Yarmouth's epic rally staggers Greely
YARMOUTH—If the Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team manages to go on and do something special seven weeks from now, it might just look back at the night of May 2 as the moment it discovered the heart of a champion.
The Clippers, 48 hours removed from a stunningly easy win over longtime nemesis Waynflete, found themselves trailing visiting Greely, 9-3, late in the first half Friday night.
For the second time in three games, Yarmouth had dug a mighty hole due to a slow start and the unheralded and talented Rangers, paced by seniors Cameron Keefe and Teal Otley, had taken advantage.
But they play two halves for a reason.
The Clippers pulled within five at halftime, then came out for the second half a new team, one that was inspired and simply unstoppable.
It took just over three minutes to cut a five-goal deficit to two.
With 15:36 remaining, Yarmouth senior Molly Maguire continued her sizzling early season play by registering the tying goal.
Then, it was junior Shannon Fallon's turn. Fallon, who is playing a huge role this season, scored an unassisted goal with 10:44 to play and junior Emma Torres produced an insurance tally a little over a minute later.
From there, the Clippers defense and freshman goalie Mary Kate Gunville, seeing her first varsity action, slammed the door and the end result was a stirring 11-9 victory.
Yarmouth got three goals apiece from Maguire and Torres, eight huge saves from Gunville and blanked Greely in the second half as it improved to 2-1 on the season, dropping the Rangers to 1-2 in the process.
"It took the character of 19 players on this team," said Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. "This is the biggest character builder. It's one of the toughest games I've ever coached. Ever."
Tale of two halves
Both of these teams have prolific offenses and both have been up and down in the early going.
Greely, a semifinalist last spring (losing to Cape Elizabeth) put up 21 goals in its opener, a 13-goal victory at Gould. Wednesday, however, the Rangers faced Kennebunk in a game played at North Yarmouth Academy, and only scored three times in a five-goal setback.
Yarmouth was frustrated in a season-opening 9-7 loss at Scarborough, a game which featured numerous good looks not winding up in the net. Wednesday was a completely different story, as the Clippers scored on their first 10 shots and went on to avenge their state championship game loss with a stunningly one-sided 11-4 home victory over Waynflete.
Friday marked the first time in three years that the neighbors squared off in a countable game (Yarmouth beat host Greely, 17-8, back on May 27, 2011).
The Clippers came in having beaten the Rangers nine straight times (see sidebar, below).
Greely was hoping to down Yarmouth for the first time since May 23, 2005 (8-7 in Cumberland), but the Clippers some how, some way, found a way to prevail.
It didn't take long for the Rangers to announce they'd come to play, as Otley won the draw and scored an unassisted goal.
After another draw win, Otley took a pass from senior Katie Nicolaou and finished for a 2-0 lead just over two minutes in.
Yarmouth got its first offensive possession, but a Torres free position was denied by Greely senior goalie Krystyna Rybka and Maguire's free position shot hit the post.
Finally, with 19:43 left in the half, senior standout Grace O'Donnell buried a free position to get the Clippers on the board.
Back roared the Rangers, as Otley won the draw and sent a long pass ahead to senior Gabby Bouchard, who beat Yarmouth sophomore goalie Sarah Kirk.
With 16:34 remaining before halftime, senior Cameron Keefe scored unassisted to make it 4-1 Greely.
The Clippers answered with a pretty goal, as Maguire set up Torres, but on the ensuing draw, the ball came to Rangers sophomore Jocelyn Mitiguy, who passed the ball toward the goal.
The pass didn't connect, but the ball trickled through and eluded Kirk to make the score 5-2.
Yarmouth hoped to answer, but junior Caitlin Teare and Fallon were both denied by Rybka.
Otley then made it a 6-2 game with a free position goal with 12:19 left in the half.
The Clippers cut into the deficit when Maguire scored unassisted, but prior to the ensuing draw, Holt pulled Kirk in favor of Gunville.
"Sarah was hurting a little bit," Holt said. "She's such a trouper."
Gunville was greeted by a rocket from senior Jill Booth which eluded her, but hit the post.
Senior Brennah Martin then earned a free position, which also clanged off iron.
"I was kind of scared at first, because I'd never played a varsity game before," Gunville said. "I was nervous, but all the girls helped. I knew they were coming at me, but thanks to our defense, they hit the post."
