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Waynflete ends Cape's unbeaten run in OT, advances to another state final

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Waynflete ends Cape's unbeaten run in OT, advances to another state final

CAPE ELIZABETH—Leave it to the Waynflete girls' lacrosse team to find a way to win a game it didn't lead for nearly 60 minutes and even trailed in by four goals deep into the second half.

But no obstacle stops these fabulous Flyers. who continue to find new, breathtaking ways to steal victory from the certain jaws of defeat.

Wednesday evening, in a palpitating and memorable Western Class B Final at Hannaford Field, Waynflete and the host undefeated Cape Elizabeth Capers penned an improbable tale of drama, comebacks, heartache and exhilaration.

The unbeaten Capers lived up to their seed in the first half, controlling play and racing to a 6-3 halftime lead behind a balanced and potent offense.

Cape Elizabeth went up 7-3 early in the second stanza and 8-4 with 13:27 to go, but anyone who follows the Flyers knew the game was far from over.

Sure enough, four days after one of the most stirring rallies in this most storied of program's annals, Waynflete pecked away and wrested back momentum. The Flyers scored three times in just over a two-minute span late in regulation, capped by a simply sensational individual effort by otherworldly junior Martha Veroneau, who forced a turnover, collected a ground ball and scored the tying goal all in one seemingly fell swoop with 2:21 left on the clock to make it 8-8.

Waynflete held for the winning goal at the end of regulation, but couldn't convert.

After both teams scored twice in the six-minute overtime, the game came down to "sudden victory," where each squad would have an opportunity, but the Flyers simply wouldn't be denied.

To the surprise of no one, Veroneau was in the middle of the winning goal, but instead of finishing, she found wide open sophomore Walker Foehl, who tickled the twine to end this epic odyssey and give Waynflete an improbable, inspirational and close to impossible to fathom 11-10 win.

Veroneau had three goals and a mind-boggling seven assists, Foehl and junior Sadie Cole both scored three times, junior goalie Katherine Torrey continued her strong postseason with 10 timely saves and the Flyers improved to 13-1, ended the Capers' season at 13-1 and punched their ticket to Saturday's Class B state final, their fifth in a row, versus either Freeport or Yarmouth, 10 a.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

"It's awesome," said Foehl, the unassuming and precocious sophomore who has emerged as a top threat this spring. "I'm so excited. It was such a team effort. We played with so much heart and came from behind. Everyone just feeds off each other for motivation. The little things everyone does culminates in goals. We never give up."

Never surrender

The three best girls' lacrosse teams in the state this spring all resided in Western Class B and while Waynflete only dropped one regular season game, Cape Elizabeth managed to go undefeated for the first time in a decade.

The Capers got things started with a 19-8 home win over Greely, then downed host Freeport (15-7), visiting Gorham (16-8), host York (16-8), visiting Yarmouth (14-6) and visiting Greely 8-7. On May 12, Cape Elizabeth answered any remaining doubters with a decisive 11-5 victory at two-time defending Class A champion Scarborough. Wins over visiting Freeport (19-8), host Fryeburg (16-1), visiting Wells (21-6), visiting York (15-6) and finally host Falmouth (a 15-14 thriller) gave it the No. 1 seed.

The Capers were pushed for a half by No. 4 Greely in Saturday's semifinals, but pulled away in the second half for an 18-10 win behind seven goals from junior standout Lauren Steidl and five more from her equally excellent classmate Talley Perkins.

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 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 in the region.

The Flyers then avenged their regular season loss Saturday, rallying from an 8-6 second half deficit to prevail, 10-9, on Cole's free position goal with 26.1 seconds to go.

Considering recent history, the last team Cape Elizabeth wanted to play was Waynflete, since the Flyers had beaten the Capers 18 straight times (please see sidebar), dating back to Cape Elizabeth's 10-9 win at Waynflete way back on May 4, 2002.

The Flyers entered the contest 6-0 all-time against the Capers in the playoffs, including last year's 8-7 close call in the Western B Final.

Like last season, Wednesday's matchup was dramatic and it had a familiar result.

The first half witnessed poised and confident play from the hosts, while Waynflete was uncharacteristically sloppy at times.

