SCARBOROUGH—For the better part of five seasons, when it came to Class C field hockey, there was North Yarmouth Academy and there was everyone else.
The Panthers had won four straight regional titles and three of the past four state championships, but they finally met their match on a sunsplashed Tuesday afternoon in the Western Class C Final.
NYA was well aware of the Lisbon Greyhounds this fall, even though the teams didn’t meet in the regular season. When they finally squared off at Scarborough High School with a regional crown on the line, the Greyhounds rose to the occasion.
After fending off an initial Panthers’ flurry, Lisbon began to control play and turned its momentum into a goal with 18:59 to play in regulation, when sophomore Molly Nicholson rattled the cage.
From there, the Greyhounds frustrated NYA’s normally potent attack and went on to a 1-0 victory, improving to 16-0-1, setting up a date with Winthrop in their first trip to the Class C Final Saturday afternoon and ending the Panthers’ season at 14-3.
“We had a great season,” said NYA coach Tracy Quimby. “The girls worked hard. I told them to keep their heads up. We played an excellent team and they came out on top. We’ve been here four years in a row, which isn’t easy.”
NYA had long been a field hockey contender, winning a state championship as far back as 1994, but the Panthers have raised the bar the past five seasons when they’ve become the most dominant program this side of Skowhegan.
From 2008 through last year, NYA won 64 of 72 games and reached the Class C Final on every occasion. After upsetting Dexter, 2-1, in overtime in their first state final trip, the Panthers lost to Dexter, 1-0, in 2009. Two years ago, NYA had to survive 60 minutes of regulation, 16 more of overtime and finally three sets of penalty corners before surviving Foxcroft Academy, 2-1, to take the title. After Julia Littlefield Sterling, who built the program into a champion, stepped down, her assistant,Quimby, took over last year and made quite a splash in her debut season by leading the Panthers back to the state final where again regulation and overtime decided nothing against Winthrop. It took two rounds of penalty corners this time, but NYA prevailed again, 1-0.
The Panthers lost standout and two-time Fall Female Athlete of the Year Katherine Millett to graduation and entered the 2012 season with some uncertainties, but once again turned heads.
NYA opened with 3-0 home wins over Freeport and Greely and romped at Old Orchard Beach, 7-1. The Panthers met their match in reigning Western B champion York, 2-0, but bounced back to capture seven in a row: 1-0 at Traip, 4-0 at Waynflete, 4-0 over visiting Sacopee, 5-1 at Freeport, 4-1 at home over Old Orchard Beach, 3-0 over visiting Traip and 2-1 at Poland. The run ended with a 1-0 setback at Western B contender Falmouth, but NYA closed with victories over visiting Waynflete, 5-0, and at Sacopee, 1-0, to wind up 12-2 and earn the No. 2 seed in Western Class C for the second year in a row.
The Panthers then dispatched seventh-ranked Sacopee, 3-0, in the quarterfinals and No. 6 Dirigo, 2-0, in the semifinals to advance.
Lisbon made it all the way to the semifinals last fall and this season didn’t lose a game, tying host Winthrop, the reigning Eastern C champion, 1-1, in its lone blemish. The Greyhounds enjoyed a composite 50-8 scoring advantage over the opposition in the regular season. As the top seed in Western C, Lisbon advanced by virtue of wins over No. 8 Old Orchard Beach (7-0) and No. 4 Traip (2-1). The victory over the Rangers came Monday after bad weather forced a postponement, giving the Greyhounds little time to prepare for NYA, which didn’t prove to be a factor.
The teams don’t play in the regular season. The Panthers beat the Greyhounds, 6-0, in the 2008 quarterfinals and 1-0, in three rounds of penalty corners, in a thrilling semifinal a year ago.
Tuesday, after a relatively even first half, Lisbon carried the day.
NYA had the first good scoring opportunity. In the fourth minute, junior Olivia Madore fired a shot that Greyhounds’ sophomore goalie Stevie Charest denied. Junior Kayla Rose was there for the rebound, but Charest made a save on that shot as well.
Lisbon’s first threat came with 23:15 left in the first half, but junior Hanna Jordan shot wide.
In the 15th minute, Jordan fed sophomore Arianna Kahler, who shot just wide.
