Heading into Wednesday’s regional final round, two boys’ and two girls’ lacrosse teams from Forecaster Country still entertained championship dreams.
The Falmouth boys, arguably the top team in the state in the regular season, and the top seed in Western B, hosted nemesis Cape Elizabeth, the defending champion and No. 2 seed.
North Yarmouth Academy, ranked fourth, went to surprise finalist, No. 3 Gardiner, in the Eastern B Final.
Yarmouth’s nine-year streak of reaching the regional final round was snapped Saturday when the second-ranked Clippers were upset in overtime by Gardiner.
No. 3 Greely was eliminated from the Western B playoffs with a loss at Cape Elizabeth.
On the girls’ side, for the eighth year in a row, No. 1 Yarmouth and No. 2 NYA, the defending champion, did battle in the Eastern B Final.
Falmouth and Greely were ousted in the Western B semifinals. The Yachtsmen, ranked second, suffered a close home loss to No. 3 Cape Elizabeth, while the unheralded fourth-seeded Rangers gave No. 1 Waynflete a mighty scare before going down to a one-goal defeat.
Since the onset of the 2011 season, it’s been clear that Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth are the two top boys’ teams in the state. The rivals got a chance in the regional final to determine once and for all who was number one.
The Yachtsmen, 11-1 in the regular season, had no trouble with No. 4 Waynflete in the semifinals Saturday. Falmouth shot to a 6-0 lead after one period, stretched it 12-0 in the second, then, with a running clock the final 24 minutes, cruised to a 17-1 triumph behind four goals from sophomore Charlie Fay, three goals and four assists from junior Mitch Tapley and three goals and two helpers from senior Brendan McDonnell.
Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth split in the regular season (the Yachtsmen won at home, 12-4, and lost in OT at the Capers, 8-7). Cape Elizabeth eliminated Falmouth from the playoffs each of the past two seasons in the regional final.
Greely saw its year end at 8-5 after Saturday’s 15-3 loss at Cape Elizabeth in the other Western B semifinal. Senior Austin Spencer bowed out with a pair of goals.
In Eastern B, NYA went 5-7 in the regular season and earned the No. 4 seed. After demolishing visiting No. 4 Morse, 15-1, in the quarterfinals last Wednesday (behind three goals apiece from senior Finn Hadlock and junior Forrest Milburn), the Panthers outlasted undefeated top-ranked St. Dom’s, 10-7, Saturday in the semis. Hadlock scored four times, including back-to-back tallies which broke a 7-7 deadlock.
“At that point, we just wanted to get some goals in the net really quickly and kill their momentum,” Hadlock said. “Their goalie made some great stops there in the beginning, and that had us rattled a little bit.”
“Ball movement was key, that’s something we focus on from day one,” NYA coach Chris Carpentier said. “They worked the ball around well and we got some nice layups down low. It was a fun game, very emotional. The boys knew how to put it together toward the end.”
The Panthers expected to meet Yarmouth in the playoffs for the 12th straight season, but the second-ranked Clippers were stunned by No. 3 Gardiner in the semis. Yarmouth led much of the game behind goals from six different players, but got stuck on six goals and the Tigers rallied to tie and force overtime, where they won, 7-6, ending the Clippers’ year at 6-7.
Every June the one constant in the state of Maine is that the NYA and Yarmouth girls’ lacrosse teams will meet in the regional final. It’s been that way since 2004 and was again the case this spring, even though the circumstances were a little different.
The defending Class B champion Panthers only won four of 12 games this season as several key players were suspended late in the season after a post-Prom party. NYA still wound up second in Eastern B and with the suspended players back, had no trouble with visiting Gardiner Saturday in the semifinals, rolling, 16-4, behind six goals from sophomore Molly Strabley and four from junior Megan Fortier.
The top-ranked Clippers were arguably the top team in the state this year and kept up their offensive onslaught versus No. 4 Morse in Saturday’s semis as seniors Becca Bell (six goals) and Devin Simsarian (four goals) led the way to a 21-3 romp.
Yarmouth (12-1) beat NYA in both regular season meetings this spring, 16-9 on the road in the opener, April 26, and 8-5 at home May 19. The Clippers swept the Panthers last year too, but NYA had the last laugh in the regional final, 9-5, en route to their first championship.
The Western B story didn’t feature happy endings.
No. 2 Falmouth hosted No. 3 Cape Elizabeth in Saturday’s regional final. The Yachtsmen led 7-5 at halftime and went up 8-5 early in the second half, but the Capers roared back. The hosts went scoreless over the last 9 minutes, 30 seconds and saw their season end at 7-6 after a 14-12 loss. Junior Sam Smithwick had four goals and senior Laura Fay three in defeat.
“It’s disappointing to lose today,” Falmouth coach Robin Haley said. “I felt really good with how we played in the first half. Second half, (Cape) got some key draws. I think momentum shifted. That made the difference. The last three minutes, we had opportunities, but we couldn’t seize them.”
The Yachtsmen will be hard hit by graduation, but have established themselves as a top contender.
“We graduate a lot, but we have a nice group coming back,” Haley said. “I’m looking forward to that. I’m sad to see the seniors leave. They did an excellent job. We have some great athletes who worked hard. We get closer every year.”
No. 4 Greely, one year removed from a 1-11 campaign, gave top-ranked and longtime postseason nemesis Waynflete fits for 50 minutes in the other semifinal. The Rangers hung tough throughout, got four goals from sophomore Julia Mitiguy, three from classmate Paige Tuller and even had a shot to tie at the end, but it went wide and they finished 6-7 with a 12-11 setback.
“By far, it was our best game all season,” first-year Greely coach Sara Dimick said. “We really connected and pushed each other and played 110 percent. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was very impressive. It’s really fun to play such a strong team and stay with them and keep it close. I’m really proud of (the girls). I think they knew from the beginning that we were mentally in it. (The girls are) used to coming from behind, which isn’t always a good thing, but they proved themselves today.”
All in all, the 2011 season was a resounding success for the Rangers.
“It’s tough sometimes when teams have a new coaching staff,” said Dimick, “But they worked so hard all season. They pushed each other. They peaked when they were supposed to be peaking and this loss will only prepare us more for next year. It’s really a young group. I lose five seniors who played today. The majority of girls will be back. We’ll build on this. It’s very exciting.”
State lacrosse titles will be handed out Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. The Class B boys’ game begins at 3 p.m. The girls’ contest ends the festivities at 5:30 p.m.
Sun Journal staff writer Justin Pelletier contributed to this story.
NYA junior Forrest Milburn takes a tumble during his team’s Eastern B quarterfinal versus Morse last week. The Panthers beat the Shipbuilders, then knocked off top-ranked St. Dom’s in the semis Saturday to earn a date at Gardiner for the regional final Wednesday.
Greely sophomore Meg Finlay looks to turn the corner on Waynflete sophomore Martha Veroneau during the teams’ Western B semifinal Saturday. The Rangers played valiantly before falling, 12-11.