Cape Elizabeth broke the ice just 1 minute, 23 seconds into the 25-minute first half when Steidl took pass from sophomore Liz Robinson and sent a shot past Torrey.

Waynflete drew even with 22:02 to go in the first half when Veroneau set up sophomore Ella Millard for a shot that Capers junior goalie Elin Sonesson couldn't handle.

Just 14 seconds later, off a draw win, the hosts went back on top as senior Bella Robinson passed to Perkins, who sent a quick bounce shot past Torrey.

With 17:55 to go before halftime, Steidl set up Bella Robinson for a finish and a 3-1 lead.

After Sonesson robbed Veroneau on the defensive end, Cape Elizabeth transitioned and Perkins beat Torrey through a screen at 14:18 to make it 4-1, forcing Flyers coach Cathie Connors to use a timeout.

It settled her charges down, especially on defense, but Waynflete wasn't able to cut into its deficit until 5:38 remained in the half when Cole scored for the first time, finishing a pass from Foehl.

The visitors had a chance to get even closer a minute later, but Sonesson stopped a Cole shot, then denied Veroneau's flick on the rebound.

With 3:40 left, Steidl threw a high pass, but Liz Robinson came down with it and shot past Torrey to make it 5-2.

When sophomore Hannah Newhall displayed her athleticism and raced nearly three-quarters of the field to score unassisted 44 seconds later, the Capers were on the verge of breaking it open, but the Flyers stemmed the tide as Veroneau scored unassisted with 1:59 left.

That made it a 6-3 game at halftime.

Even though Cape Elizabeth had an advantage in ground balls, shots and saves in the first 25 minutes, the contest was far from over.

The second half would feature emotion swings, great plays and uncertainty until the final buzzer.

Then beyond.

As they did in the first half, the Capers started hot, going back up by four goals, 7-3, when senior Janessa White eschewed a free position shot and instead passed to Steidl, who beat Torrey to make it 7-3.

Again, Waynflete stayed within hailing distance, answering seconds after Perkins was sent to the sidelines with a yellow card as the dynamic Cole to Veroneau tandem produced a goal and it was 7-4 with 17:26 still to play.

Both goalies then took centerstage.

Torrey robbed sophomore Abby McInerney, Steidl and Perkins in a 2 minute, 26 second span, but Sonesson was just as effective at the other end, denying Cole and Foehl.

With 13:27 to play in regulation, Perkins passed to Bella Robinson, whose shot was slowed by Torrey, but the ball managed to trickle over the goal line to make it an 8-4 game.

The Flyers were on the canvas once more, but they had the Capers right where they wanted them.

Connors called timeout and as has so often been the case the past two decades, her charges answered as Veroneau set up Foehl for a goal at 12:25, cutting the deficit to 8-5.

Waynflete had trouble drawing closer as Sonesson turned aside shots from sophomore Sofia Canning, Cole (on a free position), Millard (a kick save) and Cole (who was denied point blank). Mix in a shot by Cole which hit the crossbar and it appeared as if the Flyers were doomed.

But Waynflete simply wouldn't quit and with 4:37 to go, Veroneau set up Cole for a goal, making it 8-6 and forcing Cape Elizabeth to call timeout.

It didn't help as Veroneau set up Foehl for a goal with 3:42 still to play and for the first time since it was 2-1, the Flyers were only down one.

With 2:46 left, Cole's game-tying bid was denied by Sonesson, but while attempting to clear the ball, the Capers committed a fatal mistake.

Out of nowhere swooped Veroneau to knock the ball away from a defender. The ground ball came right to her and she went one-on-one with a helpless Sonesson and finished at 2:21, leaping into the air in celebration as suddenly, unthinkably, the game was deadlocked, 8-8.

"(The Capers) were going to get a fastbreak, so I checked the girl and luckily didn't get called for the check," Veroneau said. "I think it was a clean check. I got the ball. (Elin's) a really good goalie. It went my way and it went in."

When Waynflete freshman secret weapon Helen Gray-Bauer won the ensuing draw to Veroneau, the Flyers were able to hold for the last shot, with a chance to win it in regulation.

Waynflete ran the clock under 10 seconds before Veroneau tried to find some room.

"We didn't want (Cape) to have the ball at that point," Cole said. "We were trying to stall a little bit until we had the right opportunity. Their goalie is amazing."

