Waynflete returns to form, downs Scarborough
PORTLAND—One of the absolutes in Maine high school sports is that you can never, ever write off the Waynflete girls' lacrosse team.
A week ago, the Flyers were in the unaccustomed position of having a sub-.500 record and were coming off consecutive losses for the first time in a dozen years.
Now, the two-time defending Class B champions have hit their stride.
And there's a whole lot of season still to go.
Saturday afternoon, Waynflete welcomed undefeated, perennial Class A power Scarborough to Fore River Fields and took little time seizing control.
The Flyers scored the game's first four goals and never looked back and thanks to a potent, balanced offense and turnover-causing defense, raced to an 8-3 lead at halftime.
The Red Storm tried to rally in the second half, but Waynflete first-year goalie, sophomore Charlotte Majercik, made several clutch saves and the Flyers' offense tacked on four more goals and managed to drain big swaths of time off the clock as they went on to a 12-7 victory.
Waynflete got five goals from senior captain Leigh Fernandez and two apiece from senior captain Ella Millard, senior Cat Johnson and junior Hannah Thompson-Greaves as it improved to 3-2, dropping Scarborough to 3-1 in the process.
"I'm so excited," said Millard. "The new kids are really getting into the swing of things. This was a confidence booster for a young team."
While they've been the state's most successful programs since girls' lacrosse split into two classes in 2006, Scarborough and Waynflete have only met a couple of times over the past dozen years.
The last meeting came in 2009, when the host Flyers rolled, 18-6. Waynflete also took care of the visiting Red Storm in 2003, 16-2. In both of those seasons, the Flyers went on to win a state title, as they did each of the past two years, but this season began as a struggle.
Waynflete eked out a 6-5 win at North Yarmouth Academy in the opener, then lost consecutive games for the first time in a dozen seasons: 11-4 at Yarmouth in a state final rematch and 8-6 to visiting Falmouth.
"(Losing was) definitely hard," Millard said. "The other seniors and I, we didn't really know what to say to the team or how to react. It ultimately made us stronger. We knew we wouldn't go undefeated or have anywhere near the season we had a year ago. It was good for us to get our butts kicked early in the season. It got us prepared."
The Flyers got back in the win column Monday with an 11-5 triumph at Wells.
Heading into Saturday's game, Waynflete had four consecutive days of practice and the Flyers used them to their advantage.
"We did a lot of conditioning," Millard said. "We stepped it up a notch. We talked about this being the only time we'd play Scarborough this season and we wanted to make a statement. They're worth a lot (of Heal Points)."
"We did a lot more conditioning in practice and worked on transition, which killed us in the Yarmouth game," Fernandez said.
"We talked about putting each game behind us and moving forward," added longtime Waynflete coach Cathie Connors, who does her most brilliant work with teams like this, which are developing. "We had four solid practices to work on everything."
Scarborough, meanwhile, was at the other end of the spectrum. The Red Storm got its season off to a fast start with a 9-7 home win over Yarmouth. Wins at South Portland (15-3) and at home over Windham (12-4) followed.
Saturday, on one of the more pleasant days of the spring, the tone was set in the first minute.
Scarborough junior Kaitlin Prince won the opening draw, but the Red Storm turned the ball over and the Flyers transitioned to offense, as senior captain Sofia Canning set up Johnson for the opening goal of the game.
Scarborough committed four turnovers in the first five minutes when it could have sent the game in a different direction.
Waynflete doubled its lead with 18:43 to play in the first half, as Johnson set up Thompson-Greaves for a goal, forcing Red Storm coach Marcia Wood to call timeout.
It didn't help.
With 16:26 left, Millard assisted Fernandez, who one-timed a shot past Scarborough sophomore goalie Jenna Block for a 3-0 advantage.
"Patience worked today," said Fernandez. "We haven't been patient in past games. We moved well off-ball. We worked on that all week. We were ready today. We had the mindset rain or shine, we'd come out strong today."
"Being down early put us in panic mode," Wood said. "I took the timeout to remind them of what we talked about, but it didn't work."
