Lacrosse playoffs promise to thrill

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(Ed. Note: For the complete Falmouth-NYA boys’ and Falmouth-Cape Elizabeth girls’ game stories, with box scores and photos, please visit theforecaster.net)

Eight Forecaster Country lacrosse teams enter the postseason hopeful that their season will end with a championship celebration June 16. That promises to produce a memorable postseason which is already underway.

Boys

The Falmouth boys’ team won a state title for the first time in 2011 and wore the bulls-eye well this spring. After suffering a close loss at rival Cape Elizabeth in the opener, the Yachtsmen rattled off 11 straight victories, capping the regular season with a 14-2 home victory over North Yarmouth Academy in a Class B state final rematch on Senior Night last Wednesday. Mitch Tapley had four goals and two assists, Charlie Fay added three goals and two assists and Jack Cooleen also scored three times.

“It was good to come out strong,” Cooleen said. “They played us really tough last time (an 11-7 Falmouth win at NYA), so we knew we couldn’t come out soft like we did the first game. We turned it up in the first quarter and never lost the lead.”

“I felt we were better prepared this year than any other team I’ve had,” said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. “We never really got down early. We scored early and often and kept going with that and I think if we can start fast, it just does something mentally to the other team and sets us up.”

After the game, LeBel paid tribute to his group of seniors who turned this program into one of the state’s finest.

“They came in during a time where we didn’t have a lot of underclassmen,” LeBel said. “We were forced to play a lot of them off the bat. Mitch and Jack are four-year starters. We didn’t have anyone else. Over the years, they gained a ton of experience and played in summer leagues and got additional coaching and experience there. Now, as seniors, they can handle anything.”

Falmouth will host either No. 4 York (7-5) or No. 5 Wells (8-4) in the semifinals Saturday. The Yachtsmen won 21-4 at Wells May 9 and handled host York, 15-5, May 22. Falmouth hasn’t previously faced the Warriors or Wildcats in the playoffs.

Presuming Falmouth does the expected and passes that test, it will likely host Cape Elizabeth in a highly anticipated regional final June 13.

“I think we’re ready,” LeBel said. “I’m very happy we secured homefield. I don’t know who our first game will be against. That’s going to be a challenge, getting up for that first game. I don’t think it’ll be an issue getting up for Cape. That’s going to be a tough one. That Cape team really amazes me. They remind me of Yarmouth a couple years ago where they graduated their whole starting lineup and the next year, they’re in the championship game again. It’s amazing what they do over there. They’ll have a good game plan for us. We’ll do our best.”

Greely earned the third seed in Western B at 8-4, finishing with an 8-6 home win over York. In that one, the Rangers scored twice in the final minute to prevail. Brooks Belisle scored three times.

The Rangers earned a bye into the semifinals and play at No. 2 Cape Elizabeth (11-1) in Saturday’s semis. Greely lost at the Capers, 14-5, back on May 8. The Rangers have lost all six previous postseason encounters with Cape Elizabeth, including a 15-3 decision in last year’s semifinals.

In Eastern B, Yarmouth finished 7-5 after falling, 10-5, at Cape Elizabeth in its finale last Wednesday.

“This season had many ups and downs,” said first-year Yarmouth coach David Pearl. “We went from the disappointment of losing a close game at NYA to the thrill of defeating undefeated Scarborough. We have grown a lot as a team this season and know we have to continue to work hard each and every day if we are going to be able to compete at the highest level. We have struggled maintaining intensity for all four quarters in a game and our slow starts in many games and the inability of our offense to possess the ball has put a lot of stress on our young defense. The defense has improved the most during this season and this is a tribute to their hard work and determination to fight off long possessions by opposing teams. NYA, Cape and Falmouth have excellent attacks and their ability of their attackmen to dodge has challenged our long poles. They have really improved and need to continue to improve if we are going to succeed in the postseason.”

The Clippers earned the No. 3 seed and hosted No. 6 Oak Hill (8-4) in the quarterfinals Wednesday. The teams didn’t play this year. Yarmouth dominated the Raiders, 22-3, in the 2001 second round in the only prior playoff meeting.

“We’re confident entering the playoffs,” Pearl said. “The competition we faced in the last games of the season exposed both our strengths and weaknesses. Practices this last week have been really intense and productive and the players are working even harder. The leadership on our team starts with the captains and they set the tone each and every day.”

A victory could send Yarmouth to No. 2 Gardiner (11-1) for Saturday’s semifinals, which would give the Clippers a chance to avenge last year’s shocking playoff loss.

Reigning Eastern B champion NYA earned the No. 4 seed in the region. The Panthers wound up 6-6 after last week’s 14-2 loss at Falmouth.

“It was a little tougher than we had hoped,” said Panthers coach Peter Gerrity. “(Falmouth) has good players all over the field. After a couple breakdowns on defense, we seemed to lose the momentum we hoped to build. That really killed us. Our intensity was different from the first game. These guys don’t indicate before the game whether they’ll play great or not. It usually takes the first couple minutes. Sometimes, we can climb back, but we just couldn’t today.”

NYA welcomed No. 5 Maranacook/Winthrop (9-3) in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. The teams didn’t play in the regular season and had no playoff history. If victorious, the Panthers could have to run a St. Dom’s-Yarmouth gauntlet to get back to the state final. The Saints are undefeated and ranked first and the Clippers are their fiercest rival.

