CAPE ELIZABETH—The 2015 season has been a non-stop party for the Falmouth girls’ lacrosse team, so it was fitting that the campaign came to a close Wednesday evening with the Yachtsmen singing happy birthday to standout sophomore Sydney Bell.
After avenging the one blemish from what was otherwise a perfect regular season.
Four weeks after losing by a goal at home to Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth took its unstoppable road show to Hannaford Field and closed the regular year in style.
After a sluggish start, the Yachtsmen snapped a 2-2 tie with 6:09 to play in the first half when senior captain Lizzie Goodrich scored.
Then, Bell took over, scoring late in the half and early in the second half for a 5-2 lead.
After senior Elle Fitzgerald scored on a free position for Falmouth, Fitzgerald fed Bell to push the lead to five.
The Capers finally snapped a 25-plus-minute drought to make it 7-3, but Bell scored once more and while things got a little interesting down the stretch, the Yachtsmen went on to a 9-6 victory.
Bell had five goals and senior Leigh Bernardy added two, Falmouth’s ability to win draws and play defense never allowed the hosts to make a serious comeback attempt and the Yachtsmen capped the best regular season in program history at 11-1, snapped an eight-game losing skid to Cape Elizabeth, dropping the Capers to 7-5 in the process.
“We’re super-pumped,” said Bell. “We’d been working really hard knowing this was our one loss. We knew it was such a close game last time and we knew we couldn’t have that kind of game again. We knew we had to put everything we’d worked on in practice into a game and when we took a lead, pull away.”
It’s hard to remember, but just a year ago, Falmouth struggled to a 4-9 record, seeing its season come to a close with a 13-6 loss at Cape Elizabeth, the eventual regional champion, in the Western B quarterfinals.
The Yachtsmen spent the offseason rededicating themselves to teamwork and when the 2015 campaign dawned, there was an abundance of optimism around the program.
“We worked so hard in the offseason,” said Fitzgerald, a captain. “We worked out and played a couple times a week. We understood what needed to happen. We didn’t want a repeat of last season. We wanted to have fun and play hard. We’ve talked a lot about that, especially the seniors.”
Not even the most optimistic fan could have anticipated what was to come, however.
Falmouth’s first act was to go to defending Class B champion Yarmouth and win emphatically, 14-9. The Yachtsmen then dominated visiting Fryeburg Academy, 18-1, before dropping a 7-6 home decision to Cape Elizabeth. Falmouth quickly moved on and started a win streak with an 11-9 home victory over Thornton Academy. The Yachtsmen then prevailed with surprising ease at Waynflete (13-6), rolled at Gorham (14-6), decisively downed visiting York (11-2) and dominated host Lake Region (16-5). Last Tuesday, Falmouth went to Kennebunk and became the clear title favorite after knocking the preseason favorite Rams from the unbeaten ranks, 10-8. After home wins over Greely (8-6) and Freeport (15-6), the Yachtsmen came to Cape Elizabeth seeking revenge.
The Capers, meanwhile, handled visiting Freeport, 12-6, to start the year, then lost at York, 10-5. After completing a suspended game with a 6-5 home victory over Greely in triple overtime, Cape Elizabeth rallied to stun host Falmouth, 7-6, downed visiting Gorham, 13-8, then lost at Kennebunk, 15-6, and at home to Waynflete (10-4) before responding with lopsided wins at Fryeburg Academy (18-7) and at home over Wells (14-4). Last Friday, the Capers avenged last year’s state final loss with a 10-8 victory at Yarmouth, but less than 24 hours later, they had to go to Marshwood and lost, 12-5.
Wednesday, Falmouth wasn’t only looking to avenge last year’s playoff loss and their lone setback from four weeks ago, they were looking to snap an eight-game skid at the hands of Cape Elizabeth and beat the Capers for the first time since May 11, 2011 (11-9 at home).
Like just about everything else this spring, the Yachtsmen wound up accomplishing their mission, finishing undefeated on the road for just the second time in program annals (2012 was the other).
It took Falmouth nearly 10 minutes to score, however, and Cape Elizabeth got the jump when senior Lindsay Stewart scored unassisted just 90 seconds in.
The Yachtsmen answered with 15:43 to play in the first half, when Bernardy scored unassisted.
Bell tickled the twine for the first time with 14:05 left, when she finished a feed from Goodrich.
