Waynflete girls excel in opener
PORTLAND—After a sensational start to the 2012 season, the rest of the league has to dread the prospect of the Waynflete girls' lacrosse team getting even better.
The Flyers kicked off the new campaign Friday afternoon at Fore River Field against longtime rival North Yarmouth Academy and played a first half that would go down as a thing of beauty in a state final, not to mention an opener.
Waynflete won 13 of 16 draws, had a 20-4 shots on goal advantage and only turned the ball over four times as it rolled to a commanding 14-1 lead behind the prolific scoring of juniors Sadie Cole (five goals) and Martha Veroneau (four goals) and a great effort from sophomore Walker Foehl, who had three.
The Flyers went on to a 15-5 victory and served notice that two straight years without a championship is as long a drought as they're willing to suffer.
"It's really exciting for our first game," said Cole, who's on pace for a 60 goal season. "I didn't really know what to expect. Everyone meshed really well. We played so well. The new players and the players who didn't get to play last year were so excited. The energy really showed."
After NYA bested Waynflete in the 2010 state final, both teams suffered painful playoff losses to Yarmouth a year ago.
The Panthers finished 5-9 after a 6-5 setback to the Clippers in the Eastern Class B Final. The Flyers fought Yarmouth to the wire in the state championship game, but fell a goal short, 9-8, to wind up 12-3.
Both squads feature plenty of new faces this spring, but NYA's changes have been more seismic. For starters, the Panthers have a new coach in longtime assistant Lynn Sullivan, who replaced Julia Sterling. The Panthers graduated eight players and lost other key contributors to transfer.
Waynflete also graduated eight players, is a relatively young team this spring and wasn't sure what to expect as the new season dawned.
What transpired was the Flyers' third straight win over NYA (Waynflete won last year's meetings, 12-10 and 17-4), paced by nearly perfect opening 25 minutes.
Just 47 seconds in, the Flyers went ahead to stay when Cole christened the new season by taking a pass from sophomore Sofia Canning and beating Panthers' goalie Nikolle Storey.
Cole dedicated the tally to an injured teammate.
"The first goal was for (junior) Catherine (Veroneau, out for the season with a knee injury)," said Cole.
Waynflete won the ensuing draw, transitioned and Martha Veroneau got in the scoring column with an unassisted tally. After another draw win, Veroneau set up Cole and it was 3-0 Flyers less than two minutes into the contest.
"I feel like Martha and I always know where each other are," Cole said. "We know how to play together."
With 20:35 to play in the first half, Foehl, who is playing a much bigger role this season, got in on the fun, setting up Cole for a 4-0 advantage, forcing Sullivan to call timeout.
It didn't stem the tide.
After intercepting a clearing pass, Foehl raced in and scored and 42 seconds later, Veroneau scored unassisted to make it 6-0. A free position goal from Cole with 13:53 left was followed by a tally from sophomore Ella Millard (assisted by Foehl) 30 seconds later.
NYA appeared to get on the board with 12:31 on the clock when Katie Cawley scored, but a crease violation negated the score.
Foehl (from Millard) scored with 11:16 left in the half before the Panthers broke the ice with 9:49 remaining when Abby McKelvey scored on a free position to make it 9-1.
Waynflete closed the half the way it started, with a scoring flurry. Goals from Foehl (unassisted), Veroneau (on a free position), Veroneau (unassisted), freshman Helen Gray-Bauer (on a free position) and Cole (from senior Maddy Agnew) made it 14-1 at halftime.
"We definitely wanted to keep the momentum going," said Foehl. "I think we really surprised ourselves. We were all fired up for the first game and it showed. There are a lot of new people on the team and we meshed really well. We came in with a lot of heart. We all pass really well together. We went to goal. We were on target. The passing and transition was really good. We had quick passing and a shot. We didn't run it in. Even though we have a lot of new players, we work together well. We have team chemistry. We know where each other will be."
The Flyers were able to control the game largely because of their success on draws, which led to transition opportunities. Cole won 8-of-10 first half draws, while Veroneau went 5-of-6.
"We've worked on the draw a little, but me and Martha have our own way of doing it," Cole said. "We switch off. It works."
Longtime Flyers coach Cathie Connors (now in her 20th year) switched things up at halftime, moving some of her top scorers to defense and Waynflete would only score once in the second half.
That goal came with 22:27 remaining, when junior Isabel Agnew scored (from sophomore Leigh Fernandez).
NYA would control the ball for much of the remainder of the game and got a pair of goals from Cawley (the first assisted by Hannah Twombly, the other unassisted) and one each from Olivia Madore (assisted by Cawley) and Mary Noyes (unassisted) to account for the 15-5 final score.
"We're young," Sullivan said. "We're new. We lost a lot from last year. We have a lot of kids who haven't played before or have limited experience. It's a learning curve. We're not surprised. We knew it would be a real challenge."
Cole led the way with five goals, but she was quick to give praise to her teammates.
"Everyone contributed, even the freshmen," Cole said. "Walker and Ella didn't get to play much last year, but they've jumped into huge leadership roles. We always respect NYA. They're a really good team. We've had really games with them."
Veroneau added four goals, Foehl three and Isabel Agnew, Gray-Bauer and Millard each scored once. Foehl also had two assists, while Maddy Agnew, Canning, Fernandez, Millard and Veroneau all had one.
"It's a good start," said Connors, who won the 223rd game of her illustrious career. "I'm pleased. I didn't know how we'd do. It's hard to tell in scrimmages. It was key for us to win the draws early and get into transition. That gave me a lot of hope. I was able to see who can play where and who plays well together. Martha, Ella, Walker and Sadie are really strong. Our attack players have a lot of speed. I saw more of a transition than I expected. That was exciting."
Junior goalie Katherine Torrey, who appears much more aggressive and confident this spring, made six saves.
For NYA, Cawley had two goals, Madore, McKelvey and Noyes one apiece. Cawley and Twombly also had an assist. Storey stopped 10 shots.
Waynflete ended up with a 16-5 advantage on draws as Cole won 10-of-12 and Veroneau 6-of-8 (Maddy Agnew went 0-for-1). For the Panthers, Noyes won 4-of-14 chances, Katherine Milett was 1-of-1, while Cawley and Madore both went o-for-3.
The Flyers finished with a 42-29 edge in ground balls. They were paced by eight from Fernandez, seven from Canning and five each from Isabel Agnew and Foehl. Madore led NYA with five, while Twombly finished with four.
Waynflete had 13 turnovers, NYA 12, impressive numbers considering it was the first game of the season.
The Flyers put 26 shots on goal to 14 for the Panthers.
Take a break
Each team will have next week off from countable games.
NYA is back in action April 24 at home against a very impressive Falmouth squad (which opened with a 12-2 win at Yarmouth). The Panthers then go to Freeport and Cheverus.
Look for this team to show great improvement in the weeks to come.
"We want to play the best lacrosse we can play," said Sullivan. "We want to execute the little things. We were nervous (today). We're young. There are some good athletes out there. We just have to work on stickwork. We're going to have a lot of games where it's not going to go our way. We have to be able to compete. We have to give the other team something to work hard for."
As for Waynflete, it returns to action April 23 at Wells, then hosts Yarmouth in a state final rematch April 25 before facing what will likely be a stern test at Kennebunk April 28.
Even though they dazzled Friday, the Flyers know they have a long way to go.
"Everything's looking good so far, but there are still things we can improve on," said Foehl.
"I underestimate nobody," Connors said. "It's going to be a really interesting season to see how things play out."