Waynflete rallies to stun Falmouth in instant classic
PORTLAND—It was appropriate that Saturday's Western Class B girls' lacrosse semifinal round contest between No. 2 Waynflete and third-ranked Falmouth was moved to Fitzpatrick Stadium.
That's because the game featured two championship caliber teams who fittingly played at the site of next week's state finals.
Then produced a game for the ages.
In a contest that not only lived up to the hype, but left if far behind in the rearview mirror, two of the finest teams in the state produced 50 minutes of thrills that when all was said and done, left just the tiniest bit of separation.
Unlike the two regular season meetings, goals were are a premium in the first half and the Flyers' ability to surprisingly control the draw circle and keep possession helped them take a 4-3 lead to the break.
But the fun was just beginning.
Twice early in the second half, the Yachtsmen drew even, but twice Waynflete went back on top. Then, Falmouth scored three straight goals to take an 8-6 lead with 11:47 to play, seemingly putting it in position to seal the deal.
Unfortunately for the Yachtsmen, they couldn't deliver the knockout blow as Flyers junior goalie Katherine Torrey made a pair of game altering saves.
Then, Waynflete proudly rose off the canvas and rode the unrivaled determination, heart and skill of junior Martha Veroneau, who willed her team back, helping it tie the score at 9-9.
In the waning moments, both teams had their chances, but the Flyers would finally break the deadlock as junior Sadie Cole tickled the twine on a free position with 26.1 seconds to go.
Waynflete then won the ensuing draw and ran out the clock, finishing its epic 10-9 triumph.
Veroneau scored four goals, Cole had three, Torrey made nine critical saves and after losing the draw battle, 20-5, in the last meeting, the Flyers had an 11-10 edge as they improved to 12-1, ended the Yachtsmen's best-ever season at 10-3 and set up a delicious Western B Final date at undefeated, top-ranked Cape Elizabeth Wednesday at a time to be determined.
"It was such an amazing, exciting game," said Torrey. "I don't think I've ever felt a connection with my teammates as much as I did in this game. I'm so proud of them all, I'm speechless. Falmouth's such a fantastic team. They've had an amazing season. It's such an honor to be here playing with them. I'm so happy with the outcome."
Two terrific teams
Waynflete, the state's flagship girls' program for two decades now, has fallen in the Class B state game each of the past two years (at Fitzpatrick Stadium), including last spring's agonizing 9-8 loss to Yarmouth, but has been a team on a mission this season, even with a lot of young faces at key positions.
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). The undefeated run ended with a 13-10 loss at Falmouth, but Waynflete closed with a 17-7 victory at Yarmouth to wind up 11-1 and second to Cape Elizabeth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings.
Falmouth appeared on the verge of competing for a title last season, but was upset at home by Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals, 14-12.
The Yachtsmen, who have risen to prominence in recent years under coach Robin Haley, were dynamic and close to unbeatable in 2012, lighting up the scoreboard from the get go.
Falmouth started by downing host Yarmouth, 12-2, North Yarmouth Academy, 17-3, Marshwood, 13-10, and visiting Yarmouth, 19-7. The Yachtsmen then fell from the unbeaten ranks with a 13-10 home 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) before making history with a 13-10 win at Waynflete. After handling visiting NYA, 18-6, Falmouth lost its chance at securing homefield advantage as it dropped a 15-14 thriller to visiting Cape Elizabeth to finish 10-2 and third in Western B.
Even though the Yachtsmen had won the previous meeting, the Flyers had an abundance of history on their side.
Waynflete entered with a 28-1 all-time home record in the playoffs and had won 23 straight postseason games at home, dating back to a 10-9 overtime loss to Greely in the 2000 semifinals. Waynflete was also 14-1 all-time against Falmouth.
The game was actually played away from Waynflete, but was still considered a home contest. It was scheduled to be played on the Flyers' grass field Saturday at 4 p.m., but Friday evening's thunderstorm and rain left Waynflete no choice but to push it back an hour and move it to the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf, which seemingly played into the hands of Falmouth, which plays its home games on the fake grass.
Regardless of the surface or setting, Saturday' showdown was billed as a potential classic and after Waynflete freshman Helen Gray-Bauer played a rousing version of the national anthem on her viola, both teams excelled on the bright stage.
Falmouth junior Molly Ryan, who put on a personal clinic in the draw circle the last time the teams met, won the opening draw, but the Yachtsmen gave the ball away and that set the tone for an opening eight minutes without a goal, where nerves led to turnovers and Torrey and Falmouth senior goalie Moie Aaskov were both superb.
Luck didn't appear on the Flyers' side early on as sophomore Ella Millard, who missed the previous meeting with injury, hit the post 2 minutes, 23 seconds in and Cole the same with 17:11 remaining in the first half. Torrey and Aaskov both denied free positions as well.
