FALMOUTH—For years, the Falmouth girls’ lacrosse team aspired to reach the level of traditional powers North Yarmouth Academy, Yarmouth and Waynflete.
Last spring, the Yachtsmen beat NYA for the first time.
In the 2012 season opener, they checked Yarmouth off the list and Monday evening, they beat the Clippers again.
Now, just one giant remains to be slain and Falmouth will have that chance Friday night when it hosts perennial powerhouse Waynflete in a game rife with Heal Points implications, one in which the very balance of power in Class B girls’ lacrosse is at stake.
First things first, the Yachtsmen improved to 4-0 Monday by unleashing an irrepressible offensive onslaught on a Yarmouth team which has had to shoulder an incredibly brutal opening schedule.
While the Clippers have shown tremendous improvement over the past week, they fell to 0-4 simply because they couldn’t keep up with a prolific and balanced Falmouth attack.
The Yachtsmen were led by senior Megan Fortier, who returned to Falmouth this school year after spending last year at NYA. Fortier scored five goals and assisted on two others, but that was only part of the story.
Junior Alex Bernier, who is often the player leading the scoring parade, added four goals, as did junior Molly Ryan, who got better and better in the draw circle as the game went on.
Falmouth finished the first half with a flurry to go up 10-5, then put the game away by scoring nine of the first 10 goals of the second half as it made a powerful statement four days before its next statement game.
“We’ve always used Yarmouth as a measuring stick,” said Yachtsmen coach Robin Haley, who has guided the program up the ladder in recent seasons. “They’re a very competitive team. They showed some things we need to work on. The score says one thing, but the game said something entirely different.”
Falmouth, which made it to the regional final for the first time in 2010, appeared on the brink of greatness last spring, but was upset by Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals as it finished 7-6.
The Yachtsmen returned an abundance of talent and the addition of Fortier made them one of the preseason favorites.
They haven’t disappointed.
Falmouth opened with a 12-2 win at Yarmouth, dominated host NYA, 17-3, then held on for a 13-10 win at Marshwood Saturday.
Yarmouth won the Class B title last spring, the fifth championship in school history. This year, a new group is finding its way and improving dramatically every game, even though the wins have yet to come.
The main reason for the Clippers’ rough start is that they’ve literally faced the three best teams in the state. After the home loss to Falmouth, Yarmouth fell at Waynflete, 13-2, and at home to defending Class A champion Scarborough, 12-5. The Clippers’ skills and confidence improve every time out, but Monday, Yarmouth could only bear witness to the Yachtsmen juggernaut.
Early on, the Clippers dominated the draw circle, as senior Ricki Pierce and sophomore Grace O’Donnell won seven of nine chances, yet Yarmouth couldn’t convert all that possession time into goals.
Falmouth scored first, as Ryan struck unassisted with 22:54 to play in the first half. Fifty-one seconds later, Ryan set up Bernier for a goal and a 2-0 lead.
The Clippers looked to answer, but senior Claudia Lockwood’s free position shot hit the post and Pierce had a shot that Yachtsmen senior goalie Moie Aaskov got just enough of to prevent from trickling into the goal.
Finally, with 18:15 to go in the half, Pierce put Yarmouth on the board with an unassisted tally.
With 16:42 remaining, O’Donnell had a chance to draw the Clippers even, but her free position shot was saved by Aaskov.
“Moie made some big saves early,” said Haley.
Fortier then made her presence felt, racing coast to coast for a shot that beat Yarmouth sophomore goalie Jordan Brown, pushing the lead to 3-1.
Falmouth senior Vanessa Audet (taking a pretty pass from Bernier) and Bernier (from Ryan) then scored for a 5-1 advantage.
After the Clippers drew within three on a goal from O’Donnell (set up by a nice pass from senior Caitlin Crawford) with 9:41 left, Ryan set up sophomore Sabrina Smithwick for a goal 29 seconds later.
Smithwick’s goal was celebrated by more than just her teammates on the field. Her older sister, Sam, a captain, suffered a foot injury last week and will miss the regular season. Sabrina is seeing more playing time in Sam’s stead and certainly made the most of her opportunity. Sam got to cheer her sister’s goal from the scorer’s table.
Yarmouth got back to 6-3 when senior Maddy Wood (from O’Donnell) scored at the 8:11 mark, but Fortier went coast to coast for another goal at 5:18 and 12 seconds later, Fortier passed up a sure goal to feed Bernier for a score and an 8-3 advantage.