Three minutes later, Johnson set up Millard for a goal and the Flyers were off to a great start, leading, 4-0.
"That lead was awesome," said Millard. "Last year, we could look to a couple players and they could do it all. We know we can't do that this year. We've talked about moving the ball and hitting everyone. We know we need a team effort."
The Red Storm finally broke through with 12:48 to play in the half, when Prince finished a feed from sophomore Abby Corbin on Scarborough's first shot of the game, but with 9:11 left, Johnson scored unassisted.
Fernandez then scored an unassisted goal and the clock (which never started following Johnson's tally) still read 9:11, meaning Waynflete defied the laws of space and time by scoring twice with no time elapsing.
With 6:46 remaining in the half, Johnson found Fernandez for a goal and a commanding 7-1 lead.
The Red Storm got a goal back 16 seconds later when junior Miranda Page scored unassisted.
Then, in the final minute, the Flyers milked the clock, before Fernandez earned a free position, which she buried with just 19 seconds to go.
It appeared that Waynflete would have a six-goal lead at the break, but with 4 seconds remaining, Scarborough senior Ainsley Jamieson earned a free position and beat Majercik to make it 8-3 at the break.
Majercik didn't have a first half save, but would she ever make up for it in the second half.
In the opening 25 minutes, the Red Storm won seven of 12 draws, but was doomed by a dozen turnovers, which led to a 12-3 Flyers' shots advantage.
Waynflete was clearly focused on the task at hand as it took the field for the second half.
Millard uttered the quote of the year so far, when she told her teammates, 'They're coming back over my dead body.'"
Millard put her money where her mouth was when she scored on a free position 68 seconds in to stretch the lead to 9-3.
"The loss against Falmouth was tough for us," Millard said. "We got comfortable, got caught off guard and wound up losing, which was really tough for us. We've been careful to come out harder in the second half."
After Block made her best save of the day, denying Johnson in front, the visitors pulled within 9-4 on a free position goal from Prince, as Majercik got her stick on the shot, but the ball still trickled over the line.
Majercik quickly redeemed herself, robbing Corbin, then stopping a free position from senior Maggie Carbin.
Then, with 13:03 to go, after the Flyers stalled for several minutes, Fernandez set up Thompson-Greaves for a goal and a 10-4 lead.
Scarborough, getting desperate, looked to answer, but Majercik stopped a free position bid from senior Abby Mills.
Waynflete then went up, 11-4, as Canning scored a man-up goal with 11:01 to go.
With 8:32 remaining, sophomore Emma Smith (from Corbin) pulled the Red Storm within six and 21 seconds later, out of a timeout and off a draw win, Prince finished a Smith feed and the deficit was just five, 11-6, but Scarborough would draw no closer.
With 7:48 showing, Canning fed Fernandez up top and as the Red Storm's defense sagged. Fernandez pump faked, then sent a rocket past Block for the Flyers' final goal.
Off the ensuing draw, junior Bailey Adams set up Corbin for a transition goal, but that's as close as Scarborough would get.
After Majercik made one final big save, on a Corbin free position, Waynflete managed to milk almost all of the final five minutes and when the horn sounded, the Flyers celebrated their biggest win this spring to date, 12-7.
"This was more like it," said Fernandez. "Scarborough's very quick. They're a very good team. They have good players, especially on offense. We came with our best game. We focused on transition and settled offense for this game. We worked together really well today. It clicked. We usually give up the midfield and have a solid zone, but our transition defense made a difference with turnovers today."
"It was great to see we could do it," Millard said. "It's good for our confidence. We were shaken and weren't sure early in the season. We needed to be pushed to our limit. We're all so tired. We needed to know we could feel that way and still get away with a win."
"It's really exciting," Majercik said. "It was really awesome. I think we had to trust each other and we worked really hard."
"It all came together," Connors added. "We'd worked a lot on our midfield, on the ride. We've also worked on jumping out early. We knew if we came out slow, they'd be a huge threat. We had to maintain possession and not force shots. I'm super-pleased that the defense was patient. They kept their sticks up. Scarborough's so good, so well coached. We knew they'd be ready to go. I'm psyched we were able to maintain the lead."