Finally, with 16:39 on the clock, Veroneau broke the ice, racing around the cage and getting a step on a defender before beating Aaskov.
The Yachtsmen got their first goal with 13:54 to play before halftime when senior Vanessa Audet took a pass from junior Alex Bernier and beat Torrey.
Falmouth then got a boost as senior captain Sam Smithwick, who missed several games with a foot malady, returned to action. Fittingly, the draw bounced right to Smithwick and she collected it calmly to give the Yachtsmen possession (Smithwick had to exit in the second half after apparently reaggravating the injury). Falmouth would take advantage of the possession, going ahead for the first time, 2-1, when Fortier scored on a free position at 13:06.
Torrey then prevented the deficit from growing as she denied Bernier on a free position and absolutely robbed junior Geneva Waite point blank.
The Flyers then transitioned and pulled even on a free position goal from Veroneau at 10:06, who beat Aaskov to the far side.
The Yachtsmen went back ahead, 3-2, when Bernier scored a free position goal with 8:59 showing, but Falmouth wouldn't score again before halftime.
Fourteen seconds after the goal, the Yachtsmen's momentum was hindered when Fortier received a yellow card and had to come to the sideline for two minutes.
After Aaskov made a great save on sophomore Walker Foehl's shot and saved a Foehl free position, Foehl got another chance one-on-one with the goalie and finished at the 4:41 mark to tie the game, 3-3.
Cole, one of the state's most prolific finishers, got in the scoring column with 1:54 remaining before halftime, striking unassisted to put Waynflete ahead, 4-3.
The Flyers had a couple good looks at extending their lead just before halftime, but senior Lucy Crane's bid was denied by Aaskov and Veroneau, after deking a defender, shot just wide, keeping it a one-goal game at the break.
In the first 25 minutes, each team only committed six turnovers, but Waynflete won five of eight draws, had a 13-9 advantage on ground balls and outshot the Yachtsmen, 14-6. Numerous fouls had the Falmouth defense on its heels and six saves from Aaskov prevented the Flyers from opening up a healthier lead.
The second half continued to be riveting and it became evident that the game would come down to the wire.
After winning the opening draw of the half, Veroneau had a good look, but Aaskov made a save. Ryan tried to tie the score at the other end, but shot high. Foehl than had a free position for Waynflete, but Aaskov again came up big.
With 21:47 to go in regulation, the Yachtsmen forged the game's fourth tie as Bernier passed to Fortier, who finished and it was 4-4.
After a Cole free position was turned aside by Aaskov, Veroneau raced almost the length of the field and eluded the defense before finishing unassisted for a 5-4 lead with 20:15 to play.
With 18:04 showing, Falmouth drew even once again, this time courtesy a Bernier goal, set up by Audet.
Again, the Flyers answered as Veroneau forced a turnover and passed to junior Isabel Agnew, who beat Aaskov with 17:35 remaining.
Then, the Yachtsmen began to control play, finish and threaten to seize control once and for all.
Just 33 seconds after Agnew's goal, Bernier (from junior Angela Mallis) finished and the game was tied for the sixth time, 6-6.
Then, with 15:01 remaining, Falmouth went on top for the first time in the half, 7-6, when senior Ashleigh Burton scored on a free position.
After Fortier was denied on a free position by Torrey, then shot wide on a free position, Audet had a chance on a free position, but again Torrey made the save.
With 11:47 to play, the Yachtsmen wouldn't be denied as, on a free position, Fortier eschewed a shot and passed to Mallis, who finished and for the first time all game, a team had a two-goal lead.
Waynflete was in danger of toppling, but Torrey, who received trial by fire as a freshman and sophomore, kept her team's hopes alive.
After Cole was robbed by Aaskov at one end, Bernier was awarded a free position, but Torrey kicked it aside. Then, Fortier had a free position and once again passed to Mallis, but this time, Mallis' shot was saved and the Flyers transitioned to offense, still down just two.
"The difference between two and three (goals) is huge," said Cole. "I was on the side saying, 'Katherine, come on!' She came up when the big saves when we needed her to."
"It was all the energy from my teammates," said Torrey. "We connected today. That got me pumped up. You always get a little nervous when you're behind. Saving (the free positions) was exciting. We had to keep our heads up and that's what we did."
Cole capitalized at the 8:10 mark, scoring unassisted and the deficit was down to one, but a mere 29 seconds later, Fortier threw a high pass that Ryan was able to catch in front before shooting past Torrey for a 9-7 advantage.
Falmouth wouldn't score again, however, and Waynflete kept coming as Veroneau turned the game into a personal crusade.
Veroneau, an elite cross country runner in the autumn and one of the state's finest girls' basketball players in the winter, boasts another gear that most athletes, male and female, can only dream of. She single-handedly put the Flyers on her shoulders and the result was heartbreak for the Yachtsmen.
