Twenty-three and counting...Waynflete finds a way to frustrate Cape again
PORTLAND—The weight of history was the backdrop to the latest installment of an ever-more-heated rivalry Tuesday afternoon at Fore River Fields.
The two-time defending Class B champion Waynflete girls' lacrosse team, seemingly back in form after an impressive win Saturday, took on Cape Elizabeth in the first of two (perhaps three meetings) this spring.
While the Flyers have beaten the Capers in each of the past three regional finals, that only begins to tell the story as Waynflete's dominance in the series is much broader. Entering Tuesday, the Flyers had beaten Cape Elizabeth in 22 straight encounters.
Make it 23.
And this one took all 50 minutes to decide as goals were at a premium.
The game was tied, 2-2, late in the first half when Waynflete went on top to stay when senior Sofia Canning scored with only two seconds remaining.
The Flyers, behind the scoring of senior Cat Johnson, the draw excellence of junior Helen Gray-Bauer and a solid defensive performance, eventually stretched their lead to three, but the Capers refused to buckle and when sophomore Sophie Hewitt scored with 27 seconds to go in regulation, Waynflete's lead was down to a goal, 6-5.
Cape Elizabeth won the ensuing draw and had a chance to force overtime, but it wasn't to be as the Flyers defense rose to the occasion one final time and Waynflete held on for the one-goal victory.
Johnson led the way with three goals, senior Leigh Fernandez scored twice and the Flyers made it three wins in a row, improving to 4-2, while dropping the Capers to 4-2 in the process.
"It was a really nice win," said Waynflete coach Cathie Connors. "I'm psyched. It's day by day. The girls are working super hard. There's not much chatting at practice. I thought it would take us awhile. I knew the girls had potential, it was just putting it together in time."
While much was made of the lopsided nature of this rivalry, in truth, Tuesday's game was more about two talented teams looking to continue to improve than about history.
The Capers, despite losing a pair of Division I talents (Talley Perkins and Lauren Steidl) to graduation, remain dangerous. They opened with a 21-2 demolition of visiting Fryeburg, then knocked off visiting Falmouth, 12-5. After falling at Kennebunk, 14-11, Cape Elizabeth held off visiting York, 12-9, then won at Gorham, 14-12.
The Flyers, meanwhile, found themselves in a most unfamiliar position at the quarter pole, burdened with a sub-.500 record. 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. The ship began to be righted with an 11-5 win at Wells, then, Saturday, the Flyers made a powerful 50 minute statement with a 12-7 home win over Scarborough.
Cape Elizabeth came to Waynflete Tuesday knowing the last time it beat the Flyers came on the same field, May 4, 2002, when it eked out a 10-9 win en route to an undefeated regular season.
Since then, in close games and blowouts, regular season tilts and playoff thrillers, in April, May or June, the Flyers took care of business every time.
Last year, Waynflete beat the Capers three times: 10-8 in Cape Elizabeth, 8-4 in Portland, then 16-9 in the Western B Final, behind 10 goals from Martha Veroneau.
This time, the Capers had chances to put the streak behind them once and for all and make the 23rd time the charm, but ultimately, the Flyers again found a way.
Early on, defense and goalkeeping reigned supreme.
In the opening minute, Waynflete sophomore goalie Charlotte Majercik denied Cape Elizabeth senior Hannah Newhall.
At the other end, Flyers senior Ella Millard had a chance to put her team on top, but Capers junior goalie Kate Bosworth made the save.
After Majercik denied a shot from Capers junior Kirsten Rudberg, Bosworth robbed Waynflete junior Hannah Thompson-Greaves to keep the game scoreless.
Finally, with 17:20 to go in the first half, Cape Elizabeth took a 1-0 lead, when senior Abby McInerney scored on a free position.
That would prove to be the Capers' highwater mark.
After Majercik kept the score 1-0 by robbing Cape Elizabeth sophomore Maisie Perkins, Bosworth denied a shot from Johnson, but with 13:05 to play in the first half, a crisp Johnson pass led to a one-timer from Fernandez which found the back of the net to make it 1-1.
It stayed that way for nearly five minutes, as Waynflete began to force its will defensively, frustrating the Capers, who started turning the ball over.
After Bosworth robbed Flyers sophomore Christian Rowe point blank, Millard, on a free position, passed to Johnson, who finished to make it 2-1 with 8:19 remaining before halftime.
Gray-Bauer almost went coast-to-coast for a goal a minute later, but Bosworth stopped her cold.
The visitors then tied the game with 5:45 showing, when Perkins took a pass from McInerney and finished.
After Millard was wide on a free position and Thompson-Greaves had a shot saved by Bosworth, it looked like Cape Elizabeth would go into the break tied, but the Capers turned the ball over, giving Waynflete one final chance.
And no one takes advantage of last second opportunities quite like the Flyers.
As time wound down, Canning saw a little daylight, raced in toward the goal and with the clock showing 2 seconds, she fired past Bosworth to make it 3-2 and give Waynflete a big dose of momentum going into the break.
"It's a total team effort this year," Canning said. "We're not based on one person. We use everyone on the field. Our entire team can play. Leigh told me there was a lane. She saw it for me and I took it. I'm not sure I would have seen it if she didn't say it."
"That goal was huge," said Connors. "We practice having patience. The trust on this team is incredible. I couldn't be happier. We're not depending on one person. Sofia took a risk. She's very safe, which I appreciate, but she knew when to go. She's grown so much."
In the first 25 minutes, the Flyers won four of six draws, had a 20-13 advantage in ground balls and a 14-6 edge in shots. They also forced nine turnovers.
Less than three minutes into the second half, Waynflete made it a 4-2 game when Fernandez earned a free position and beat Bosworth between the goalie's legs.