Yarmouth looked to creep even closer, but junior Lane Simsarian, then Fallon and Maguire, were denied by Rybka.
With 4:48 left in the half, Bouchard stretched the lead to 7-3, finishing a feed from Mitiguy.
Otley won the ensuing draw and before the Clippers knew what hit them, she finished and the lead was five.
Greely didn't let up and with 2:17 to go, freshman Katherine Leggat-Barr buried a free position for her first varsity goal and a seemingly commanding 9-3 advantage.
"Greely's a really aggressive team," Maguire said. "We let them own the midfield."
Little did anyone suspect that the Rangers wouldn't score again.
Yarmouth began its long climb back with 1:35 remaining in the half when O'Donnell scored on a free position, ending a nearly 10-minute drought, but when Fallon couldn't hold on to the ball in the waning seconds and turned it over instead of scoring, Greely took a 9-4 lead to the break.
In the first 25 minutes, Otley won eight of 14 draws, the Rangers had an advantage on ground balls and shots and Rybka made seven saves.
But Greely soon learned that a game doesn't just consist of one half.
It didn't take long for it to become evident that Yarmouth had returned to form.
Just in time.
Less than a minute in, Simsarian had a good look, but Rybka made the save.
The Clippers kept possession and Fallon set up junior Ellie Teare for a goal at the 23:17 mark.
Just over a minute later, Torres scored unassisted, cutting the deficit to a manageable three goals and forcing Greely coach Becca Koelker to call timeout.
"We just came out of halftime a little bit flat," Koelker said. "They came out like we did in the first half. We kind of flip-flopped."
O'Donnell, who dominated in the draw circle in the second half, won possession again and in transition fed Fallon for a goal to make it 9-7.
Yarmouth kept the pressure on, but it took awhile to draw closer.
A free position from Maguire was saved by Rybka.
After a turnover, Fallon had a look, but Rybka made the stop.
Rybka then denied Maguire, Simarian and Fallon once more.
Finally, with 18:05 to go, playing with an extra attacker, Maguire pounced on the rebound of Fallon's miss and finished to pull the Clippers within a single goal.
Then, with 15:36 remaining in regulation, O'Donnell fed Maguire for a goal which completed the comeback.
Greely almost went back on top with 14:45 left, but Gunville denied Mitiguy's free position.
Keefe then got a look, but Gunville made another save.
With 10:44 remaining, Yarmouth went on top for the first time, as Fallon scored unassisted.
"Last year, I didn't see much playing time, but this year, I'm in a different position," Fallon said. "I haven't played a lot of low attack, but I'm loving it. Molly's really helped me along. She's an amazing senior to look up to. It's been an amazing experience."
With 9:09 to play, the Clippers got a little insurance, as Torres took a pass from Maguire and beat Rybka to make it 11-9.
"We were a little annoyed in the first half because we knew we could play better," said Torres. "It's all about heart and the team and playing for each other. Everyone has an equal role. We just brought it the second half. When we all push ourselves to be the best we can be, we succeed."
Neither team would score the rest of the game, but there was plenty of action leading up to the final horn.
After Ellie Teare's bid to stretch the lead was denied by Rybka, Teare was given a yellow card, giving the Rangers a great chance to creep closer.
Sure enough, Mitiguy got a good look, but Gunville stood tall.
Gunville then denied a shot from Leggat-Barr and a Leggat-Barr free position.
Maguire had a chance to clinch it with 3:22 remaining, but Rybka made her final save.
The visitors appeared to pull within one with 2:41 showing, but Bouchard's goal was waved off.
Yarmouth was able to run out the clock from there and celebrated its 11-9 win like it came in the middle of June, not the second day of May, as it whooped it up and danced in its shed.
"We have so much heart and we realized we could play with anybody and that pulled us through," Maguire said. "We have stars like Grace and (senior captain) Julia (Primeau) and Lane and Emma, but we have people who are willing to work hard. We were exhausted, but we knew what we had to do and we had to trust our skills and each other. We did that. After we tied it, we realized we could win. That momentum helped us pull it off."
"It was really nervewracking," Fallon said. "Dorothy gave us an inspirational speech at halftime. Greely's an amazing team. It was a huge team effort. We pulled together. We knew we needed to win it for each other."
"We talked at halftime how we weren't playing our game," Holt added. "A lot of the girls had never beaten Waynflete before. We had a rough practice (Thursday) and needed to regroup. We had to settle down and play our game. We did. Everyone's grown. The Teare twins. Emma and Lane are playing bigger roles. (Greely) took Grace out of the game and everyone else picked it up. We knew these games would happen.
"Becca was on my coaching staff. We know each other so well. We know what each other's doing. It was really a great game all around. Both teams. Greely deserves a ton of credit. They're an awesome group. I think we were a little nervous and we didn't know what to expect."
O'Donnell was largely kept under wraps by Greely senior Sara Piwowarski.
"Sara did a great job on Grace O'Donnell," Koelker said. "We wanted to see if they could have an offense without her and they did. She's such a brilliant player."
Other Clippers had to step up and that's exactly what happened.
Maguire and Torres both had three goals. Fallon and O'Donnell each scored twice and Ellie Teare had the other goal.
Maguire and O'Donnell both assisted on two goals, while Fallon had one helper.
Gunville made eight saves in her varsity action.
"The upperclassmen carried me," said Gunville. "I felt a little more comfortable because I knew they were there for me. I feel like I did what I'm supposed to do. I'm confident. It's pretty overwhelming sometimes, but all the girls are accepting and really cheer me on."
"Mary Kate is amazing," Torres said. "I can't believe she can come into a game like this and save every ball that came to her. It started with her and the defense."
"I put my freshman in there and there she stood," Holt said. "Mary Kate made huge saves. The goalies really work together."
The Clippers wound up with a 12-10 advantage on draws and a 49-43 edge in ground balls (O'Donnell and junior defender Mary Coyne, who had a solid performance, each collected eight, while Fallon and Torres finished with a half dozen apiece).
The hosts outshot the visitors, 27-19 (27-17 on frame).
Yarmouth turned the ball over 22 times, but forced 23 Greely giveaways.
The Rangers got four goals from Otley, two from Bouchard and one apiece from Keefe, Leggat-Barr and Mitiguy. Mitiguy, Nicolaou and Otley all had assists. Keefe led Greely with eight ground balls, while Otley collected seven. Rybka was stellar, making 16 saves.
"We knew it would be a tough game," Koelker said. "Yarmouth's a perennial powerhouse. It was a fun game. I think we got tired and when we got tired, we turned the ball over too much. Their goalie had some huge saves. She came up really big. It was frustrating. We focused on coming out strong. Now, we have to work on coming out strong in both halves and having 50 minutes of strong play. We moved the ball really well in the first half and we had really good shot selection. We worked together as a team. They came out with more fire in the second half and that's what you need. They had that first step."
Hitting the road
Greely hopes to bounce back as it plays its first true home game Wednesday, when York pays a visit. The Rangers then go to Falmouth Wednesday, May 14.
This is a team capable of doing great things if it can develop some consistency.
"I'm so proud of how my girls played in the first half," Koelker said. "Now, we just have to do it for a full game. We have to be mentally and physically ready."
As for Yarmouth, it hits the road for four straight tests beginning Monday, when the Clippers go to Freeport for a playoff rematch. Wednesday, Yarmouth visits Gould Academy, which is new to the Western Maine Conference this year. Next up are trips to Kennebunk and Cape Elizabeth.
Yarmouth won't play again on its turf until May 22, when NYA pays a visit.
The Clippers are capable of doing amazing things this spring, but they are still a work in progress.
"This shows we have heart and that we want it," Torres said. "We have it within ourselves to do it. Going forward, we know what we can do and we have momentum."
"There's definitely stuff we can work on," Fallon said. "Shot selection and accuracy, transitioning, making sure we're ready to go at the beginning of the game. Having confidence from the beginning and having it all game, so we don't have letdown moments."
"We're really excited about this, but we need to keep our focus on what we're doing well and keep improving," Maguire said. "We feel good going into Freeport, but we're not overconfident."
"The slow starts are on the coach," Holt added. "I have to get them out of the gates quicker and we'll work on it. It won't be easy, but these guys are ready. We just need to work hard."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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