"We pulled (the ball) out," Veroneau said. "We wanted to run our stall and get the last shot. With their top players, we didn't want them to get the ball. Lauren and Talley were capable of putting one in."

As time expired, Veroneau wasn't able to shoot, but an official raised a flag for a free position.

Cape Elizabeth first-year coach Jeff Perkins adamantly argued the call, saying the horn had sounded and after consulting among themselves and with the timekeeper, the referees ruled the penalty came after the horn and it was on to overtime.

"I had heard the horn sound," said Perkins. "It seemed like it went on for three or four seconds before (the referee) pulled the flag. I'm just thankful they talked to each other and came over and talked to the timekeeper. It shows how good of an officiating crew it was to make that decision."

"I was told there was time left, but I don't really know what happened," Veroneau said.

In Maine high school girls' lacrosse, teams play a six-minute overtime, three minutes going one way, then three the other. If the score remains tied, play continues until a "sudden victory" goal is scored.

Having erased a four-goal deficit, the Flyers appeared to have things going their way.

"We definitely had momentum going into overtime," Veroneau said. "When you're undefeated, you're not accustomed to being down. I think the Falmouth game, we know what it's like to be down and come back."

Instead, as they did to start the game, the Capers struck first.

Steidl won the draw and just 14 seconds into OT, Newhall scored on a free position, as her shot hit Torrey's pad and ricocheted in.

With 2:05 left in the first portion of OT, Cole took a pass from Veroneau and sent a high shot past Sonneson to make it 9-9.

With 1:18 to go, Steidl took a pass from Newhall and bounced a low shot past Torrey and once more Cape Elizabeth was on top, but with just 20.5 seconds remaining, Millard received a pass from Veroneau and finished to make it a brand new ballgame once again, 10-10.

Gray-Bauer won the opening draw to start the second three-minute session and the Flyers looked as if they'd hold for the final shot, but Veroneau saw a seam and sent a shot that was high.

With 22 seconds left, Veroneau was awarded a free position, but Sonesson made yet another breathtaking save.

Waynflete retained possession and with 11.4 seconds to go, Millard hit the post.

The rebound came to Foehl, who tried to win it in the final second, but she shot wide and it was on to "sudden victory" overtime.

By this stage, it was unfortunate that the two teams couldn't combine into an all-star squad and represent the West on Saturday.

A winner had to be crowned, however, and on the teams played.

Cape Elizabeth had the first chance to win the game as Steidl captured the draw and after patiently passing the ball around, Perkins tried to fire past Torrey, but Torrey made the relatively easy save.

That would prove to be the Capers' final shot of the season.

The Flyers looked to transition to offense, but turned the ball over, only to see Cape Elizabeth give it right back as Millard snared a ground ball.

"We wanted to keep moving the ball," said coach Perkins. "I think Talley saw an opening and wanted to take a shot. You can't take that out of somebody. You want that aggressiveness. I believe she thought she could make that shot, she took the shot and the goalie made the save. Then, we got the ball back on transition and we gave it away. We had our opportunities. That's all you can ask for in sudden death, to have opportunities."

That sent the stage for one of the biggest goals in Waynflete's storybook history.

The winner came on one of the easiest looks of the night. Foehl passed to Veroneau, then made a cut that froze a defender. Veroneau dished the ball right back to Foehl in front and Sonesson never had a chance.

Foehl's shot tickled the twine and at 6:56 p.m., 1 hour, 46 minutes after the start of the passion play, the fabulous Flyers had somehow found a way to win a game they had no business stealing.

Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 10.

"It was a really great pass," Foehl said. "It was a simple draw-and-dump. Something we've worked on all year. I thought a little bit, but in the split second, I just shot it. It was just amazing."

"Walker came out of nowhere," Veroneau said. "She's been phenomenal as a sophomore. She made an incredible cut. She was open in the middle. I found her and she finished. I was confident she would."

Can you believe it?

"I think once we got to 8-6, it was like, 'We did this against Falmouth, we can do it again,'" said Waynflete junior defender Rhiannan Jackson. "I just got so pumped and was ready to do it. Everyone knew we could do it. I was really excited at the end, even though we were down."

