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Several lacrosse teams one step from states

Sports

Several lacrosse teams one step from states

(Ed. Note: For the complete Greely-Waynflete boys' lacrosse and Falmouth-Cape Elizabeth, Freeport-Morse and Yarmouth-NYA girls' lacrosse game stories, visit theforecaster.net)

Three boys' and two girls' lacrosse teams were inching closer to championships at press time.

Falmouth, Freeport and Yarmouth's boys all reached the regional finals, as did the Freeport and Yarmouth girls.

Several other teams made the playoffs, but ultimately fell short.

History

Freeport's boys' program has long been overshadowed by neighboring powers like Brunswick, Yarmouth and North Yarmouth Academy, but this spring, the Falcons have made a name for themselves.

Freeport earned the No. 2 seed in Eastern Class after a 7-5 regular season and hung on for a pair of playoff victories to reach the regional final for the first time. After edging No. 7 Oak Hills in the quarterfinals (7-5, behind four goals from Sam Wogan and 17 saves from Zac Wogan), the Falcons held off No. 6 Camden Hills in the semifinals (13-12, as Sam Wogan scored seven times and Zac Wogan stopped 19 shots).

"I can sum up exactly how I feel with one word, proud!" said Freeport coach Geoff Arris. "We've had our ups and downs since before I took over. We always carried low numbers and we graduated over half our team last year and we figured that this would be a building season, but the leadership of our juniors and one sophomore captain have been amazing. Sam Wogan, Ramsey Dodge, Jake Perry and Zac Wogan really found a way to bring this team together. We've knocked on the door to tournament play in the past, but have really struggled making the postseason. For two years in a row we didn't make it. Last year we went 3-10 and earned the eighth seed. We lost that game and it was hard for the seniors, but it gave the rest of our team a much needed spark. There was no way we were going to end this year with a semifinal loss. Not again and the team stepped up."

Freeport hosted No. 4 Yarmouth (9-5) in Wednesday afternoon's regional final.

The defending Eastern B champion Clippers lost four of five games in one stretch this spring and wound up 7-5, but have hit their stride in the postseason. Yarmouth downed No. 5 Gardiner, 16-4, in the quarterfinals (Isaak Dearden and Max Watson both scored three times), then upset No. 1 Maranacook/Winthrop, 10-7, in the semifinals (behind three goals from Joe Oliva).

The Clippers and Falcons didn't play this year. Yarmouth had won the three previous playoff meetings, with the most recent coming in the 2006 semifinals (11-9).

"There's a lot of pressure going against Yarmouth," Arris said. "They're a tournament team. It's what they do. This is our first time playing on this stage and I think we're ready to step up. We've always sort of snuck in under the radar and I think we aren't really thought of by a lot of teams. I like it that way. It allows us to just play lacrosse and play our game. The team should be proud for how far they've come, especially with only one senior and being so young. They're a remarkable group and have formed a new breed of Freeport lacrosse."

The Freeport-Yarmouth winner advanced to face the Western B champion in the state final Saturday at 3 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland (more on that in a moment).

North Yarmouth Academy earned the eighth and final spot in Eastern B, but was ousted at Maranacook/Winthrop, 9-2, in the quarterfinals to finish 2-11. Haley Cunningham and Brad McClellan had the goals.

In Western B, Falmouth wound up second after a 9-3 regular season and had a bye into Saturday's semifinals where the Yachtsmen were pushed to the brink by No. 3 Kennebunk, a team Falmouth split with during the regular season. Falmouth fell behind early, 3-0, but rallied to prevail, 12-9. C.J. Leighton had three goals, while Joe Dancoes, Bryce Kuhn and I.V. Stucker all scored twice and Brad Gilbert and George Gilbert added one goal apiece.

The Yachtsmen advanced to set up a sixth straight Western B Final matchup at No. 1 Cape Elizabeth (13-0), the defending state champion. The Capers won both regular season meetings, 12-8 at home and 12-10 at Falmouth. Cape Elizabeth had won three of the previous five playoff games, including a 9-8 overtime decision last spring.

The winner will meet the Freeport-Yarmouth winner in the state game Saturday.

Falmouth romped at the Falcons on May 4, 17-8, and erupted in the second half for a 17-12 victory at the Clippers May 20. The Yachtsmen have no playoff history with either school.

Freeport didn't face Cape Elizabeth this year and the schools have no playoff history. Yarmouth was swept by the Capers, falling at home April 29 (10-6) and in Cape Elizabeth May 30 (9-4). Since the Maine Principals' Association started sanctioning boys' lacrosse in 1998, the Capers and Clippers have played seven times in the postseason, with Cape Elizabeth prevailing four times, including last year in the Class B state final, 7-4.

Greely was the No. 4 seed in Western B after a 7-5 regular season and exploded for 14 second half goals in 20-9 home win over Waynflete in last Wednesday's quarterfinals. Tim Adams had five goals and Mitchell Mullin four as the Rangers own their first postseason contest since 2008.

"It means a lot," Adams said. "It's our first playoff win in a long time."

"It's great for the program," Greely coach Mike Storey said. "We're climbing and we're getting in the mix. I want to play at a high level game after game. We executed very well. We knew what we wanted to do."

Greely was then blasted by Cape Elizabeth in Saturday's semifinal, losing, 19-1, to finish the year 8-6.

Rivalry renewed

Yarmouth's girls' team was viewed as a shoo-in to represent Eastern B at the state game for the second year in a row, but the Clippers quickly learned that nothing will come easily in the postseason.

Yarmouth, following a 10-2 regular season, earned a bye into Saturday's semifinals, where it hosted No. 5 NYA, a squad which made the playoffs for the first time in three years.

