New-look Capers begin title defense with win over Waynflete
CAPE ELIZABETH—The Cape Elizabeth boys' lacrosse team hasn't repeated as state champion since 2002-03.
That might change this spring.
While June is still a long way off, the 2014 Capers debuted in emphatic fashion Friday afternoon at Hannaford Field and as a result, you can't help but wonder just how special this squad might become.
Hosting Waynflete, Cape Elizabeth got two quick goals from junior sharpshooter Griffin Thoreck and never looked back.
The Capers led, 3-0, after one period and 6-0 at halftime before gradually pulling away to prevail, 15-1.
Thoreck scored four times, as did unheralded junior Ben Shea and seven different players tickled the twine as Cape Elizabeth produced an impressive early statement.
"We don't approach things any differently than any other year," said longtime Capers coach Ben Raymond. "Last year's finish doesn't matter. It's where we finish this year."
Both Cape Elizabeth and Waynflete were playoff teams in 2013, but the Capers enjoyed a happier ending.
The Flyers finished 7-7 last spring, losing, 16-3, at Cape Elizabeth in the Western B semifinals.
The Capers then edged Falmouth in an overtime classic in the regional final before holding off Yarmouth, 7-4, to win the championship and finish 13-2.
In addition to the playoff victory, Cape Elizabeth also handled Waynflete in the regular season meeting, 16-9.
The Capers have never lost to the Flyers since the Maine Principals' Association began sanctioning lacrosse in 1998 and hadn't lost them before then either.
Friday, Cape Elizabeth impressed.
Waynflete actually had the first good scoring chance, as junior Harry Baker-Connick had a great look 37 seconds in, but Capers reserve goalie, sophomore Alex Narvaez, made the save. On the play, Baker-Connick was injured and he would not return, minimizing the Flyers' already slim chances.
"It was tough," said Waynflete second-year coach Dan Thomsen, about Baker-Connick's departure. "That was a big factor in the game. We sure missed him. We had to change some things up."
With 10:35 to play in the first period, Thoreck scored the first of what figures to be many goals this year, converting unassisted to put the Capers ahead for good.
"It's good to hit your first shot and they keep coming after that," Thoreck said. "I look forward to getting into a groove."
Less than two minutes later, Thoreck struck again to double the lead.
Shea first made his presence felt with 3:08 to play in the first quarter, with an unassisted tally of his own.
In the first 12 minutes, Waynflete hung tough, but was hindered by nine turnovers.
Cape Elizabeth continued to gain separation in the second quarter.
Three minutes in, Shea took a pass from junior Noah Haversat and beat Waynflete junior goalie Graham Ratner.
Midway through the quarter, the Flyers almost got on the board, but after a nifty individual move, senior Henry Cleaves hit the post with a shot.
Not only was Waynflete denied a goal, but adding insult to injury, the Capers transitioned and Shea took a pass from freshman Owen Thoreck and finished for a 5-0 advantage.
It was Shea's third goal in just over nine minutes.
"We had a lot of really good transition," said Shea. "We had a lot of 1-2-3 pass goals and that worked out for us today. Last year, I was restricted to man-up. To play full games this year, I can definitely use my assets more."
While Shea wasn't well known entering the game, his teammates and coach certainly know what he's capable of.
"Ben was more of an assist guy last year, but he moves the ball, keeps his head up and has a lot of lacrosse knowledge," Griffin Thoreck said. "That's always good in an attackman."
"Ben was behind another senior last year," Raymond said. "He's a threat to score. His vision is very good. He's a great feeder. He needs to work on his ability to dodge and move without the ball and he'll be very good."
In the final minute of the half, senior Tom Feenstra, an erstwhile attack, now playing on defense, raced into the offensive zone in transition and beat Ratner for a man-down goal and a 6-0 lead at the break.
"I switched to defense to help out and I got to go down the field and score, so that was good," Feenstra said.
The hosts kept the pressure on in the third period.
In a 73-second span, sophomore Riley Pillsbury sandwiched unassisted goals around a man-up tally from sophomore R.J. Sarka (assisted by Shea). Pillsbury's second tally came off a faceoff win following Sarka's strike.
With 7:39 left in the third, Shea scored again, with Pillsbury getting the assist, pushing the lead to 10-0.