“We have to show up to play every game,” Gerrity said. “If we beat Maranacook/Winthrop, we’ll have St. Dom’s. Though their schedule’s weak, they’re undefeated. We want another Yarmouth meeting. And another Falmouth meeting. That’s what we want. We’ll have to work pretty hard to get there.”

Freeport wound up 2-10 and ninth in Eastern B, but only eight teams made the playoff cut. The Falcons closed with a 14-12 home loss to Waynflete. Clayton Morrison scored four goals and Evan Hench added three in defeat.

The boys’ lacrosse regional finals are Wednesday of next week, on the fields of the highest remaining seeds. The Class B state game is Saturday, June 16 at 12:30 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

Girls

While Falmouth has stolen most of the girls’ headlines this spring, perhaps the best story of the local girls’ season has been Freeport, which finished first in Eastern B for the first time with a 6-6 record.

Freeport finished with a 15-10 loss to Greely in a game played at Bowdoin College  last Tuesday (Jocelyn Davee and Elizabeth Martin both scored twice, Jess Hench had three assists and Molly Lane made 10 saves).

“I am so pleased with how my team played in the regular season,” said Freeport coach Karin Kurry. “We exceeded our beginning of the season goals.”

The Falcons earn a bye into Saturday’s semifinals and will host No. 4 Mountain Valley (4-8) or No. 5 Gardiner (1-11). Freeport didn’t face either team in the regular season. Three years ago in the quarterfinals, the Falcons dominated the Falcons, 15-3. The teams also met in the 2001 first round with the exact same result. Freeport has never faced the Tigers in the playoffs.

“Now we will play each game of playoffs the best we can,” Kurry said. “The teams in the East region are very even, so everyone has a chance to win.”

Looming large as the second seed is defending Class B state champion Yarmouth, which bounced back from an 0-5 start this spring to finish 6-6. The Clippers closed with an 18-9 victory at NYA last Wednesday. Mo McNaboe had three goals, while Olivia Conrad, Caitlin Crawford, Grace O’Donnell, Ricki Pierce and Maddy Wood all had two.

“We had a tough schedule at the beginning, but we learned a lot,” said Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt. “These girls have worked so hard. It’s a tribute to all of them. They’ve really banded together. To get to this point is incredible.”

Yarmouth will host No. 3 Morse (4-8) in the semifinals this weekend. The Clippers don’t play the Shipbuilders in the regular year. They rolled over Morse, 21-3, in last year’s semis.

“I definitely think (Morse is) improved from last year,” Holt said. “It’ll be a good game. We have to prepare like we’re playing Cape, Falmouth or Waynflete. We’ve had a lot of former players come by this week. It’s been fun for the girls to get their support. I believe we’re peaking at the right time.”

If Freeport and Yarmouth were to square off in the regional final, it would be their first meeting of the season. The Clippers have won all four prior playoff encounters. The most recent was a 16-3 decision in the 2009 semifinals.

In Western B, Falmouth finds itself in a region that arguably includes the three best teams in the whole state, the Yachtsmen, top-ranked Cape Elizabeth and perennial powerhouse Waynflete.

Falmouth had a chance to earn the top seed for the first time in program history when it hosted the Capers last Tuesday, but an early 5-1 deficit put the Yachtsmen in a hole. They trailed, 15-9, with under six minutes to play before erupting for five goals, but a free position from Megan Fortier hit the post with 1:31 showing and with 26.7 seconds to go, Maddie Skop’s game-tying bid was saved and Falmouth finished 10-2 with a 15-14 loss.

Fortier had five goals and Alex Bernier three, but the Yachtsmen were severely hampered by 23 turnovers, most of which were unforced.

“We pretty much ran out of time,” Falmouth coach Robin Haley said. “We dug a hole. We had a hard time maintaining possession of the ball today. Cape’s extremely athletic and capitalized on all of it. They outplayed us today. We had a couple players who were really jittery today. We’d talked a lot about this game. I think some of that pressure came into play for us today.”

In spite of the loss, the Yachtsmen take great pride in their 10-2 record, the best in the program’s history.

“I think it’s the best regular season we’ve ever had, without a doubt,” Haley said. “It’s something to hold on to.”

Falmouth finished third in Western B and has to go to Waynflete Saturday (2 p.m.) in the semifinals. The teams split in the regular season, each winning 13-10 on the other’s home field. The Flyers have taken both prior playoff meetings, including an 11-6 decision in the 2010 regional final.

The Yachtsmen feel they’re up for the challenge.

“We can get better,” Haley said. “We’ll have to. We have to keep it simple. This pressure’s off. Now we’ll just focus on the game. If we win, we’ll go on. If we lose, we’re done. It’s that simple. We’ll just have to do things the hard way.”

Greely wound up 6-6 and fourth in Western B after a 15-10 win over Freeport last week. Audrey Parolin scored five times and Julia Mitiguy and Paige Tuller both added three goals.

The girls’ lacrosse regional finals will be played on the field of the highest remaining seeds Wednesday. The Class B state game is Saturday, June 16 at 10 a.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Sidebar Elements


Senior Anders Overhaug and the Yarmouth boys’ lacrosse team will be tough to stop in the upcoming playoffs.

Falmouth junior Molly Ryan races upfield during last week’s 15-14 loss to Cape Elizabeth which ended the regular season. Now, the Yachtsmen eye their first state title.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.