(Ed Note: For a full recap of the latest NYA-Yarmouth regional final, the Falmouth-Waynflete showdown, as well as the NYA-Morse game story, please visit theforecaster.net)
It certainly didn’t come easily, but the Falmouth girls’ lacrosse team punched its ticket to the regional final for the first time.
Saturday afternoon, in a Western B semifinal round contest, the Yachtsmen trailed visiting Cape Elizabeth virtually the whole way before rallying for an 11-10 victory, setting up a regional final showdown at top-ranked, two-time defending state champion Waynflete.
The winner will face the survivor of the seventh straight regional final battle between North Yarmouth Academy and Yarmouth in Saturday’s state final. The top-ranked Panthers easily handled No. 4 Morse, 17-2, in its Eastern B semifinal, while the No. 2 Clippers dominated third-ranked Gardiner, 22-4.
Falmouth has been knocking on the door the past couple years, but hasn’t been able to get past the semifinals. This year, however, the Yachtsmen were competitive with virtually everyone and enjoyed a breakthrough win at Brunswick on May 14 (12-11). Falmouth finished 9-3 and earned the No. 2 seed in Western B, setting up a showdown with No. 3 Cape Elizabeth, a team the Yachtsmen had to go to overtime to beat (11-8) back on April 29.
The rematch would be just as close, as Falmouth beat the Capers for the first time in three postseason tries. Cape Elizabeth had the upper hand most of the way, leading 6-4 at halftime and 10-8 late in the second half. But with the season slipping away, the Yachtsmen answered, scoring twice to draw even, then going ahead on junior Laura Fay’s goal with 1:13 to play. Falmouth’s defense got one final stop and the Yachtsmen celebrated their improbable victory.
“They were ahead the entire game, but in the last couple minutes, we came back,” said Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “We were getting a little anxious, but we got focused, pushed the ball and got high quality shots. We scored the last three goals. We had to play defense at the end and they turned it over. We ran out the clock. It was exhilarating.”
Senior Emma Sipperly and freshman Alex Bernier both scored three times. Fay had two goals.
The Yachtsmen were humbled, 15-5, at home by Waynflete back on May 12. The teams also met in last year’s semifinal round (a 12-4 Flyers’ win). This time around, Falmouth faces no pressure and hopes to continue a dream run.
“The girls are excited to have the opportunity to play Waynflete again,” Haley said. “We’ll go in with the attitude that anything can happen. We’re playing better now, with more confidence. We’ll leave it all on the field. It won’t be easy, but if we play our best, we can give them a good game.”
If Falmouth can advance to a first-ever Class B state final, it would meet either NYA (10-3) or Yarmouth (10-3) Saturday at 10 a.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. The Yachtsmen dropped a tightly contested 13-10 decision at the Panthers on May 4 and lost a 19-10 game (which was close for a half) at Yarmouth May 22.
Here we go again
NYA overcame an up-and-down 9-3 regular season, which saw coach Julia Sterling miss several games due to illness, and earned the top seed in Eastern B thanks to two wins over Waynflete. The Panthers didn’t play No. 4 Morse in the regular season. NYA beat the Shipbuilders in the 2001 quarterfinals (15-8) and the 2006 (14-2), 2007 (17-3) and last year’s (15-3) semifinals.
Saturday’s contest was more of the same, as the Panthers scored 10 straight goals before Morse finally got on the board. It was 11-1 at the break and NYA cruised to a 17-2 victory behind four goals apiece from senior Courtney Dumont and freshman Molly Strabley.
“We took care of business,” Strabley said. “Everything we’ve been through has helped a lot. It’s great to have coach back. We didn’t think about who we were playing and treated it like it was the state final. We were patient and moved the ball around.”
“We pulled our whole team together spiritually and left the woes behind and moved on to a new start in the tournament,” Sterling said. “The first one’s done. It’s on to the big one Wednesday. The girls are doing really well and are working hard together. The coaches have done a great job pulling everyone together.”
Yarmouth also went 9-3 this year, losing twice to Waynflete and once to Scarborough. The Clippers expected to earn the top seed after beating NYA the second time, but it wasn’t it be.
Saturday, Yarmouth had no trouble with No. 3 Gardiner in the first playoff meeting between the schools. The Clippers ended all suspense early and rolled 22-4, behind five goals from underrated senior Nalini Robbins, four each from senior Brenna Bialek and junior Becca Bell and three from junior Danielle Torres.
“(Gardiner) was athletic,” said Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt. “I see them as an up-and-coming team. We took care of business. Nalini had a great game. She deserved it. She works hard and has been playing well. We scored quickly and went on a spree in the first eight minutes. We held it from there. I got some other kids in and they all stepped up.”
So, once again, Eastern B comes down to NYA and Yarmouth.
The Panthers and Clippers have played in each of the past six regional finals, with NYA winning four times, including 10-7 a year ago. Both teams expect a fight to the finish.
“I really look forward to Wednesday,” said Sterling. “I think we’re a new team because of what we’ve all been through. Whoever shows up will win the game. Homefield is huge in our favor. It’ll be mobbed. It’ll be a great show.”
“I think it’ll be a good game,” said Holt. “I really think that the team that shows up and maintains will win. We play a lot alike. I’m glad Julia is back. I’ve learned from her and she’s one of my best friends. We’ll go out and play our game. We’ll give it our all for two halves. Draws will be key. My kids know what they need to do. They’re excited. We’re equally matched, which makes it fun. NYA’s a great team. We know we can play well there. We’re psyched it’s on turf.”
If the winner gets Waynflete, it will have previous state game experience against the sport’s premier power. The Panthers have lost five of the past nine state games to the Flyers, including a 9-5 setback a year ago. The Clippers lost to Waynflete in the 1994, 1998 and 1999 title games, but beat the Flyers in 1996 and most recently in 2006 (12-5).
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
NYA sophomore Hannah Twombly keeps close tabs on Morse’s Tori Field during Saturday’s Eastern B semifinal.
NYA junior Lily Wellenbach blows past a Morse defender Saturday. Wellenbach had three goals in the Panthers 17-2 victory.