“We were trying to take a bunch of 1-v1’s, which isn’t usually our style,” Bell said. “Once we figured out how to work past their defense and get passes off, it helped.”
A mere 28 seconds later, the Capers drew even, as senior Emma Landes scored unassisted, but the majority of the rest of the game would belong to Falmouth.
After Yachtsmen junior goalie Sarah Hutcheon preserved the tie by denying Cape Elizabeth sophomore Mariah Deschino, the hero of the first meeting, Capers senior goalie Kate Bosworth demonstrated her brilliance by robbing both Goodrich and Bell.
But you can only keep Falmouth down for so long and with 6:09 to go before the half, sophomore Olivia Stucker, from behind the goal, spotted an open Goodrich who finished to put the Yachtsmen ahead to stay, 3-2.
After Bosworth denied Bell on a free position and robbed sophomore Devin Sarazin, Bell finished unassisted with 2:17 showing and Falmouth took a 4-2 lead to the break.
Cape Elizabeth hoped to answer in the second half, but just 43 seconds in, Stewart’s free position was denied by Hutcheon.
The Yachtsmen then returned to the attack and with 22:46 left, Bell scored on a free position to push the lead to 5-2.
“I just try to move the goalie,” Bell said. “Kate’s an unbelievable goalie, so it’s not easy to do.”
After Hutcheon again denied Stewart, Fitzgerald converted a free position with 17:12 to go, making it 6-2.
Fitzgerald then set up Bell with 15:27 remaining for a commanding 7-2 advantage.
Capers first-year coach Alex Spark called timeout to try to stem the tide and after Stewart shot wide on a free position, Deschino converted a free position with 13:09 to go, snapping a 25:28 drought and Falmouth’s 5-0 run.
Cape Elizabeth wasn’t able to make a run, however, as Bell scored another unassisted goal, her final tally, with 10:11 to play and the Yachtsmen were up, 8-3.
Just 35 seconds after Bell’s goal, Stewart took a pass from senior Melissa Rudberg in transition and finished, but with 4:19 left, Goodrich set up Bernardy for the dagger, which made it 9-4.
With 1:11 left, Capers freshman Susie Graham converted a free position and with 30.4 seconds showing, senior Kirsten Rudberg scored unassisted, but the Capers could get no closer and Falmouth was able to celebrate a 9-6 win.
“We knew we were a good team, but we’ve just been able to connect on a level some other teams don’t,” Bell said.
“My parents said I couldn’t live at home if I lost to them four times in one year,” joked Fitzgerald, who in addition to falling to the Capers May 6, lost to them twice during field hockey back in the fall. “It’s absolutely incredible. I’m so proud of this team. It’s not one or two people, like in past years. It’s a huge team effort. We love each other. We work so hard every day and we have fun. It’s a great team and program and I’m honored to have been part of it for four years.”
“We knew what we had to do here and we wanted to do it,” Yachtsmen coach Kait Johnson added. “We knew we could beat them. We knew we were a better team than we showed that first game against them. We were happy to have another chance.”
Bell, who was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” from her teammates while she was engaging in a postgame interview, scored five times, but the Yachtsmen wanted her to produce even more goals.
“Everyone was saying, ’16 goals, 16 goals,’ but I just wanted to come out on top this game,” Bell said. “I’m a very competitive person, so for my birthday I wanted to win, which felt very nice.”
“It’s not a surprise when Sydney has a big game ever,” Fitzgerald said. “She’s incredible, phenomenal, but she’s not selfish with the ball. She looks to set up everyone. That’s Falmouth lacrosse.”
“Sydney is a good kid and I’m very proud of her,” Johnson added. “She had a great game. Her passion for lacrosse shows in practice and on the field. She’s eager to learn and asks a million questions. She can execute.”
Bernardy had two goals and Fitzgerald and Goodrich had one apiece. Goodrich also had two assists, while Fitzgerald and Stucker finished with one each. Hutcheon made three saves as she didn’t see many shots on the night. Falmouth enjoyed a 19-9 advantage in shots on cage.
Cape Elizabeth got two goals from Stewart and one apiece from Deschino, Graham, Landes and Kirsten Rudberg. Melissa Rudberg had her team’s lone assist. Bosworth made 10 saves.
Cape Elizabeth made the leap a year ago that Falmouth hopes to make this June.