Finally, with 3:23 remaining in the frame, the Flyers got on the board, as senior Timmy Bollinger set up sophomore Will Lewis.
"Will's a great shooter," Thomsen said. "He'll have to do a lot for us this year. Everybody will."
Cape Elizabeth then ended all doubt in the fourth quarter, inducing a running clock by extending its lead to 12 goals.
After Haversat and Owen Thoreck scored unassisted, Haversat set up Griffin Thoreck to make it 13-1. Feenstra added an unassisted tally and with 2:01 to go, Griffin Thoreck scored his final goal, from Shea.
"It's good to get a win and get off on a good foot and build on that," Thoreck said.
If there were any questions that Cape Elizabeth was still a team to beat, the Capers responded with a vengeance.
"We weren't really concerned," Feenstra said. "We knew we have a bunch of good guys. We're fighting for a championship yet again. It felt good to get out there. We played all winter in anticipation and it's finally here. We still have Trevor Gale and Caelan Houle, so we knew we had defenders. We're running a good high pressure defense like we did last year and it's working out."
"We're definitely one of the top teams," Shea said. "We have a lot of underclassmen stepping up. We still seem to be strong on defense with a core of seniors."
"It's a different group of kids," Raymond added. "We have a lot of young kids who weren't even on the team last year. We're working on instilling the work ethic and what's expected of them every day. Three freshmen, Owen, Connor (Thoreck) and Jeb Boeschenstein, all got in a lot today."
Shea and Griffin Thoreck both paced the offense with four goals and Shea credited his prolific teammate for his ability to score.
"(The defense will) be all over Griffin and that gives me and the other attackmen a little bit of time and room to achieve," Shea said.
Feenstra and Pillsbury both had two goals, while Haversat, Sarka and Owen Thoreck each scored once.
Haversat and Shea both had two assists, while Pillsbury and Owen Thoreck added one.
Narvaez made six saves and Cape Elizabeth's defense, as it was all of last season, was stellar.
"I think our defense is looking great," Griffin Thoreck said. "We're still playing the same defense we played last year, with maybe a slight modification or two. Alex stepped up as goalie today and played great. It's good to have two good goalies."
The Capers finished with a 37-11 advantage in shots (25-6 on cage). They also won the ground ball battle, 44-29 (Feenstra and Haversat led the way with six apiece, while senior Caelan Houle collected five). The numbers weren't all good, however, as Cape Elizabeth committed 23 turnovers.
Needless to say, Raymond knows there's still a long way to go.
"It was definitely a lot more sloppy than we anticipated," he said. "We threw the ball away and weren't great on ground balls. We had better transition in the second half. I'd love it if we scored a little more. We had more open looks than what we converted on. We still broke down a little bit, but that's OK. It's very early."
Waynflete got five ground balls from sophomore Aaron Lee and four apiece from Lewis, Cleaves and sophomore Cooper Chap, 10 saves from Ratner and won the faceoff battle, 10-8, but was doomed by 33 turnovers.
"We tried to run with them, but they're a good team," Thomsen said. "With the numbers we have, it's tough. They're always tough. We tried to focus on ourselves mostly this week and get better. Our goalie, once he got in the rhythm, made some good saves. We need a good faceoff guy to emerge. We're still looking for that one guy to fill the void."
A look ahead
Waynflete is back in action April 29, when it opens the home portion of its schedule versus York.
Look for this team to show steady improvement in the weeks to come.
"There's a long way to go," Thomsen said. "We've got a lot to learn. Hopefully we learned a lesson or two today."
As for the defending champs, they'll be tested April 29 when they go to Yarmouth for a state final rematch.The rest of the schedule includes many other tests as well.
These Capers feel they're ready to rise to the occasion once more, but they know it won't come easily.
"We'll get better tests," said Griffin Thoreck. "On offense, we have to keep the ball in the air and execute our plays. We need to work on transition defense."
"We don't want to be the best team in the state on the first day," Shea said. "Just on the last day."
"It's safe to say everything needs fine tuning," Raymond added. "There were some breakdowns that didn't really cost us today, but they will cost us later on if we continue to have them. We were a little over-aggressive sometimes. We got a little out of position."