With 1:31 to play in the half, O’Donnell scored on a free position, but Fortier answered 14 seconds later with an unassisted goal. With just under a minute remaining, Fortier scored once more unassisted. An unassisted tally from Wood with 21.5 seconds to go allowed the Clippers to pull within 10-5 at the break.
Yarmouth’s five goals in the half was easily its best production of the season, but the Clippers, despite a slight edge in ground balls and shots on goal, still found themselves in a hole.
Falmouth quickly put the game away in the second half.
Goals from Bernier (unassisted after eluding the defense and scoring left handed), Smithwick (from Fortier) and junior Geneva Waite (from classmate Angela Mallis) in the first 1 minute, 27 seconds of the stanza pushed the lead to 13-5.
On the ensuing draw, Ryan and Audet’s streak of 10 consecutive wins ended and Yarmouth capitalized, pulling within 13-6 on a Pierce free position goal.
The Yachtsmen continued their onslaught, however.
With 19:11 to play, Ryan scored on a free position. Audet took a pass from Fortier and sent a one-timer past Brown at the 18 minute mark and it was 15-6. Fortier’s free position goal at 13:57 induced a running clock. Ryan (from Mallis), Ryan (unassisted) and Mallis (from Audet) scored to make it 19-6.
An unassisted tally from Yarmouth senior Jeanna Lowery ended the run and accounted for the 19-7 final score.
“I think we all had a good game,” Fortier said. “I think we have a very talented group. We’ve definitely shown that. We’re getting better every game. You can see that. Our transition’s getting better. Our offense is starting to settle down more. It’s starting to click and that’s good to see.”
“Going into the second half, it could have gone either way,” Haley said. “The second half, we calmed down and caught passes, which made a difference. We’re vulnerable at times. We played with a lot more poise in the second half. That’s what we need to do at the start of a game.”
Seven different Yachtsmen scored at least once.
Fortier stole the show with five goals.
“Megan has a lot of speed and she’s very, very strong,” Haley said. “She’s a tremendous athlete. She has a great field sense. She sees passes others don’t necessarily see. She’s a risk taker. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t The good outweighs the few turnovers she might have. When a game’s aggressive and physical, she will rise to that.”
Fortier said she’s glad she returned to Falmouth.
“It’s good to be back,” Fortier said. “I missed everyone. We’ve all moved up together. Our key is that we don’t have one person that people can faceguard. We have multiple people to go to to get goals and that’s difficult to defend. Whatever we need in that particular moment, I’m up for the challenge.”
Bernier and Ryan both scored four times, Audet and Smithwick had two goals apiece and Mallis and Waite also tickled the twine.
The Yachtsmen finished with an impressive nine assists. Ryan had three of them, Fortier and Mallis two each and Audet and Bernier one apiece.
Aaskov had five clutch saves and got some timely defensive play in front of her.
“Defensively, I thought we did a really nice job today,” Haley said. “They’ve helped us throughout the season. We’re doing some decent things on both ends.”
Falmouth finished with an 18-10 edge in draw controls (winning 16 of the final 19). Ryan was successful on 14 of 23 opportunities. Audet won 4 of 5.
The Yachtsmen also won the ground ball battle, although it was close, 55-49. Fortier led the way there as well with seven. Ryan and junior defender Katie Cooleen both grabbed six, while Aaskov, Audet and Bernier had five apiece.
Falmouth turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 27 times, a number that needs to decrease dramatically going forward.
The Yachtsmen were outshot, 25-23, but put 22 shots on cage to just 12 for Yarmouth.
The Clippers got two goals apiece from O’Donnell, Pierce and Wood and one from Lowery. Crawford and O’Donnell had assists. Brown made three saves.
Pierce went 5 of 12 on draws. O’Donnell finished 4 of 11, Lockwood 1 of 4 and Crawford 0 of 1. Crawford led the team with seven ground balls. O’Donnell and junior Ali Merrill both had six. Pierce and junior Julie Kameisha each had five.
“Yarmouth hustled to every ground ball,” Haley said. “They had a hard time scoring, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.”
Yarmouth had 25 turnovers.
“Tonight was a game of turnovers for us, but my kids did the right things,” said Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. “Falmouth’s good. They have veteran players in key spots. I’ve got younger kids, but they’re stepping up. The improvement is there. We played much better than the first time, even if the score doesn’t show it.”
Both teams return to action Friday.
