Young Yachtsmen come of age, stun Waynflete
PORTLAND—There was little buzz surrounding the Falmouth girls' lacrosse program heading into the 2014 season.
Now, the secret is out.
The Yachtsmen, a program in transition with a new coach, Kait Johnson, and many new players in new positions, seemed to be walking into a lion's den Friday afternoon when they took on two-time defending Class B state champion Waynflete at Fore River Fields.
That's because the Flyers were coming off their first in two years and figured to be fired up.
While Waynflete jumped to a quick 3-1 lead and held a 5-3 advantage at halftime, Falmouth showed poise well beyond its years and controlled the second half.
The Yachtsmen pulled even with 21:23 to play, when senior Sabrina Smithwick scored, but five minutes later, Flyers senior Leigh Fernandez scored her fourth goal to give the hosts a 6-5 lead.
They wouldn't score again.
Smithwick tied the game with 15:44 remaining, then, after a turnover-plagued stretch of nearly 14 minutes without a goal, Smithwick scored for the fifth time, with 1:51 to play, and Falmouth had the lead.
Yachtsmen sophomore goalie Sarah Hutcheon had to make a couple clutch saves to preserve it and after running down the clock, Falmouth got an insurance goal from freshman Sydney Bell, which brought the curtain down on its improbable 8-6 triumph.
The Yachtsmen beat the Flyers for just the second time in program history, evened their record at 1-1 and handed Waynflete consecutive losses for the first time since 2002, dropping the Flyers to 1-2 in the process.
"It's a big win," Johnson said. "I'm really proud of (the girls). They played exactly how they were coached. They knew what was going to happen strategically. That's a great feeling."
Waynflete isn't accustomed to facing adversity, be it in April, May or June, but the Flyers faced a gut check after Wednesday's decisive loss at Yarmouth. While no one expected this year's team, after graduating seven standouts, to go undefeated like the 2013 squad, it's shocking to see Waynflete suffer a loss at anytime, especially one as lopsided as the 11-4 decision Wednesday. Combine that with a 6-5 escape at North Yarmouth Academy in the opener, and it's clear that the champions are vulnerable.
With that as a backdrop, the Flyers returned to action Friday, in their home opener, against a dangerous Falmouth team that has a lot of athletes and potential and showed many positive signs in Wednesday's 12-5 loss at Cape Elizabeth in its opener.
Entering Friday's game, Waynflete had beaten Falmouth 17 of 18 times (please see sidebar, below), but the Yachtsmen were the most recent team to beat the Flyers at Fore River Fields, 13-10, in 2012.
Last year, Waynflete swept Falmouth, eking out a 10-8 win on the road, then romping at home, 16-3.
Friday, the Yachtsmen produced a surprising victory.
The tone was set 97 seconds in, when Flyers senior Sofia Canning finished a feed from classmate Cat Johnson, only to have the goal waved off.
After Johnson missed just high, then had a shot saved by Hutcheon, Falmouth transitioned to offense and on its first shot of the game, took a 1-0 lead, as Smithwick hinted at her tremendous game to come, finishing a feed from sophomore London Bernier and beating Waynflete sophomore goalie Charlotte Majercik.
After Canning was denied by Hutcheon, the hosts pulled even, as Fernandez set up junior Hannah Thompson-Greaves in transition with 11:47 remaining in the first half.
Falmouth threatened to retake the lead, but Majercik robbed Bell on a free position, then stopped a Smithwick shot in front. Smithwick was called for dangerous propelling on the play and had to sit for two minutes after receiving a yellow card and Waynflete took advantage.
With 9:39 left before halftime, senior Ella Millard was awarded a free position and beat Hutcheon.
Thirty seconds later, Johnson set up Fernandez for a goal and it appeared the Flyers were on their way, leading, 3-1.
Yachtsmen senior Julia Spugnardi, who had a stellar game, was then frustrated twice in a row, as her first look was saved and the second went wide, but Bernier cut the deficit to 3-2 when she finished a feed from Bell.
After a free position from freshman Olivia Stucker was saved by Majercik, Falmouth tied the game on Smithwick's second goal (set up by Spugnardi) with 4:09 remaining.
Fernandez put Waynflete back on top with an unassisted tally with 2:49 left and after Bernier was robbed by Majercik, at the other end, Fernandez scored again unassisted with 43 seconds to go and the Flyers had a 5-3 advantage at the break.
In the first 25 minutes, Waynflete junior Helen Gray-Bauer won seven of nine draws and the Flyers had a slight edge in shots, but the game was still very much up in the air.
The Yachtsmen didn't panic and managed to get the job done.
Waynflete almost took a 6-3 lead 86 seconds into the second half, but Millard's free position ricocheted off the crossbar.
After Bell had a shot saved by Majercik, junior Elle Fitzgerald scored unassisted and the visitors were within one, 5-4.
The tying tally came with 21:23 showing, 17 seconds after Fitzgerald's goal, as senior Leigh Bernardy won Falmouth's first draw in seven tries, the Yachtsmen transitioned to offense and it led to a goal, as Bernier fed Smithwick for a one-timer that Majerick couldn't reach.
The Flyers got their only goal of the second half and retook the lead when Fernandez scored an unassisted goal with 17:32 remaining, but with 15:44 to go, Fitzgerald somehow threaded a pass to Smithwick through traffic and Smithwick scored to make it 6-6.