The Capers will likely be the No. 4 or 5 seed in Western B and project to face Waynflete once again in the playoffs, this time in the quarterfinals Wednesday of next week.
For the top-ranked Yachtsmen, they’ll measure themselves by whether or not they can get to a first-ever state final and bring home the championship trophy. Falmouth won’t play until the semifinal round Saturday, June 13.
This group believes its special season will culminate with the happiest of endings and the biggest party of them all.
“We have to keep playing Falmouth lacrosse, like we did against Kennebunk, like we did the first half against York,” Fitzgerald said. “We have stuff we have to work on, but we have time. Nothing’s going to deter us from our goal.”
“We have to make sure not to underestimate anyone,” Bell said. “Any team is beatable. We can’t let this get to our heads. We have to play with confidence and play Falmouth lacrosse.”
“Every day is exciting,” Johnson added. “I look forward to practice every day. I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls. They’re amazing. We did a charity run Sunday and the general public thought the girls were great. I’m really lucky. Lacrosse is just the best part of it.
“We’re gunning for it. We’re excited. We have injuries, so we’re looking to rest up. I think we have all the tools and I think we can make a run for states. That’s our goal. I’m proud and excited. We’re definitely ready.”
Falmouth sophomore Sydney Bell scores one of her five goals. If that wasn’t enough excitement, Bell turned 16 Wednesday.
Falmouth junior London Bernier is shadowed by Cape Elizabeth senior Melissa Rudberg.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Mariah Deschino defends Falmouth sophomore Sydney Bell.
Cape Elizabeth senior Kate Bosworth keeps a wary eye on Falmouth sophomore Olivia Stucker.
Falmouth senior Lizzie Goodrich takes a free position.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Mariah Deschino shoots on goal.
Falmouth senior Angie Diphilippo defends Cape Elizabeth senior Lindsay Stewart.
Falmouth senior Jenna Costa gets in the way of Cape Elizabeth freshman Susie Graham.
Cape Elizabeth senior Emma Landes and Falmouth senior Lizzie Goodrich fight for the ball.
Cape Elizabeth senior Taylor Herrera is defended by Falmouth senior Jenna Costa.
Cape Elizabeth senior Lindsay Stewart crashes into Falmouth senior Angie Diphilippo.
Falmouth senior Lizzie Goodrich (23) is congratulated by sophomore Olivia Stucker after a first half goal.
Cape Elizabeth 18 @ Falmouth 5
@ Cape Elizabeth 17 Falmouth 10
@ Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 8 (OT)
Western B semifinals
@ Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 10
Cape Elizabeth 16 @ Falmouth 10
Cape Elizabeth 9 @ Falmouth 7
@ Falmouth 8 Cape Elizabeth 6
@ Cape Elizabeth 7 Falmouth 5 (OT)
@ Cape Elizabeth 14 Falmouth 9
Cape Elizabeth 14 @ Falmouth 4
@ Cape Elizabeth 14 Falmouth 5
West Region preliminary round
@ Cape Elizabeth 16 Falmouth 6
Cape Elizabeth 14 @ Falmouth 3
Northwest Division preliminary round
@ Cape Elizabeth 14 Falmouth 2
Falmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team celebrates its 9-6 win at Cape Elizabeth in the regular season finale Wednesday.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
F- 4 5- 9
CE- 2 4- 6
23:30 CE Stewart (unassisted)
15:43 F Bernardy (unassisted)
14:05 F Bell (Goodrich)
13:37 CE Landes (unassisted)
6:09 F Goodrich (Stucker)
2:17 F Bell (unassisted)
22:46 F Bell (free position)
17:12 F Fitzgerald (free position)
15:3 F Bell (Fitzgerald)
13:09 CE Deschino (free position)
10:11 F Bell (unassisted)
9;36 CE Stewart (M. Rudberg)
4:19 F Bernardy (Goodrich)
1:11 CE Graham (free position)
30.4 CE K. Rudberg (unassisted)
F- Bell 5, Bernardy 2, Fitzgerald, Goodrich 1
CE- Stewart 2, Deschino, Graham, Landes, K. Rudberg 1
F- Goodrich 2, Fitzgerald, Stucker 1
CE- M. Rudberg 1
Shots on cage
F (Hutcheon) 3
CE (Bosworth) 10