With 7:11 left in the game, Veroneau drew the defense and fed Crane, whose shot was slowed by Aaskov, but the ball managed to trickle over the goal line to make the score 9-8.
Falmouth called timeout, but it didn't help as Waynflete got the ball and appeared to tie the score as Cole fed Foehl for a goal at 5:59.
It didn't count.
Foehl was ruled to be in the crease and the Yachtsmen had a reprieve, but it didn't last.
With 4:15 remaining, Veroneau wouldn't be denied, scoring on one of the more dazzling individual efforts you'd want to see. Veroneau split a pair of defenders, but as she raced in, was clipped from behind. While falling, she managed to get off a shot and Aaskov couldn't stop it.
For the seventh time, the score was tied.
Waynflete 9 Falmouth 9.
"I count on (Martha) the whole time to keep us in it,"said Cole.
"Martha is an amazing part of this team," Torrey said. "She puts all of her passion and skill into every game."
"Martha wasn't going to let us lose," added longtime Flyers coach Cathie Connors.
Veroneau credited someone very close to her for her motivation.
"One thing before the game that really inspired me personally was Catherine, my sister, who's out for a second straight season,'" Veroneau said. "She said, 'The last time I played on this field was states two years ago. You never know when your time is up. Take it and do all you can. Once it's over, you wish you had one more game.' I came into the game fully focusing on playing the game for her. We were basically in tears when she was talking since she's so motivational.
"There was a time I looked up and we were down by two and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm so tired. This team is so tough. Falmouth has a lot of tough players.' You never want to have your season end, so I just picked it up."
While plenty of time remained, it felt like the game was already in overtime.
Falmouth won the ensuing draw, but turned the ball over as Flyers senior Maddy Agnew snared the ground ball.
With 2:42 left, Cole got a look, but couldn't get much on the shot and Aaskov made her final save.
The Yachtsmen then got a pair of golden opportunities to retake the lead but Mallis was denied by Torrey and after getting a rebound, Mallis again had her shot turned away by Torrey.
Waynflete managed to keep possession into the final minute and nearly turned the ball over, but Crane came up with a critical ground ball.
Cole was then fouled as Fortier got her second yellow card and had to leave the game.
With under 30 seconds to go, Cole went one-on-one versus Aaskov with the game essentially on the line.
She ran in on the free position, took her time, then shot low and Aaskov couldn't make the save.
"I was pretty confident," Cole said. "You never know in games like this. You have to be ready for anything. I had faith we could pull it together and we worked hard and trusted each other. I was trying to just block everyone out. I knew I had to do it for my team. We might not have gotten another opportunity and honestly, I was too tired to go into overtime. I didn't really plan my shot. I hoped for the best. (Aaskov) saved a lot of high shots. I knew I had to run in and go low and I think it worked for me. I was lucky. In the right place at the right time."
With a mere 26.1 seconds to play, the Flyers were suddenly back on top, 10-9.
"I had faith in Sadie," Veroneau said. "Sadie picks it up when we need it."
"I was very confident," Connors said. "(Sadie) works hard. I knew she'd been patient. I was really hoping she'd make it."
Haley called timeout hoping to find a way for Falmouth to answer, but Cole won the draw as Maddy Agnew snared one of the most pivotal ground balls in Waynflete's storied history.
No team runs out the clock better than the Flyers and with so little time left to bleed, it was a done deal.
Waynflete held on to the ball until the clock struck zero and at 6:37 p.m., after 89 minutes of scintillating lacrosse, the Flyers had survived, 10-9.
"We've worked so much on draws because Molly's such an expert," said Cole. "We didn't win every one, but it was such a step up from winning five of 25. Maddy Agnew came up with an awesome ground ball. That did it for us. It felt like we won a championship."
In the aftermath, emotions were at a fever pitch for both teams.
Waynflete was relieved and exhilarated.
"It's incredible," Veroneau said. "Especially the atmosphere at Fitzy. Every single player on the team played an important part."
"This felt like a state game," said Cole. "It was at Fitzy. It was just intense, back and forth. In the games past, Falmouth was the team to come back. We had to come back in this game. That helped our motivation. I was personally really nervous before this game."
"I told my team, 'I've never experienced a feeling like that,'" Torrey said. "It's just a wave of honor, you can't even imagine. I'm still speechless."
"I can't help but feel sad for Falmouth," Connors added. "I wish it was the regional final. They're so great. It was such a fantastic game. Anyone watching the game, it had to be fantastic game to watch. I feel like it's going down as one of my all-timers. I love that we didn't stop playing as a team. Both teams did that. We broke the curse here."
The Flyers' potent and balanced offense featured four goals from Veroneau, three from Cole and one apiece from Isabel Agnew, Crane and Foehl. Veroneau had the team's lone assist.
Then there was Torrey, who made the most of her nine saves.