The Panthers were coming off a 12-10 win at No. 4 Gardiner in last Wednesday's quarterfinals, as Abby McKelvy and Alex Wahlstrom both scored three goals.

Saturday, in the 10th playoff meeting in 15 years between the crosstown rivals, NYA stunned the Clippers by taking a 5-3 halftime lead, but Yarmouth refused to go quietly and junior Shannon Fallon came to the rescue, scoring five second half goals to help the Clippers survive and advance, 9-7.

"It was a nailbiter," Fallon said. "NYA was definitely a different team this time. They caught us on our heels. It took us awhile to gain our rhythm and confidence."

"(NYA) played really well," Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt said. "They're a really good team and they have a really good coach. We knew it wouldn't be easy. It's nice to have the rivalry back."

Yarmouth (11-2) hosted Freeport in the Eastern B Final Wednesday night (more on the Falcons in a moment).

The Panthers got three goals from Wahlstrom in the loss to the Clippers as they finished their bounce-back season at 5-9.

"I'm not happy with the loss, but it's a great turning point for the program," NYA first-year coach Lucy Gerrity said. "Overall, I'm pleased with how the season turned out. It's the beginning of something exciting. I'm proud of the girls. I couldn't be happier."

The 2015 Panthers could be poised for an even bigger leap.

"We lose three starters, but we'll be starting off in good shape next year," Gerrity said. "We don't want to be in the regional semifinals next year. We want to be in the regional final."

Freeport, ranked second after a program-best 10-2 season, didn't play its first playoff game until Monday (due to a weather-related postponement) when it hosted No. 3 Morse, in the first-ever playoff meeting between the schools. The Falcons won at Morse in overtime in the regular season and started slowly Monday, trailing, 4-3, but rallied to lead, 5-4, at halftime, then scored six straight goals to start the second half en route to a 13-6 victory. Lily Johnston scored four goals and Meredith Broderick added three with three assists.

"In the second half, we got it together and calmed down and were able to find each other on attack and in the midfield," Meredith Broderick said. "We kind of calmed down and found the open player. We also brought the intensity. We made smart plays. We really wanted it."

"We hadn't played in awhile," Johnston said. "The heat got to us. It took us awhile to get our heads into it. We realized it was our game, that it was our homefield and that we had great fans. We were ready."

Freeport lost at home to Yarmouth on May 5, 14-3, and the Clippers have won five of the six prior playoff meetings (including a 12-10 triumph in last year's semifinals), but the Falcons thought they had a chance going into the regional final.

"We're excited," said Freeport coach Karin Kurry. "It's a great group of kids. We keep climbing the ladder."

The Clippers expected a battle.

"Our goal is to make it to states," Fallon said. "We definitely expect another tough game (Wednesday). We can't look past anyone. I'm pretty sure it will be an even matchup, but we're not done yet."

"We'll be home and we'll be ready," Holt said. "We'll have to bring it. As we've said since the beginning this year, it's anybody's game on any day."

In Western B, Falmouth and Greely were ousted in their first playoff games.

The Rangers earned the No. 4 seed, but suffered a close 7-6 home loss to No. 5 York last week in the quarterfinals, ending their season at 6-7. Cameron Keefe and Jocelyn Mitiguy both scored twice, but it wasn't enough.

"We always expect a battle when we play York," Greely coach Becca Koelker said. "Though we had prepared well, we did not play our best lacrosse either as a team or individuals. Their goalie made some key saves, but ultimately we couldn't get possession of the ball long enough to finish the job. I was proud of our team for not giving up, despite the challenges of that day. They fought hard until the end, which is a tribute to their character.

"Lots of gray hairs this year! In all seriousness, we had many ups and downs. When our team played their best, we were among the best. But our Achilles' heel was playing up to our potential consistently, game to game. With many talented and athletic players on our team, we were able to challenge some of the top teams in the state, but couldn't quite close these games out. Our highlight of the season was getting a 'signature win to outscore the number one-ranked team (Kennebunk) at their place. What I consider a success was how the girls worked hard to play as a team and depended on each other, especially at the end of the season. In nine of our 13 games, we had five different players score and a third of our goals came off assists. That is the type of teamwork that we want to set as the norm for our program. Although the season did not end as we had hoped, the seniors have established a higher standard for Greely lacrosse and it was an honor to be their coach."

The Rangers have some reloading to do looking ahead to 2015, but should remain dangerous.

"I'm looking forward to next season," Koelker said. "Despite graduating 12 seniors, we'll be looking to develop the younger players and refine who we are as a program. We have eight returning varsity players, including three who have been with us for the past two years: Maggie Reed, Jocelyn Mitiguy, and Kelsey Otley. I expect these three to step up into leadership roles both on and off the field. We will need to find underclassmen to fill many key roles, including the position of goalie. Overall, we have lots of potential, but will need to work hard to jell on both ends of the field."

The Yachtsmen took the No. 6 seed to Cape Elizabeth for its quarterfinal, but lost, 13-6, to finish 4-9. Falmouth fell behind, 7-0, didn't score its first goal until 2.5 seconds were left in the first half and despite a stronger second half, fell short. Seniors Leigh Bernardy and Sabrina Smithwick both scored twice.

“Things just didn't go our way, bottom line," said Yachtsmen coach Kait Johnson. "I'm proud of the girls. They played hard. I wish they could have pulled out a win tonight."

With an abundance of key young players returning in 2015, Falmouth could make a run back to the top of the standings.

"We're young," Johnson said. "We'll learn and we'll get better.”

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