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Yarmouth hits its stride, handles NYA, 12-5

Sports

Yarmouth hits its stride, handles NYA, 12-5

YARMOUTH—Look out Class B, the defending state champion Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team is coming to life.

Two days after erupting for 21 goals in their first victory of the season, the Clippers made it two straight Thursday night, downing visiting rival North Yarmouth Academy, 12-5.

Yarmouth gave up the game's first goal, then rattled off eight in a row to seize control. The Clippers pushed their lead to 12-2 early in the second half and never looked back as senior Claudia Lockwood scored four times and classmate Maddy Wood added three as Yarmouth improved to 2-5, dropping the Panthers to 0-6.

"It's really exciting for the girls," said Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. "I'm proud of them. The confidence is coming, but we still have a way to go."

Comeback trail

Yarmouth started the 2012 season with a cruel schedule, featuring arguably the four best teams in the state, and the new-look Clippers took their lumps early, falling at home to Falmouth, 12-2, at Waynflete, 13-2, at home to defending Class A champion Scarborough, 12-5, at Falmouth, 19-7, and at Cape Elizabeth, 14-6.

Yet even in those losses, it was evident that Yarmouth was improving quickly and establishing its own identity as a contender in its own right.

NYA, which finished 5-9 in 2011, falling, 6-5, to Yarmouth in an epic regional final, dropped its first five games as well, 15-5 at Waynflete, 17-3 to visiting Falmouth, 10-8 at Freeport, 13-8 at Cheverus and 12-7 at home to Wells.

The Yarmouth-NYA rivalry has been as passionate and entertaining as any in the state in recent years. Dating back to the start of the 2002 season, the Clippers held a 14-11 edge entering Thursday's contest. That included three wins a year ago: 16-9 at the Panthers, 8-5 at home, then the come-from-behind victory in the Eastern B Final, which marked the eighth straight season the rivals had met in that round.

This time, Yarmouth managed to beat NYA for the fourth straight time overall and the sixth successive time in the regular season, ending all doubt by halftime.

Just 12 seconds in, senior Ricki Pierce hit the post, but the Clippers would soon find the net.

First, the Panthers broke the scoring ice when senior Katie Cawley (from sophomore Abby McKelvy) scored with 23:28 left in the first half.

Yarmouth pulled even at the 16:44 mark on an unassisted tally from Lockwood. A mere 52 seconds later, senior Mo McNaboe set up Wood for a goal and the Clippers were on top to stay.

Two goals in 19 seconds from junior Alex Lucas (the first from McNaboe, the second set up by junior Ali Merrill) made it 4-1 and forced NYA first-year coach Lynn Sullivan to call timeout.

It didn't stem the tide.

With 11:50 to play in the half, senior Jeanna Lowery scored unassisted.

After Cawley hit the crossbar at the 10:42 mark, Merrill set up Lockwood for a transition goal at 9:07 and Merrill scored unassisted 58 seconds later to make it 7-1.

An unassisted Wood goal with 6:38 to play before halftime capped the 8-0 surge.

The Panthers got a goal back with 3:28 left, when sophomore Olivia Madore set up senior Hannah Twombly for a shot which beat Yarmouth sophomore goalie Jordan Brown, but 41 seconds later, Lockwood scored unassisted past NYA sophomore goalie Nikolle Storey and the Clippers took a 9-2 lead to the break.

Yarmouth had a commanding 15-4 edge in shots on goal in the first 25 minutes.

The hosts continued to find the net early in the second half as goals from Wood (from McNaboe at 24:12), Lockwood (unassisted, at 22:50) and Lowery (unassisted, at 21:16) induced a running clock.

The Clippers wouldn't score again, however, as the Panthers finished strong.

With 3:08 remaining, senior Katherine Millett scored unassisted. That started a run of three goals in 50 seconds as Madore and Cawley followed with unassisted tallies.

That's as close as NYA could get, however, and Yarmouth went on to the 12-5 victory.

"It feels really, really good," said Wood. "At the beginning of the season, we had really tough teams first off and we weren't clicking. Then, things just started to happen. Game experience and bringing 100 percent to practice every single day has been the difference. Everyone got behind it and that's why we've seen the change. Falmouth and Waynflete are so good this year, they were tough. Scarborough and Cape aren't bad either. We just had to pick it up in practice. That's why I think we've picked it up in the games."

Lockwood led all scorers with four goals. Wood added three, Lowery and Lucas two each and Merrill one. McNaboe had three assists, while Merrill finished with two. Brown made two saves.

The Clippers won 12 of 19 draws, as Pierce captured 11 of 17 opportunities, Merrill won her lone chance and Lowery went 0 for 1.

Yarmouth finished with a 48-35 advantage in ground balls. Pierce led the team with six. Lowery had five and Merrill, sophomore Grace O'Donnell and juniors Sydney Pellerin and Julia Kameisha all had four. The Clippers committed 19 turnovers, but finished with a 25-17 edge in shots on goal (20-7 on cage).

"These girls are working so hard and I think it shows," Holt said. "The transition is happening. The goals are happening. They're working as a team. We work on the team effort. Our seniors are stepping up. The underclassmen are filling roles and getting more confidence."

For NYA, Cawley scored twice, while Madore, Millett and Twombly each had one goal. Madore and McKelvy both had an assist. Storey made eight saves. Millett won 5 of 15 draws, Madore went 2 for 4. Juniors Jen Brown and Nyajal Ngoal led the Panthers with five ground balls each. Madore and junior Mallory Ianno each grabbed four. NYA committed 25 turnovers.

"We did finish strong," said Sullivan. "We're not quitters, that's for sure. We had a really strong start, then we lost it a little bit. We have a lot of ability and talent, we just can't string 25 minutes together."

Win and get in

Despite their slow start, the Panthers are still very much in the Eastern Class B playoff hunt. Five of the eight teams in the region qualify and NYA is tied for sixth. It's conceivable a single victory could propel the Panthers into the postseason. NYA hosts Massabesic Saturday and Waynflete Tuesday. Games at Greely and Falmouth, a home tilt with Fryeburg and a season-ending home test against Yarmouth (May 30) also remain.

"We're improving," Sullivan said. "The girls are having fun. That's what we want to see. We want to improve on the things we need to improve on. They're working hard in practice. We're being more competitive. It would be nice to get a win or two."

As for the Clippers, they now have the top spot in Eastern B and hope to keep improving and winning as the season winds down. Yarmouth goes to Gorham Saturday, is home against Fryeburg Tuesday, then sandwiches games at York and NYA around a home tilt with Waynflete.

If the Clippers keep improving, they could find themselves right back at Fitzpatrick Stadium in the Class B state final June 16.

"Our midfield transition still needs work," said Wood. "Just overall communication, on offense and defense."

"We just want to play like we can play," Holt said. "For us, it's playing to the best of our ability and working together. It's starting to show. We have a tough schedule across the board."

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

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Caitlin Crawford races upfield with the ball in the first half.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

NYA junior Nyajal Ngoal races past Yarmouth senior Jeanna Lowery.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior Sydney Pellerin tries to get in the way of a shot from NYA sophomore Abby McKelvy.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior Ali Merrill keeps a close eye on NYA sophomore Olivia Madore.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Jeanna Lowery tries to swat a loose ball away from NYA junior Lillie Reder.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Claudia Lockwood, who led all scorers with four goals, collects a high pass in the first half.