Fernandez led Waynflete with five goals. Three others (Johnson, Millard and Thompson-Greaves) scored twice and Canning had the other tally.
"We're trying to have everyone help," Connors said. "Not one person running the show."
Seven of the 12 goals were assisted.
Johnson led the way with three, Canning had a pair and Fernandez and Millard each added one.
Fernandez had a team-high 12 ground balls. Junior Helen Gray-Bauer collected seven and Canning had five.
Majercik made seven crucial saves.
"I really love playing goalie," she said. "Cathie's amazing. (Athletic trainer and part-time goalie coach) Rachel Lolley has been incredible too. Sometimes you want to be bored and have the ball (on offense), but the feeling when you make a save is awesome. I was really focused. A lot of times, I've tried to anticipate too much, but I just had to keep my eye on that ball. I just make sure my angles line up. I work on reaction time. I make sure my stick's in the right place. My defense is amazing. I feel totally comfortable with them out there. I know they have my back. I can't say enough good things about them. It gives me a lot of confidence, but I want to build off that confidence and keep getting better."
Majercik was certainly viewed as the star of the game by her teammates and coach.
"Charlotte's amazing," Millard said. "She's super-driven. She holds herself accountable. If she gives up a goal in practice, we'll tell her it's fine, but she'll be like, 'No. I didn't do what Rachel told me." She'll get down and do pushups. She's super-hard on herself. That's her mentality."
"Charlotte was game-changing," Connors added. "If those seven shots went in, it would have been a different game. She totally kept us in it. The defense stayed tight. It's a huge confidence builder for Charlotte and for us. It shows we can do it."
The Flyers outshot the Red Storm, 20-14 (18-14 on frame) and only turned the ball over 13 times.
Scarborough had an edge in draws (12-9) and ground balls (35-33), but its 22 turnovers were too much to overcome.
"When you commit 22 turnovers, you won't win a game," Wood said. "It's funny because we had a really good warmup. We just couldn't hold on to the ball. We preached about (Waynflete) having big sticks on defense. We didn't have the hustle we usually have. We'll watch film and I think they girls will be embarrassed with their lack of effort."
The Red Storm got three goals from Prince and one apiece from Corbin, Jamieson, Page and Smith. Corbin had two assists, while Adams and Smith each added one.
Prince snared a dozen ground balls, while Adams and Page each grabbed six. Block made six saves.
When asked if her team perhaps was overconfident coming into Saturday's game, Wood agreed.
"It's strange to say, but we might have been," Wood said. "Cathie is an amazing coach. I knew it was only a matter of time until she got them going. They took care of the ball and we didn't. We had to play catch up and couldn't."
Both teams have a chance to earn some big Heal Points in the days to come, but they'll both have to navigate a very difficult stretch.
Scarborough hopes to bounce back Tuesday when it hosts Gorham. The Red Storm then play at Thornton Academy Thursday and host Portland Saturday. The following week brings showdowns at Marshwood and at home against defending Western A champion Massabesic. Scarborough also visits defending Class A champion Cheverus May 27.
"This is the first adversity we faced," Wood said. "I think it's helpful. It makes the girls realize they're not invincible. Now, we need to focus. We have nine games in three weeks. I hope we got today out of our system. We'll move on."
As for Waynflete, it will look to extend its 12-year hex over Cape Elizabeth to 23 games Tuesday when the Capers pay a visit in a rematch of the past three Western B Finals.
"Now, we're focused on Cape," Fernandez said. "This gives us confidence. This got our spirits up. It feels really good having some momentum."
The Flyers still have home tests remaining against dangerous York, undefeated Kennebunk and Yarmouth and have to go to Greely, Cheverus and Cape Elizabeth.
"We're in the midst of the rest of the season being a tough stretch," Connors said. "We'll take one game at a time, learn from it and move on to the next game. We're on to Cape now. We can't have a letdown. We know we have time. We'll keep plugging away."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Waynflete-Scarborough results
@ Waynflete 16 Scarborough 2