"It was amazing," Gray-Bauer said. "I can't even put into words what I'm feeling right now. I'm full of emotions because we're so much of one unit. We love each other a lot and it really shows. We definitely proved today we're the better team and we pulled through and I couldn't be more proud."

"I don't even know what to say," said Cole. "We had momentum going into overtime. I knew it was our game. When Walker scored that goal, I was just so proud of the team. I honestly can't believe we came back. It's the biggest feat we ever accomplished and I'm so proud to be a part of it. Cathie says it's every single person. It's (injured junior) Catherine Veroneau on the bench. It's the non-starters who are there to motivate us when we're down. Cape's an amazing team. They have some of the best players I've ever played against. We had a change in momentum and I knew we could do it. You get the boost when you're the team coming back. The fans were going crazy. It was the most amazing energy I've ever felt."

"It was definitely more difficult (than the Falmouth game)," Veroneau added. "It was tough not seeing a team before. We knew (Cape would) be really tough. Once we came out and started playing, we were really nervous and it showed. We got down early. Second half, I think we warmed up and were able to come back. Everyone hit that point where we started to doubt ourselves. Cathie's so motivational on the sidelines. Being down by four, I don't know what to say. It all goes back to the people on the bench. Cathie's an incredible coach. She inspires us. She always knows what to say and how to push us. She's prepared us so well."

Waynflete was once again bolstered by its vociferous bench players, including Catherine Veroneau, who is sidelined for a second successive spring with a knee injury.

"I know Catherine's on the bench," Martha Veroneau said, of her twin sister. "She wants to be playing. You can't come out here and not give your all when she's sitting on the bench."

The Flyers' offense featured three goals each from Cole, Foehl and Veroneau and a pair from Millard, whose return from an ankle injury for the playoffs has only made her team that much stronger.

The goals were impressive, but a seven assist night is virtually unheard of and that was Veroneau's latest magic act. Cole and Foehl each assisted on one goal.

In all, Waynflete's 11 goals featured nine assists.

Torrey had a second straight stellar second half effort and was lost in the shuffle, but her 10 saves were all crucial. Had any of those shots gone in, the Flyers' season likely would have ended.

"Katherine's the best goalie in the state," said Jackson. "I am so confident in Katherine. I trust her so much. She's awesome."

"The defense was a rock," Cole said. "They played the way a zone is supposed to be played. They came up with ground balls."

Waynflete was bested in the draw circle, 13-12, but you wouldn't know it as Gray-Bauer came off the bench to win 4 of 11 opportunities, helping turn the tide.

"It's a lot of pressure," said Gray-Bauer, of her role on draws. "I knew draw control was such a big thing this year. We had some not so good stats this year. It's all I thought about and all I wanted. We did great. In all sports, everyone's way taller than I am. I have to fight for it and give my all. It usually works out for the best."

"Helen was fantastic," Connors said. "She changed the energy and the girls were on fire. We've been working on (Helen taking draws). We actually worked on it for Falmouth. I probably waited too long. She can jump. She's aggressive. She fights. She's fast. She made a difference."

Veroneau won 5 of 6 draws, Cole went 3 of 7 and Foehl 0 of 1.

Veroneau also led the Flyers in ground balls with eight.

Waynflete turned the ball over a mere 10 times in nearly 60 minutes of extreme pressure. Only two of those turnovers came after halftime.

The Flyers ended up with a 31-24 shots advantage (26-20 on cage).

"Both teams were fantastic," said Connors. "I felt like being four goals behind, you don't know. Cape scared me every time they had the ball. It was a beautiful game. It could have been anybody's. Honestly, the girls are doing it for Catherine. The last timeout, that was their cheer. They're so driven. They wanted another chance at (states). It was pure heart and determination. The whole time, the girls were like, 'We're doing this.' It was a great game. Everybody did something fantastic. I'm really happy for Walker, because she's worked hard all season. She plays up and down the field. She fights for everything."

Left in shock

Cape Elizabeth's offense featured three goals from Steidl, two each from Newhall, Perkins and Bella Robinson and one from Liz Robinson. Steidl also had a pair of assists, while Newhall, Perkins, Bella Robinson, Liz Robinson and White had one apiece.

Newhall's incredible speed and separation stood out.

"In the first half, we put her in for her speed and it worked like a charm," coach Perkins said. "I think they got tired chasing. She had a really strong game from that standpoint. She saw openings and took them today. She's gotten more mature and made more plays."

Sonesson, who wasn't able to play in last year's regional final, had 15 big-time saves.

"Elin always makes great saves," said Perkins.

Stiedl went 13 of 25 on draws.

The Capers had a commanding 47-29 edge in ground balls. Perkins collected a game-high nine, while Stiedl finished with seven.

Cape Elizabeth, which only gave the ball away seven times in the first half, ended up with 19 turnovers.

"(Waynflete) pressed really well," coach Perkins said. "We talked at halftime and we knew they'd come out and do different things. They did a great job. In the first half, they let us have midfield passes. In the second half, they really pressured our defense to get that first pass. That was a great adjustment."

This Capers group was worthy of winning a championship and could have been a titlist in many other seasons.

Their first loss came at the worst possible time.

"It was a heartbreaker," Perkins said. "If this game doesn't enhance the sport of lacrosse in the state of Maine, I don't know what will."

Cape Elizabeth was truly championship worthy this spring, but will have to settle for a magnificent regular season.

"I told (the girls) we've never gone 13-0 before," Perkins said. "We never had two home games. We played for one homefield game and we got two. At the beginning of the season nobody, even me, would've told you we'd go 13-0 and get two home games. The girls had a great season and beat all expectations. I think at the end, the expectations went the other way. We did what we were supposed to, came out and won games."

The Capers will take their share of graduation hits, but Newhall, Perkins, Sonesson and Steidl all return to spearhead what should be a potent and hungry team in 2013.

Perhaps next spring is the year Cape Elizabeth finishes the job.

"It's a little hard to look ahead right now," said coach Perkins. "I had a meeting with the seniors after and thanked them for what they've done to take the program to where it is today. They had a lot to do with it. It'll hurt to have them missing, but we have good stuff going on in Cape. Our JV had good players too. We're excited about the future."

One more step

Waynflete will face the Freeport-Yarmouth winner in Saturday morning's Class B state game. The Clippers (7-6) and Falcons (7-6) were supposed to play Wednesday afternoon, but poor field conditions moved that game Thursday at 4 p.m. in Freeport.

The Flyers handled the defending Class B champion Clippers with ease in the regular season, winning at home, 13-2, on April 25 and closing the year with a 17-7 triumph at Yarmouth May 23.

The teams have met six previous times in state finals, with each winning three. Yarmouth prevailed in a 9-8 classic last spring.

The Flyers got a challenge from the Falcons in the regular season, but held on for a 13-10 win at Freeport on May 18. The teams have no playoff history in the Maine Principles' Association sanctioned era.

While many would argue that Waynflete surviving the Western B gauntlet was akin to winning the title and that Saturday will be a mere formality or coronation, the Flyers know otherwise and plan to prepare hard for their final game of the season.

"I'm so pumped for Saturday," Jackson said.

"We're going to keep our same plan and play with so much heart," Gray-Bauer said. "We really want to win a state title."

"We'll have two strong practices," said Veroneau. "We work so well together. That's why we're able to do everything we've done this season. When we're down, we don't start yelling at each other."

Even if it said otherwise, Waynflete certainly wouldn't mind a shot at avenging last year's state final loss.

"We're so excited," Cole said. "I don't think of (Yarmouth) as a different team. If it's Yarmouth, I don't even think of all the seniors they lost. It's going to be a tough game. We'll have to come out with as much intensity as today."

"If it's Yarmouth, they've played in the playoffs," Connors added. "They know how to play in states. We'll play just like we did today. We'll fight that hard and hopefully we can win."

"This is a special team," Veroneau added. "I hope we have one more in us."

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

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Two of Wednesday's premier players, Waynflete junior Martha Veroneau and Cape Elizabeth sophomore Hannah Newhall, battle for a ground ball.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Waynflete junior Jo Moore attempts to defend Cape Elizabeth junior Talley Perkins.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth junior Lauren Steidl, who scored three times Wednesday, shoots at Waynflete junior goalie Katherine Torrey.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Waynflete junior Sadie Cole's second half shot is denied by Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Elin Sonesson, who makes one of her 15 saves.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

The victor's spoils. Waynflete will face either Freeport or Yarmouth in Saturday's Class B state final.