It would stay that way for a long time.
A pattern developed where Falmouth would turn the ball over and Waynflete would give it right back.
Time after time after time.
"It was really frustrating," Smithwick said. "It's hard when you turn the ball over a bunch of times. We'll keep working on those things."
"Turnovers killed us," Kait Johnson said. "Every time we got the ball on attack, we gave it right back. It was just jitters, I think. Honestly, I think we saw a different team than the one that came out against Cape. We practiced on grass yesterday, but there's only so much preparation you can do."
There were a few scoring chances as the game grew late, but Hutcheon robbed Johnson, Majercik denied a free position shot from Bell and Johnson twice more was turned aside by Hutcheon.
Then, finally, with 1:51 to go, the Yachtsmen managed to settle their offense, get the ball to Fitzgerald behind the goal and Fitzgerald delivered a perfect pass to a cutting Smithwick, who one-timed a shot past Majercik for a 7-6 lead.
"We ran our plays," Smithwick said. "We broke their zone a couple times. It was a designed play. We worked very well together. It just clicked."
The game was far from over.
After Waynflete coach Cathie Connors called timeout, Gray-Bauer won yet another draw and the hosts moved into the offensive zone.
Johnson would earn a free position, but Hutcheon once more frustrated her.
On the rebound, the ball came to Thompson-Greaves, right in front of the goal, but Hutcheon wouldn't allow her shot to tickle the twine, as she made a spectacular save.
"It's all about focus," Hutcheon said. "You just have to be prepared. I know my defense will be there. I know how to get there. I just lunged for it and I stuffed her."
"Sarah's phenomenal," Smithwick said. "She's our MVP every game. We love her. She saves us. This year she's stepping up even more."
"Sarah did great," Kait Johnson added. "She's really calm. Her calm nature lends itself to playing goalie. I don't think she even knew the score."
Falmouth gave the ball back to the Flyers on a turnover with 53 seconds left, but the hosts gave it right back, as Smithwick pounced on a ground ball.
The ball then came to Spugnardi, who ran almost 40 seconds off the clock before passing to a wide open Bell in front, who finished with two seconds showing and that did it.
Falmouth 8 Waynflete 6.
"It feels awesome to win," Smithwick said. "It's a throwback to two years ago. We have such a young team. Coming together like this shows how much depth we do have and how far we can go.
"At halftime, we talked about having to settle down. We weren't being first to the ball. We addressed what we had to fix. We talked through it and worked together as a team and got the win. They played us really hard. They're an awesome team."
"It's a great win after the Cape game," Hutcheon said. "It gets our spirits up. We were fired up after our loss."
"In the end, only the girls can do it and they did it," Kait Johnson added. "Everyone across the board played great. Our defense was great. (Junior defender) Angie (Diphilippo) played great. Julia ran around with the ball for a long time at the end, then got cleaned out. You need a senior captain to do that. Sabrina came out of her shell. Things were working for us. It's not reinventing the wheel, it's just doing the right thing."
Smithwick, who was frustrated time and again in Wednesday's loss at Cape Elizabeth, enjoyed the game of her life, as she scored five times.
Bell, Bernier and Fitzgerald also had goals.
Seven of the Yachtsmen's eight tallies were assisted, as Bernier, Fitzgerald and Spugnardi all had two, while Bell finished with one.
Spugnardi had a team-high eight ground balls.
Then, there was Hutcheon, who had 10 saves, many of them clutch.
Falmouth did turn the ball over 21 times, but overcame.
Waynflete got four goals from Fernandez and one apiece from Millard and Thompson-Greaves. Fernandez and Johnson both had assists. Gray-Bauer won 11 of 15 draws.
The Flyers had a 44-33 advantage on ground balls, as Gray-Bauer and Millard led the way with eight apiece and Canning and Johnson both collected five.
Majercik made eight saves.
"Charlotte did well," Connors said. "She made some crucial saves."
Waynflete was done in by 23 turnovers.
"It's tough to be ahead the whole game and let it slip away, but we made some nice strides," Connors said. "The first half was great, but a lot of turnovers in the second half meant a lot of running and we got tired. It's youth and getting used to each other. It became desperation to put the ball in the net. What I'm pleased about is that we didn't transition against Yarmouth at all, but we moved the ball a lot better today. It's baby steps."
The final shots total was 17 for each side.
Waynflete returns to action Tuesday when it plays Wells at the University of New England. The Flyers then face another gauntlet, which includes home games versus Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth, then a trip to reigning Class A champion Cheverus.
Anyone foolish enough to write Waynflete off will live to regret it.
The Flyers simply need to fine tune.
"We'll work on fast breaks, work on being patient, work on not throwing the ball away," Connors said.
Falmouth gets to play at home for the first time Wednesday when Freeport pays a visit. The Yachtsmen then go to Thornton Academy for a crossover game before hosting Greely.
Falmouth will ride the lack of respect card as long as it can.
"I feel like we're the underdog this year," Hutcheon said. "I think we can do great things."
"I think it drives us," Smithwick said. "We're a young team. Not much experience and a new coach, but we're really jelling together."
"We're excited to play at home," Johnson added. "We have momentum."
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