Yarmouth’s grueling opening stretch finally culminates with a game at dangerous Cape Elizabeth. The schedule then eases somewhat going forward, starting with home games versus Wells and NYA next week.
By June, the Clippers will likely be the last team anyone wants to face.
“I think you’ll see a different team in the second half of the season,” Holt said. “Balls have to start bouncing our way. This team just needs to have confidence in each other which showed more today than the first time we played. It’s a tough schedule, but we showed we can compete. We just have to tweak a few more basics and not turn the ball over. I’m trying a few different things and I’m putting those with confidence in key spaces. The younger ones are starting to step up. We just have to look forward. This experience will help. We’ll get there.”
Falmouth now turns its attention to a Waynflete squad which has been equally impressive in the early going, with decisive wins over NYA, Yarmouth and Wells and a narrow 10-8 triumph at Kennebunk Saturday.
The Yachtsmen have a chance to make history and emerge as the top contender in Class B.
“We haven’t beaten them yet, but I definitely think we’re up for the challenge,” said Fortier. “We’ve talked about it. We’re anticipating it. We’ll work hard the next three days of practice. We have to do the same things we’ve been doing. Keep improving and communicating and work on the little things.”
“We’re still a long way from where we want to be,” Haley said. “Waynflete’s an excellent team. They don’t turn the ball over. They pass and catch very well. We’ll need to do that to stay with them. If we don’t, it will be a challenge. If we do, it will be a very competitive game. They’ll have to work at shutting down a lot of people, not one or two. It’s a question of can we rise to the pressure? I hope we do.”
Yarmouth senior Maddy Wood possesses the ball with one hand as she tries to elude a Falmouth defender.
Falmouth senior Vanessa Audet (who scored twice and added an assist) finds herself surrounded by Yarmouth seniors Claudia Lockwood and Jeanna Lowery.
Falmouth junior Geneva Waite stays stride for stride with Yarmouth sophomore Grace O’Donnell.
Yarmouth senior Ricki Pierce and Falmouth senior Vanessa Audet battle for a loose ball.
Yarmouth senior Ricki Pierce gets a step on Falmouth senior Katie Ventura during the teams’ contest Monday night. Pierce scored twice, but it wasn’t enough as the Yachtsmen juggernaut rolled on with a 19-7 victory.
More photos below.
Y- 5 2- 7
F 10 9- 19
22:54 F Ryan (unassisted)
22:03 F Bernier (Ryan)
18:15 Y Pierce (unassisted)
16:11 F Fortier (unassisted)
13:41 F Audet (Bernier)
11:36 F Bernier (Ryan)
9:41 Y O’Donnell (Crawford)
9:12 F Smithwick (Ryan)
8:11 Y Wood (O’Donnell)
5:18 F Fortier (unassisted)
5:06 F Bernier (Fortier)
1:31 Y O’Donnell (free position)
1:17 F Fortier (unassisted)
57.6 F Fortier (unassisted)
21.5 Y Wood (unassisted)
24:24 F Bernier (unassisted)
23:52 F Smithwick (Fortier)
23:33 F Waite (Mallis)
22:55 Y Pierce (free position)
19:11 F Ryan (free position)
18:00 F Audet (Fortier)
13:57 F Fortier (free position)
12:34 F Ryan (Mallis)
10:25 F Ryan (unassisted)
9:08 F Mallis (Audet)
4:11 Y Lowery (unassisted)
Y- O’Donnell, Pierce, Wood 2, Lowery 1
F- Fortier 5, Bernier, Ryan 4, Audet, Smithwick 2, Mallis, Waite 1
Y- Crawford, O’Donnell 1
F- Ryan 3, Fortier, Mallis 2, Audet, Bernier 1
Y- (Brown) 3
F- (Aaskov) 5
Draws (Falmouth, 18-10)
Y-Pierce 5 of 12, O’Donnell 4 of 11, Lockwood 1 of 4, Crawford 0 of 1
F- Ryan 14 of 23, Audet 4 of 5
Ground balls (Falmouth, 55-49)
Y- Crawford 7, Merrill, O’Donnell 6, Kameisha, Pierce 5, Lockwood, Lowery, Lucas 4, Wood 3, Primeau 2, Brown, King, McNaboe 1
F- Fortier 7, Cooleen, Ryan 6, Aaskov, Audet, Bernier 5, Burton, Richards, Skop, Smithwick 3, Mallis, McKeon, Waite 2, Scott, Spugnardi, Ventura 1
Shots on goal:
Shots on cage: