Flyers fend off feisty Falmouth to stay unbeaten
FALMOUTH—Considering the height at which its bar is set, it's not easy for the powerhouse Waynflete girls' lacrosse team to exceed expectations.
Yet that's exactly what the defending Class B state champions have done so far in 2013, as they've reached the midway point of the regular season playing nearly perfect.
Friday evening, on the turf field at Falmouth High School, the Flyers, just 48 hours after an inspirational, exhausting and statement-making win at Cape Elizabeth, avoided a letdown, but they had to dig deep to fight off a superb effort from the surging Falmouth Yachtsmen in a rematch of last year's playoff epic.
While Waynflete never trailed (it hasn't been behind for a single second of the 300 minutes this season), an easy victory wasn't to be.
The Flyers did jump out to a 5-1 lead behind three early goals from standout senior Sadie Cole, but the Yachtsmen crawled back within 5-3 at halftime and quick tallies early in the second half from junior sparkplug Sabrina Smithwick and senior Angela Mallis tied the score with just over 21 minutes to go.
Waynflete coach Cathie Connors called timeout and as so often happens, her team responded with a flourish.
The Flyers took the lead for good on fluky play in which a pass deflected off the stick of junior Walker Foehl and went into the net. Unheralded juniors Leigh Fernandez and Ella Millard quickly scored as well, giving Waynflete three goals in 1 minute, 32 seconds, but Falmouth refused to roll over.
Goals from Mallis and senior Molly Ryan, who was her usual dominant self in the draw circle got the hosts back within a goal, but Cole (unassisted) and junior Cat Johnson (from Foehl) answered to push the lead back out to three.
Yachtsmen senior Geneva Waite scored with 2:53 to play and Falmouth had its chances to draw even closer, but the Flyers managed to hold on for the 10-8 win.
Cole led the way with four goals, five other girls tickled the twine and Waynflete improved to 6-0, dropping the valiant Yachtsmen to 3-2 in the process.
"We have a ton of respect for Falmouth," Cole said. "They're one of my favorite teams to play. If it's not us winning, I'd like to see them win. These are the games we love. It was a combination of us coming off an exhausting game Wednesday and them having talented players. It wasn't going to be an easy game for us."
Falmouth and Waynflete have played regularly since the Yachstmen program began at the start of the century, but the rivalry was completely one-sided until just recently (please see below). In fact, the Flyers took the first seven meetings by a composite 89-16 margin. Falmouth began to close the gap in 2009, giving Waynflete a scare in the Western B Final before the Flyers pulled away in the second half for a 12-4 victory.
Three years ago, the Yachtsmen made things even closer in the regional final, but Waynflete prevailed again, 11-6. In 2011, Falmouth hung tough at home in the regular season, but lost, 12-8.
Then, last year, the Yachtsmen finally broke through. After the Flyers won in Falmouth in the first regular season meeting, 13-10, racing to a quick 7-1 lead and never looking back (Foehl and then junior Martha Veroneau both had four goals), the Yachtsmen erased a second half deficit at Waynflete on May 22 and behind four goals from Geneva Waite, then a junior, beat Waynflete for the first time in program annals, 13-10.
All of those prior meetings paled in comparison to what occurred last June 9 in a Western Class B semifinal round thriller, when the Flyers rallied from a two-goal second half deficit to eliminate the Yachtsmen, 10-9. on Cole's goal with 26.1 seconds to play.
That proved to be just the beginning of one of the most fabled playoff runs in the history of the state's proudest and most accomplished program, as Waynflete rallied again to stun Cape Elizabeth in the regional final (11-10, on Foehl's game-winner in the third overtime) before handling Freeport (16-5) to win the championship.
This year, the Yachtsmen, who, of the three Western B powers, were hit hardest by graduation, began with an impressive 16-7 home win over Yarmouth, as senior University of Vermont-bound standout Alex Bernier had eight goals. Falmouth was then humbled by visiting Cape Elizabeth, 18-5, before bouncing back with a stirring rally to edge visiting Marshwood, 11-10. Wednesday, the Yachtsmen held on for a hard-fought 11-8 victory at Yarmouth.
The Flyers, meanwhile, were running roughshod over the opposition like only they can, toying with visiting Wells, 14-2, host Yarmouth, 17-5, visiting Kennebunk, 15-1, and host Fryeburg, 15-3. Wednesday brought a true test, but Waynflete passed it with flying colors, leading the whole way and fending off a late charge to win at Cape Elizabeth, 10-8.
Friday, the Waynflete parade of scoring and defensive excellence rolled on and the Flyers extended their two-season win streak to 10 games, but they were pushed every step of the way.
Defense and goalkeeping ruled early in the contest as Waynflete senior goalie Katherine Torrey denied Ryan on an early free position and Falmouth freshman goalie Sarah Hutcheon continued her strong play by denying Veroneau, Foehl and Millard.
Finally, with 16:22 to play in the first half, with Bernier on the sidelines for two minutes after receiving a yellow card for a dangerous shot, Cole broke the ice with an unassisted goal in transition.
It took just 26 seconds for Waynflete to double its lead, as (still man-up), Veroneau spotted an open Foehl, who finished.
The hosts scored their first goal with 14:30 to play before halftime when Smithwick, who missed the first two games with a hand injury, but has emerged as one of the team's key scorers, finished a Bernier feed to make the score 2-1.
After Waite was sent to the sidelines with a yellow card, the Flyers got another man-up goal from Cole (assisted by Fernandez) at 13:45.
With 9:48 left in the half, Veroneau scored her lone goal of the night (perhaps a 50th birthday present for her father, Vin) and after Torrey made back-to-back highlight reel saves on bids from Bernier and Ryan at one end, Fernandez set up Cole for a goal and a 5-1 advantage with 7:51 to play before the break.
But just when it looked like Waynflete was going to pull way for yet another easy win, Falmouth dominated the remainder of the half.
Bernier continued her pinpoint passing display with 6:06 showing, finding Mallis for a goal to cut the deficit to three.
Smithwick then somehow got open in the Flyers' zone and finished a feed from Waite to make it a 5-3 game with 2:24 left.
"I say to Sabrina, 'Never underestimate your size, because it's key in big games.'" said Falmouth coach Robin Haley. "That was significant going against some height today. She was able to sneak in to the zone."
The Flyers appeared to extend their lead 26 seconds later, but a Johnson goal was waved off when she was ruled in the crease.
Cole then had a great chance to score after collecting a turnover, but Hutcheon denied her point blank.
The Yachtsmen had an opportunity to make it a one-goal game at halftime, but Waynflete senior defender Catherine Veroneau forced a turnover and the score remained 5-3 at the break.
Ryan's dominance in the draw circle (seven wins in nine opportunities) had given Falmouth the ball and the Yachtsmen's long possessions, even when they didn't bear fruit, had kept the ball away from the potent Flyers.
Any doubt that Falmouth was in it for the long haul was dashed early in the second half.
Smithwick scored on a free position two minutes in and Bernier set up Mallis with 21:21 to go and suddenly, the game was deadlocked, 5-5.
Connors, who possesses that sixth sense of just when her team needs a break, called a timeout, stressed possession and Waynflete responded with a surge that put it ahead for good.
Foehl won the draw out of the break (just the Flyers' third draw win to that point after 10 losses) and after a pass was sent to her near the goal, Foehl couldn't catch it, but the ball took a lucky bounce off her stick and went past Hutcheon into the net for a 6-5 lead.
Even the players on the field couldn't describe what exactly occurred.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened," Fernandez said. "It was a pass, Walker went for it and the pass deflected off her stick."
"It was just a funny bounce," Cole said. "It was kind of an awkward goal, but a goal's a goal and we'll take it."
Foehl won another draw and set up Fernandez for a goal at 19:34 and a little over a minute later, Fernandez, from behind the goal, threw a high pass, but Millard managed to stretch for it, bring the ball down and shoot it past Hutcheon to make it an 8-5 game with 18:31 to play.
"It was a great catch and a great cut," said Fernandez. "We needed momentum. (Ella) had a great finish."
The timeout had paid big-time dividends.
"(Cathie) just wanted us to go back to playing how we were Wednesday night," said Cole. "It's hard to bring that much intensity two games in a row. (Falmouth) came out fired up, they were on and we had to match that. We didn't have a choice."
"Cathie always gives us a good timeout pep talk," said senior defender Rhiannan Jackson. "She told us what we needed to do and we just had to go out and do it."
"We settled down better and and had crisp passes," said Fernandez. "We called plays and regrouped."
Again, the Yachtsmen rose off the deck as Bernier found a cutting Mallis for a gorgeous feed and finish at 16:51 to make it 8-6.
After both Falmouth freshman London Bernier and Martha Veroneau were denied on respective free positions, Bernier set up Ryan with exactly 12 minutes showing to make it an 8-7 game.
The Yachtsmen could never quite catch up this time, however.
Mallis had a pair of chances, but her first shot was saved by Torrey and after collecting the rebound, Mallis shot wide.
With 9:56 left, Cole gave Waynflete a little breathing room with an unassisted tally.
Torrey came up huge again to preserve that advantage, first denying a Bernier free position, then stopping a Smithwick rebound bid.
With 5:22 remaining, after a Falmouth turnover, Foehl showed her blazing speed, racing two-thirds of the field with no one else even close, then passed to Johnson in front, who beat Hutcheon to make it 10-7.
The Yachtsmen made things interesting again with 2:53 showing, when Ryan set up Waite for a goal to make it 10-8, but the Flyers forced one turnover to help drain time before Bernier hit the crossbar as time expired, allowing Waynflete to hold on for a palpitating triumph.
"We know Falmouth's a really good team and we knew they wanted to beat us," Jackson said. "They're the only team to beat us last year. I think we tried to forget about the Cape game and tried to focus on what we're doing today. We knew they're just as good as we are."
"I felt it could be a really strong season, but I am a little surprised and psyched it's gone so well," Connors said. "After the Cape game and the seven seniors took exams all week. I could see in the warmups that we seemed tired. I don't want to take anything away from Falmouth though. They played an amazing game. They came out hard and strong. Alex was definitely on. I had a feeling we'd have trouble with Molly again. They made good cuts. I don't have a problem with how the zone was. They just played it well. They were fast. We had a case of the dropsies, which didn't help us. What's important to me is how we rally."
Cole led a balanced offensive attack with four goals. She's also seeing some time on the zone this season, which, with her size, makes the Waynflete defense even more formidable.
"It's new this year where Leigh and I switch in to the zone," Cole said. "I like playing defense."
"We're working on Leigh and Sadie going in to the zone and giving Martha, Ella and Walker a break," Connors said. "I want to get to the point where whoever's at the line first, goes over."
Foehl had a pair of goals, Fernandez, Johnson, Millard and Veroneau one each.
Fernandez also had three assists.
"Leigh was really on today," Connors said. "She's gotten better every game. She hustles like nobody's business. She was crucial in slowing the transition."
Foehl had two assists and Veroneau one. Torrey made seven saves, each of them crucial. Veroneau had a team-high eight ground balls, while Cole collected six.
The Flyers won just eight of 20 draws, but Foehl was a big success in the circle, taking 7 of 11.
Waynflete only turned the ball over 14 times and continued its precision shooting by putting 20 of 21 shots on cage.
Falmouth got three goals each from Mallis and Smithwick. Ryan and Waite both scored once.
Bernier added a whopping five assists, as her eye and stick skills proved too much for even the state's best defense.
"Alex is huge for us," Haley said. "She was dealing with a bit of an injury this evening, but she found a way to be a significant contributor. It paid off."
Even Waynflete was in awe of Bernier's passing.
"Falmouth was good at figuring out how to beat (the zone) since Alex's an expert at assisting," Cole said. "She has a lot of patience and can see the open player."
"Alex did a really good job with her behind the net passes," Jackson said. "We know she's good."
Ryan and Waite added one assist apiece. Ryan won 12 of 20 draws and grabbed 11 ground balls.
"Molly was really key this evening," said Haley. "Not only in the draws, but also in the 12-meter. She snagged some passes and found players cutting through."
Bernier finished with eight ground balls. Hutcheon had her best game to date, stopping 10 shots.
"Sarah made some huge saves tonight," said Haley.
The Yachtsmen finished with 18 turnovers, a very respectable number against the Flyers, and outshot the visitors, 23-21.
"I'm proud of how we played tonight," Haley said. "Waynflete's a great team. It was a great game. I'm certainly disappointed in losing, but the effort and the way we executed, I'm really pleased. We've had some struggles, but this shows we're still in it. Having to play down a couple times, we fought a good fight. I think (the two teams) balance each other out, in terms of our play. We each have our strengths, although they're very different. It's a very even, sportsmanlike game."
Long way to go
Falmouth still has time to solve the top teams, while Waynflete, believe it or not, can still fine-tune some things.
The Yachtsmen look to get back on track Thursday at Fryeburg. They have a challenging crossover test at Kennebunk next Saturday. Falmouth still has road games remaining at Waynflete and Cape Elizabeth.
Look for the Yachtsmen to build on this performance and remain in the hunt until the very end.
"We have things coming together," Haley said. "That makes a big difference. I'm looking forward to playing (Waynflete) again on grass. We won there last time."
The Flyers will look to improve to 7-0 Tuesday, when they host Freeport in a state final rematch. A trip to Greely looms Thursday, then Waynflete will gear up for its second challenge against Cape Elizabeth (May 13, at Fore River Fields). Home games with Falmouth and Yarmouth and a trip to Cheverus close the schedule.
Going undefeated isn't the goal. Continuing to improve and being the last team standing is.
"We've all jelled well," said Fernandez. "We have to stay humble and not get too ahead of ourselves. We can't overlook anyone. We'll try our best to stay grounded."
"We need to keep working hard and finish out every play and every game," Jackson said. "We can go far."
"We're undefeated, but it doesn't necessarily feel like that," said Cole. "We don't go into games thinking it will be easy. We know there's a target on our back and we don't take it lightly. We have a hard time with draws against (Falmouth). That's something we have to work on."
"The draw is always something we can work on and slowing down the midfield is something we need to work on too," Connors added. "If we play like we did against Kennebunk and Cape, we have a quality season ahead of us."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Waynflete-Falmouth results
Waynflete 18 @ Falmouth 10
Waynflete 12 @ Falmouth 8
@ Waynflete 10 Falmouth 2
@ Waynflete 9 Falmouth 2
Waynflete 12 @ Falmouth 1
@ Waynflete 13 Falmouth 0
Waynflete 14 @ Falmouth 3
Waynflete 13 @ Falmouth 4