"Katherine was huge," said Veroneau. "She's been working hard. She improves every single practice. You really saw that today, especially in crunch time when she had to make those clutch saves."
"Katherine was terrific today," Connors said. "Rachel Lolley, my JV coach, has been working with her. She's been fantastic. She's volunteering, helping out."
The most glaring statistic from this one was draws, which saw Waynflete hold an 11-10 edge. Cole went 6 of 10, Veroneau 4 of 10 and Gray-Bauer go 1 for 1.
"Cathie took us and we worked on the draw in practice," said Veroneau. "We had a designated time to work on it since we know how good Molly Ryan is. We tried to compete with her. We won a lot more than last time."
"We actually worked all week on the draw," Connors said. "Fastbreaks are huge. Last time, they killed us."
The Flyers collected 26 ground balls to 19 for the Yachtsmen. Veroneau, fittingly, led all players with six. Unheralded junior Jo Moore, who is such an integral part of the zone defense, snared four.
In 50 minutes of taut, palpitating action, Waynflete committed a mere 10 turnovers.
The Flyers had a 27-21 shots advantage (21-18 on cage).
Falmouth got three goals from Bernier, two from Fortier and one apiece from Audet, Burton, Mallis and Ryan. Bernier and Fortier both had two assists, while Audet and Mallis both added one.
Aaskov had 11 goals and would have been the hero had the Yachtsmen held on.
"Moie kept us right in the game," Haley said. "We had 21 fouls at the half. That's a lot of scoring opportunities to give up."
Ryan won 6 of 14 draws, Fortier went 3 of 5 and Audet 1 of 2.
Falmouth got three ground balls apiece from Audet and Ryan and two each from Bernier, Burton, Fortier, Mallis and Waite. The Yachtsmen only gave the ball away 11 times, but had trouble holding on at the end.
Falmouth was left in disbelief to lament what-if.
"We had a couple key turnovers at the end which cost us significantly," Haley lamented. "If we'd gotten three (goals) up, it may have been the difference in winning the game. It was a great, well played game on both ends. It took until the final seconds to have somebody win. That's the kind of game you want in the playoffs. Two very well matched teams. On any given day, it could have been either one of us. Today, it was Waynflete. My hat's off to them. They never gave up. Neither did our girls. It was an exciting game to coach, an exciting game to play and an exciting game to watch. We made adjustments in the second half, but down to the wire, a couple plays made the difference. It was just Waynflete's day. I wish them well. "
Falmouth, which even without the hardware bows out with the heart of a champion, bids adieu to seniors Aaskov, Audet, Burton, Fortier, Smithwick and Katie Ventura, who will be missed.
"I'm so proud of this group," Haley said. "They did everything and more in terms of what I asked for. I couldn't have asked for a better group to coach. It was a very emotional year. I'm sad we couldn't reach the pinnacle, but the girls accomplished more than a lot of teams. They have nothing to be disappointed about. You can't take 10-3 away. We're right up there."
Plenty of talent returns, however, including junior defender Katie Cooleen, Mallis, sophomore defender Caroline McKeon, Ryan, sophomore Sabrina Smithwick and Waite.
The Yachtsmen will be back and someday very soon will reach the pinnacle.
"I'm returning a lot of talent," Haley said. "I hope it's not the last time we're hearing from Falmouth. We have some shoes to fill. We're getting closer and getting hungrier. That's what we have to build on. And we will."
Off to Cape
The Flyers now turn their attention to Cape Elizabeth (the No. 1 seed in Western B at 13-0), which had little trouble with No. 4 Greely in its semifinal Saturday, rolling, 18-10.
The Capers and Waynflete did not play in the regular season.
The Flyers have a lot of history in their favor going into that one as well. Waynflete has defeated Cape Elizabeth 18 straight times, including 8-7 in last year's Western B Final.
If the Flyers can bounce back from Saturday's emotional expenditure, they could earn a chance to play for yet another championship next Saturday (back at Fitzpatrick Stadium) versus Freeport or Yarmouth.
"We have to put all of our energy into it, play our best and see what comes out of it," Torrey said, of the regional final. "I feel good and confident. I think we're a great team. Cape's a great team. We'll just see."
"I think our confidence from this game will carry over," said Veroneau. "Hopefully we have two more in us. (We're) a special team. We can't be too confident because we know Cape's really well coached. They have a lot of good players. They're undefeated this season. I'm pretty sure it'll be a tough game. That's what you want at playoff time. We'll show up with our game and I'm sure they will too."
"Beating Falmouth is one of three big steps," said Cole. "There's more steps to go. Just getting this far with such a new team is such an amazing feeling. We haven't played (Cape). It's going to be so exciting to play them. It should be a great game."
"I feel like (the girls) really want it," Connors added. "I like that the pressure's not on us (this year)."