Four minutes later, on a penalty corner, junior Bailey Cutler looked to give the Greyhounds the lead, but her shot was saved by Panthers sophomore goalie Elizabeth Coughlin. The rebound came to Kahler, who was also denied.
With 5:20 to go before halftime, a cross from Cutler was tipped on target by junior Sarah Craig, but again Coughlin made the save.
Two minutes later, a rush by Nicholson resulted in a shot that Coughlin turned aside.
Then, as time wound down, a shot on a corner from junior Nichole Jones was saved by Coughlin.
The score was 0-0 at the break, but Lisbon had the momentum and would only build on it as the second half began.
Three minutes in, on another corner, senior Luci Charest managed a shot, but again Coughlin made the save.
The next shot, however, resulted in the game’s lone goal.
The winning play started with a long pass from Jordan into the goal area. An NYA defender got a stick on the ball, but that only helped the Greyhounds as the ball came right to Nicholson, who got past the defender, went one-on-one with Coughlin and fired a shot into the cage to make it 1-0.
While NYA struggled to generate offense, Lisbon had its chances to extend its advantage.
With 17:21 left, a shot by Jordan was saved by Coughlin.
The Panthers’ lone chance of the second half came with 9:22 to go when sophomore Marina Poole managed a shot that Stevie Charest saved. The rebound sat free, but Greyhounds junior Mariah Breton cleared it out of harm’s way.
With 3:40 remaining, Quimby called timeout and tried to inspire a last-ditch rally.
“We told them they had to lay it on the line,” Quimby said.
The tying rush didn’t happen.
Lisbon managed to retain possession of the ball and the clock ran out on the game and NYA’s two-year title run and four-year regional reign.
The Greyhounds had a 9-2 advantage in shots and 9-3 on penalty corners, although they never converted on one. Coughlin made eight saves to two for Charest.
The Panthers could only tip their cap to the victors.
“(Lisbon) absolutely showed up,” Quimby said. “We saw them play against St. Dom’s last week and it really didn’t click. Yesterday against Traip, they looked really good. They came out just as hungry, if not more hungry today. Their forwards are extremely fast and their defense is solid. The kids knew that was an excellent team. They were a better team today. We just couldn’t get our offense going. Our passing wasn’t there the majority of the game. I have to think it’s because of them. Their middies did a great job disrupting our passing and they’re fast. I can’t give enough compliments as to how fast they are. They have excellent stick skills. They’re a great team.
“The first 10 minutes, we really had the momentum going, but the last 10 minutes of the half, it changed. We came out in the second half and couldn’t get it going again. I tried moving a couple wings around. We play a little shorter on our defense than some teams do. If their forwards get loose, we have to have middies come back and we got tired today. We changed our forwards hoping to get the ball down one side or another. No luck. There’s only so much you can do. I wish we could have done more.”
Considering its youth, the Panthers’ 14-3 record was quite impressive.
“I’m very pleased, especially considering we’ve had players in and out all season,” said Quimby. “We’ve moved our players around a lot.”
NYA loses seniors Maura Anderson, Jen Brown, Bailey Clock, Alexis Heldenbrand, Carly Lappas and Lillie Reder.
“We’re losing some key seniors,” Quimby said. “We’ll really miss the leadership of Jen Brown. She was 100 percent effort and 100 percent class. She’s a workhorse who gives her all. She leads by example, which is hard to find. Lillie Reder gave 100 percent on the field. I don’t think anybody gave more than she did today. She should feel good about what she did this season. We’re losing four others. Maura and Carly really helped out. When we needed forwards, they were able to step in.”
Look for the 2013 edition to come back with a vengeance and get the program back to the top.
“We need to figure out to fill the gaps, but it won’t be easy,” Quimby said. “We’re fortunate (freshman) Linnea (Hull) filled in at middie this year. She gave 100 percent. We’ll revamp, we’ll bring some players up and see what next year brings.”
NYA sophomore goalie Elizabeth Coughlin kicks the ball away from Lisbon sophomore Arianna Kahler.
NYA senior captain Jen Brown eyes the ball.
NYA freshman Juliana Tardif finds some room to operate.
NYA junior Kayla Rose tries to save the ball on the end line.
NYA sophomore Marina Poole and Lisbon junior Jenn Smith fight for possession.
NYA receives its runner-up plaque after the game.
NYA junior Olivia Madore plays the ball up the field during Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Lisbon in the Western Class C Final.
More photos below.