Falmouth defies history, rallies past Waynflete
PORTLAND—The Falmouth girls' lacrosse team ran the emotional gamut from despair to delirium Tuesday afternoon.
The Yachtsmen, who never recovered from an early 7-1 deficit in a 13-10 home loss to perennial powerhouse Waynflete back on May 4, again dug a hole against their nemesis, this time at Fore River Fields, trailing 5-0 after only 12 minutes of play.
But this time, Falmouth roared back and made history.
In a pivotal showdown of top title contenders with huge Heal Points and playoff position implications at stake, the Yachtsmen scored three goals in just over a minute span just before halftime to pull within 7-6, then drew even at 8-8 on junior Alex Bernier's goal with 22:10 remaining and went ahead for good when Bernier set up junior Geneva Waite for a goal with 19:19 to play.
Falmouth never looked back from there, scoring four more times and holding the potent Flyers at bay as it beat the state's premier power for the first time ever, 13-10.
Waite paced a balanced attack with four goals, Bernier scored twice and had five assists and seniors Vanessa Audet and Megan Fortier and junior Angela Mallis all added a pair of goals. Junior Molly Ryan ensured the Yachtsmen controlled possession by winning 20 of 25 draws and Falmouth improved to 9-1, handing Waynflete its first loss in 11 outings.
"Finally!" said Yachtsmen coach Robin Haley, who hadn't beaten the Flyers once in her 10 seasons. "It feels really good. It was a fun win. It was a really hard-fought game. We played with a lot of composure throughout and didn't get frazzled."
Not this time
Falmouth has been knocking on the door of the top echelon for a few years now and was a regional finalist in 2010 and a semifinalist in 2011. This spring, the Yachtsmen were viewed by many as the team to beat and started hot by downing host Yarmouth, 12-2, NYA, 17-3, Marshwood, 13-10, and visiting Yarmouth, 19-7. Falmouth then fell from the unbeaten ranks with the 13-10 loss to Waynflete, but rebounded with victories over host Fryeburg (22-4), visiting Kennebunk (17-10) and York (19-8) and host Wells (24-6).
Waynflete has fallen in the Class B state game each of the past two years, including last spring's agonizing 9-8 loss to Yarmouth, but has been a team on a mission this season. The Flyers opened with a 15-5 home victory over NYA, then enjoyed a 13-2 home win over Yarmouth, a 15-7 triumph at Wells, a 10-8 victory at rival Kennebunk, a 17-3 home romp over Fryeburg, a 13-10 win at Falmouth, a 12-5 victory at Greely, a 16-5 home win over Cheverus and triumphs at NYA (16-7) and Freeport (13-10).
Waynflete had won all 14 of the previous meetings between the teams, almost all of them with ease (the May 4 encounter was the closest on record) and this one was crucial for both. The Flyers and Yachtsmen are battling Cape Elizabeth for the top spot in Western B, the right to have homefield advantage and with the top seed, the ability to avoid having to play both of the others in the playoffs.
Waynflete looked as if it was home free en route to yet another win in the early going Tuesday, but in the second half mist, Falmouth staked its claim and earned arguably the biggest victory in program history.
Ryan set the tone in the draw circle immediately, winning possession for the Yachtsmen, but in what would become a frustrating first half refrain, they turned the ball over and the hosts got the jump when junior standout Martha Veroneau scored unassisted just 67 seconds in.
Two minutes later, the Flyers doubled their lead to 2-0 when top scoring junior Sadie Cole (who eclipsed the 100-goal career mark earlier in the season) was awarded a free position, had her shot denied, but snared the rebound and fired past Falmouth senior goalie Moie Aaskov.
Aaskov helped hold Waynflete at bay by denying a free position by sophomore Walker Foehl and turning away a shot from Cole, but with 18:05 remaining in the first half, Cole set up Foehl and it was 3-0.
With 14:56 showing, in transition, Foehl passed to Cole, who beat Aaskov to make it 4-0, forcing Haley to call timeout.
The pause didn't immediately help the Yachtsmen's cause, as Veroneau dodged two defenders and scored unassisted with 13:04 to go, but Falmouth would settle down and control play for much of the rest of the contest.
The potent Yachtsmen finally got on the board with 12:07 left in the first half when Mallis scored on a free position.
"Once we got the first goal, we realized we could get back in it," Mallis said. "That gave us momentum and a spark. It gave us an advantage."
"We called timeout and I think we just realized what we had to do," Ryan said. "We stepped up our defense. We started to get it going on offense."
"We were forcing some passes and I just wanted to calm them down and take some time offensively and make some adjustments on the defensive end," Haley added. "We just needed to regain our composure."
After a long, patient possession, Waite got on the board, finishing a pass from Bernier to make it 5-2.
The Flyers finally won a draw and Foehl passed to Cole in transition, who found junior Isabel Agnew in front and Agnew finished to make it 6-2 with 8:42 to go.
Moments after Ryan hit the crossbar on a shot, Falmouth worked the ball around and Audet passed to Mallis for a goal at the 7:04 mark, making it 6-3.
