each will have to navigate the (by far) best region in the state in the playoffs.
Kennebunk (still first in Western B) looks to bounce back when it goes to North Yarmouth Academy Monday, then closes at home versus Greely June 4.
“I think we can still be number one,” Barker said. “Time will tell. We have to keep on working and make better decisions. I love this team.”
Falmouth (still second to the Rams, but not by much) hosts Greely Friday. After a home game versus Freeport Monday, the Yachtsmen close at Cape Elizabeth June 3, as they look to avenge a loss from earlier this season.
As wonderfully as Falmouth has played this spring, the Yachtsmen know they can still get better and will need to if they want to win a state title for the first time.
“This is a big confidence booster, knowing they’re the top ranked team,” Hutcheon said. “It puts us right up there with them. We need to keep playing our game and make sure we stay at a top level of play.”
“We’ve been extremely confident from the beginning,” said Goodrich. “We did a lot of work before the season. We know we have so many good players. We click so well and we love each other. We have to keep it up. We need to keep working hard and executing.”
“We knew this would be a different team this year,” Bell said. “We knew we had to play 100 percent and not underestimate anyone and play Falmouth lacrosse and that’s what we’ve been doing. We have to make sure we’re tight on D, move the ball well, play together and not let anything get into our heads.”
“We’ll take the bulls-eye,” Johnson added. “We deserve every ounce of credit we get for this win. It’s no fluke. The girls deserved it. I can’t wait for the rest of the season. We have to stay confident in ourselves. I keep preaching confidence. That’s the attitude we need to embrace. We have all the tools.”
Falmouth sophomore Sydney Bell and Kennebunk freshman Hallie Schwartzman battle for a ground ball.
Falmouth junior goalie Sarah Hutcheon eyes Kennebunk junior Carly Sandler.
Falmouth sophomore standout Sydney Bell fires past Kennebunk junior goalie Bella Kudas for one of her three goals.
Falmouth sophomore Sydney Bell defends Kennebunk freshman Hallie Schwartzman.
Falmouth senior Leigh Bernardy possesses as Kennebunk junior Cara Small defends.
Falmouth junior London Bernier is chased by Kennebunk senior Hannah Pepin.
Falmouth junior goalie Sarah Hutcheon makes one of her 16 saves.
Falmouth sophomore Devin Sarazin races in on a free position.
Kennebunk 9 @ Falmouth 8
Falmouth 14 @ Kennebunk 8
@ Falmouth 17 Kennebunk 10
@ Kennebunk 15 Falmouth 4
Western B semifinals
@ Kennebunk 11 Falmouth 7
Western B quarterfinals
@ Kennebunk 14 Falmouth 6
Falmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team whoops it up after Tuesday’s 10-8 win at previously undefeated Kennebunk.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
F- 5 5- 10
K- 4 4- 8
23:49 K K. Schwarzman (unassisted)
23:33 F Bernardy (Bernier)
17:57 F Goodrich (Sarazin)
7:33 K Sandler (unassisted)
7:12 F Bernier (Stucker)
5:07 F Goodrich (Bernier) (MAN-UP)
3:00 K Sandler (Bush)
41.2 F Bell (unassisted)
18.3 K Bush (K. Schwartzman)
24:05 F Bell (Goodrich)
23:42 F Goodrich (Sarazin)
20:41 F Bernier (Bell) (MAN-DOWN)
18:57 K Parent (unassisted)
15:25 K K. Schwartzman (Sandler)
14:01 F Bell (Bernardy)
13:43 F Fitzgerald (Bernier)
13:19 K K. Schwartzman (Fecko)
2:00 K Sandford (Bush)
F- Bell, Goodrich 3, Bernier 2, Bernardy, Fitzgerald 1
K- K. Schwartzman 3, Sandler 2, Bush, Parent, Sandford 1
F- Bernier 3, Sarazin 2, Bell, Bernardy, Goodrich, Stucker 1
K- Bush 2, Sandler, K. Schwartzman 1
F- Bernardy 5 of 12, Bell 5 of 8
K- Bush 4 of 10, H. Schwartzman 3 of 4, Parent 2 of 4, Sandford 1 of 2
Ground balls (Kennebunk, 33-30)
F- Bernardy 10, Bell 6, Sarazin 5, Bernier 3, Goodrich 2, N. Budri, DiPhilippo, Hutcheon, Stucker 1
K- Bush 6, Fecko 5, Sandford, Sandler 4, Pepin 3, Kudas, H. Schwartzman, K. Schwartzman, Small 2, Fogg, Parent, Ross 1
Shots on cage
F (Hutcheon) 16
K (Kudas) 2