"We had some people step up and get good shots," Haley said. "Angela's a quiet player who does the little things that make a huge difference for us. She's a great leader on the field for us, both on offense and on defense."
Waynflete looked as if it would take a comfortable lead into the break when Cole scored unassisted with 2:22 to go, but Falmouth would close the half with a flourish.
With 1:16 left, Bernier scored unassisted.
With 37 seconds remaining, Fortier scored unassisted.
Then, with time winding down, seconds after a Fortier free position was deflected, Audet set up sophomore Sabrina Smithwick for a pivotal tally and just like that, the Yachtsmen had almost completely erased the deficit and were only down 7-6 with 25 minutes still to play.
"We had some back-to-back goals which got people going," Bernier said. "Heading into halftime, we were all really pumped up."
Falmouth made a first half push in the first meeting as well and while the Yachtsmen were never able to catch up, that effort did carry over to Tuesday's contest.
"I think it started the last game," Fortier said. "Since we came back then, we knew could do it again. If we kept pushing, we'd go all the way this time. (Those three goals before halftime were) big for momentum. It made us realize we really could do it."
While Ryan won 12 of the 14 first half draws and ground balls were even, 18-18, the visitors' cause was hindered by 10 turnovers (compared to just three for the Flyers). Six Aaskov saves helped keep Falmouth close.
"We were only down by one at halftime with all the turnovers and that told us we were still in the game," Haley said.
Waynflete began the second half in similar fashion to the first when Veroneau scored on a free position 1 minute, 6 seconds in, but the Yachtsmen would go on a 6-0 run to seize control.
Off the ensuing draw, Bernier found Waite for a goal at 22:45 to pull Falmouth back within one.
Then, a mere 35 seconds later, the Yachtsmen capped their impressive comeback as Fortier threaded the needle with a pass, Bernier made a nice catch, then shot past Flyers junior goalie Katherine Torrey to make it a brand new ball game, 8-8.
Not content to be tied, Falmouth pushed for the lead.
After Mallis was denied on a free position, the Yachtsmen went on top for the first time and for good as Bernier set up Waite with 19:19 remaining in regulation.
"It was just timing, I guess," Waite said. "(Alex) had her passes on really, really well. She had a great game. I just had to finish."
"Our offense cut through the arc and Geneva had some great cuts," said Bernier. "It was great to have people open to feed to. Our team isn't just a couple players. Everyone on the team is a threat."
Waynflete coach Cathie Connors took timeout, but uncharacteristically, it didn't stem the tide.
With 15:04 to play, Bernier set up another goal, this one by Audet, to make it 10-8.
"Alex is one who really sees the field," Haley said. "When she has the ball, people have to really pay attention because she can multi-task out there. It's difficult to guard her. She's a triple threat for us. She adds value to this team. She keeps people guessing. She's got a rocket of a shot. When she's on with her passing game, she can be just as lethal as she can be with her shot."
The game was far from over.
"Fifteen minutes is a long time with Waynflete," Mallis said. "We knew we had to stay in it. We knew we had to keep the ball moving since they were pressuring us."
Another gorgeous pass from Bernier, this one to Waite, led to an 11th goal at 13:15.
After junior Rhiannan Jackson won the ensuing draw, the Flyers finally managed a settled possession and looked to cut into the deficit with 10:10 to go, but Foehl's shot was saved by Aaskov.
Falmouth transitioned to offense and with 8:47 remaining, Ryan set up Audet for a goal and a 12-8 advantage, forcing Connors to call timeout again.
It worked as Foehl won the draw and Veroneau earned a free position, but Aaskov made the save. The Flyers did keep possession and with 8:31 to go, the hosts finally ended the run and a 15 minute, 23 second drought as Agnew's lollipop pass in front of the cage was batted home by Veroneau, cutting the deficit to 12-9 and keeping hope alive.
Waynflete had a chance to draw even closer when sophomore Sofia Canning was awarded a free position with 6:44 left, but Aaskov again stood tall.
After Falmouth milked a couple minutes off the clock, Fortier was awarded a free position and she fired a shot past Torrey at 4:30 to make it 13-9 and put the Yachtsmen on the brink.
"We actually don't practice that," Fortier said, of the late-game stall. "We probably didn't think we'd be in that situation today. We'll look to work on that more."
The Flyers never quit and made things interesting when sophomore Leigh Fernandez converted a pass from Foehl at the 1:57 mark, making it 13-10 and forcing Falmouth to call timeout.
Ryan won the game's final draw, but the Yachtsmen gave the ball away.
Waynflete had two good looks at cutting the deficit to two, but Agnew and Cole both shot wide and with 25 seconds to go, the Flyers turned the ball over.
Falmouth was able to run the clock out from there and as the clock read 5:36 p.m. on May 22, 2012, the Yachtsmen celebrated their first ever victory over Waynflete, 13-10.
"It feels amazing," Bernier said. "It's a great feeling. I'm really happy. We've never had a big lead like that on Waynflete. I was shocked it was happening. It's big for confidence. We hope to see them later on in the playoffs. Hopefully next time we'll come out harder."
"It's a huge deal," said Mallis. "We've been working really hard, especially on defense sliding. Our defense did an awesome job to get it to our offense. Our passing was great. There weren't many dropped balls."
"I'm psyched," said Waite. "We've been working so hard. We knew we could do this. We just had to buckle down and do the work. We knew what we had to do. We worked the ball and worked together really well. Things started to click."
"It was so exciting," added Ryan. "It felt good to finally beat them. We hope it carries on into playoffs. We were just excited. We're not a team to get nervous. We just get pumped up and ready to play. We saw Waynflete and we just wanted to take them down."
Falmouth, which possesses perhaps unrivaled depth even with the absence to injury of senior captain Samantha Smithwick, showed tremendous patience, skill and balance on offense as six different players tickled the twine.
Waite led the way with four goals. Audet, Bernier, Fortier and Mallis each scored twice and Sabrina Smithwick had one.
Nine of the 13 goals were assisted, a dazzling stat. Bernier had five assists, Audet a pair and Fortier and Ryan one apiece.
"We have a lot of different players we can look to and that was apparent today," said Fortier, who not only lost to Waynflete with Falmouth as a freshman and sophomore, but also twice last spring while playing with NYA. "Everyone got points here and there."
Aaskov, who missed a game last week with injury, made nine timely saves.
The most jawdropping statistic of this game came from the draw circle, where Ryan was successful on 20 of 25 chances. It didn't matter who Connors chose to oppose her, Cole, Foehl, Jackson or Veroneau, they couldn't get the better of Ryan.
"My teammates are great on the circle," Ryan said. "We just worked hard. (Waynflete) put up a good fight on the draws. Sadie's tall in there."
"That's just unheard of," said an awed Fortier. "It's a game of possession."
"Molly winning all the draws was a huge part of the win," Bernier said. "I'm so happy she was able to do that. Moie had a great game too. She missed a game, but now she's back."
"We dominated in the draws," Haley added. "That's the thing that made the difference. Molly did a phenomenal job."
Each team finished with 31 ground balls. Fittingly, Ryan led all players by collecting eight. Bernier, Fortier, Mallis, Smithwick and junior Katie Cooleen each had three.
The Yachtsmen did turn the ball over 19 times, but were able to overcome.
"We were just focused on this game to get over that hump and get confidence as we go into our final two games and leading into playoffs," Haley said. "It tested what kind of team we had. There's an element of learning how to fight for that loose ball. This game was a great example. Both teams fought for the ball. Thankfully, we came out on the strong end today. It built a lot of character in the girls. I think they learned a lot about themselves in this game, as individuals and as a team. I thought this was the year (we could beat Waynflete) because we have some nice players. A lot of scoring, players who can put points on the board. I thought we had a good chance this year because of our people power."
Waynflete's offense featured four goals from Veroneau, three from Cole and one apiece from Agnew, Fernandez and Foehl. Cole and Foehl each had two assists. The Flyers played without another top scorer, sophomore Ella Millard, who is sidelined with an ankle injury, but expected back for the playoffs.
Torrey made four saves. Foehl went 3 of 13 on draws, while Cole finished 0 of 7, Jackson 1 of 3 and Veroneau 1 of 2. Canning led the Flyers with five ground balls. Jackson and Veroneau had four apiece.
The Flyers only committed eight turnovers, but simply couldn't possess the ball much of the second half. They had a 28-23 advantage in shots (19-17 on cage).
"We didn't have our game in the second half," Connors lamented. "We played well in the first half. They were fantastic in the second half. They were unbelievable. They had great firepower. They were aggressive. They were stronger than us today and that's OK, because it exposed a lot of things we have to work on. It was still a fun game. They're so competitive and it was a good win for them. Falmouth was fantastic. Robin's doing a great job with them. It's difficult to win a game by losing 20 out of 25 draws. We struggled on it. I think it's something we have to work on."
Waynflete doesn't have long to lick its wounds. The Flyers (now third behind Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) close their regular season at Yarmouth in a state final rematch Wednesday night. Waynflete will then sit idle for 17 days before competing in a semifinal round playoff game June 9.
Look for Waynflete to make the most of this learning experience.
"It's not the worst thing," Connors said. "Nobody wants to lose a game, clearly, but going into the playoffs undefeated can be tough. It's not a bad thing for the girls to feel a loss and to not want it to happen again."
Falmouth (a very close second to Cape Elizabeth in the standings) hosts NYA Thursday, then finishes the regular season Tuesday of next week at home against Cape Elizabeth, in another critical contest. The Yachtsmen look to stay grounded, put this landmark win behind them and keep chasing their championship dreams.
"We just have to keep working hard and not let it get to our heads," said Waite. "Now we know what we can do."
"We still have a lot to work on," said Fortier. "Transition and defense. We have yet to peak. We're working more on talking on defense. We still have to work on ground balls. Heal Points are always tricky. If we beat Cape, it'll be pretty good. It's a big game for us. Hopefully we can get homefield."
"I'm excited to play Cape," said Bernier. "It'll be fun. They're very good. It'll definitely be a really good game."
"Obviously, we're hoping for homefield advantage," added Haley. "We hope to get a couple more wins and tweak a few things."