The Flyers then opened it up further in unlikely fashion.
With Millard serving two minutes for a yellow card and Cape Elizabeth enjoying a man advantage, McInerney's free position was denied by Majercik and Waynflete transitioned to offense, where Fernandez set up Johnson for a goal which made it 5-2.
In recent years, the Capers would have likely buckled at that juncture, but this time around, they refused to fold.
With 13:38 remaining, Newhall finally got on the board with an unassisted strike.
Gray-Bauer then came up huge on defense to keep the score 5-3, as she blocked a shot from Hewitt on the doorstep.
After Johnson had a shot saved by Bosworth, Cape Elizabeth threatened again, but Gray-Bauer stole the ball, then squeezed through three defenders, causing a pileup in her wake.
With 6:36 to go, Johnson's final goal (from Thompson-Greaves) made it 6-3 and put the Capers on the ropes, but they responded as Newhall scored on a free position 43 seconds later.
Waynflete got possession, but Rowe's shot was saved by Bosworth and Cape Elizabeth had a chance to cut the deficit to one, only to turn the ball over on an offsides transgression.
The Flyers managed to run several minutes off the clock, but the Capers got the ball back and with under a minute ago, went into attack mode again.
Then, with 27 seconds showing, Hewitt scored unassisted and suddenly, things had gotten very interesting as Cape Elizabeth trailed by only one, 6-5.
After a timeout, the Capers won the draw, but possession came after an extended scrum which ate 12 seconds off the clock. Gray-Bauer was hurt on the play, causing a delay, then the visitors had a chance to improbably force overtime.
It wasn't to be, as Cape Elizabeth didn't even manage a shot as it turned the ball over.
"We set up a play," Jeff Perkins said. "It was a play we don't use too often. We didn't get a chance to use it. Another 10 seconds would have been nice."
Then, at last, Waynflete was able to celebrate its 6-5 victory.
"It was tough, but we talked about keeping our heads and topping the Scarborough game," said Gray-Bauer, who was no worse for wear following the win. "We had to keep our cool and focus on our passing and catching. We trust each other. We have an exceptional team again. Losing two in a row worked in our favor. We don't have the same team we had last year. It's totally different, but we're meshing well. Since teams might be overlooking us, that helps our game. I like it better that way."
The Flyers got three goals from Johnson, two from Fernandez and one from Canning. Four of the six goals were assisted, as Fernandez, Johnson, Millard and Thompson-Greaves each had one. Majercik made four saves.
Waynflete also did the little things, winning seven of 13 draws, only turning the ball over a dozen times and enjoying a 31-27 edge in ground balls, as Fernandez had a game-high seven and Gray-Bauer collected a half dozen.
"We really focus on the little things," Gray-Bauer said. "Ground balls, catching before cradling, that kind of thing."
"Helen's like a little vacuum out there," Connors said. "She gets the ground balls. She's great on draws. She's all over the place."
The Flyers outshot the Capers, 19-13 (14-9 on frame).
All the statistics aside, Waynflete's players felt that the person most responsible for the victory, never suited up or took a shot.
"Cathie's an amazing coach," Canning said. "I've never had a coach like her. It's how passionate she is for each individual player. She builds a team. You can give her people who haven't played before and she treats them the same way she treats star players. She's all about team bonding. It always seems like we come in as the underdog. Cathie said before the game that we had nothing to lose."
"Cathie focuses on team dynamics," Gray-Bauer said. "If the team doesn't get along off the field, we won't get along on the field. A lot of practice is just us being together."
Cape Elizabeth got two goals from Newhall, but Waynflete managed to keep one of the state's most dangerous players more or less in check.
"(Newhall's) deadly," Connors said. "We had to keep an eye on her. I think she's one of the best players in the state. She's so powerful and fun to watch. She's the real deal. We had to change our strategy on the ride."
The Capers got a goal apiece from Hewitt, McInerney and Perkins. McInerney also had an assist. Robinson had a team-high six ground balls and Bosworth made eight saves.
Once again, the Capers were frustrated, but they had to give credit where credit was due.
"(Waynflete's) midfield press is great," Cape Elizabeth coach Jeff Perkins said. "They played it to perfection today. They know how to play on this field and they did a wonderful job with it. What can you do? You can only take your hat off to them and tell them good job. We play them again and hopefully, we'll clean that up.
"It's always frustrating when you don't win a game, but it's encouraging by how closely matched the game was. There are so many closely matched teams this year. One whistle, one dropped ball and it goes the other way. We talked about (the losing streak to Waynflete) briefly yesterday in practice and it wasn't even really on our radar. The girls came out loose today. They did well. We didn't execute as well as we should have, but they pushed us to not execute."
Tip of the iceberg
The Capers and Flyers will see each other again June 6, in the regular season finale at Cape Elizabeth.
Both squads have a lot of heavy lifting to do first.
The Capers (fourth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings at press time) return to action Tuesday when powerhouse Yarmouth pays a visit. They also host Marshwood and have games at Wells, Greely and Falmouth remaining.
"We'll give them a day off to shake it off, then practice, then we play Yarmouth, then Greely and it keeps on coming," Jeff Perkins said. "The parity is making for fun lacrosse."
Waynflete (second in Western B) is back in action Monday, when dangerous York pays a visit. The Flyers will be tested again two days later at Greely. After that, Waynflete hosts the top teams in the Western and Eastern B Heals respectively, Kennebunk and Yarmouth, then closes with games at defending Class A champion Cheverus and Cape Elizabeth.
"There's a lot of stuff to work on," Gray-Bauer said. "We can't rest on our laurels. We'll focus on each other and improving, moving with a purpose and taking a step up every day."
"York's really good and I'm never going to underestimate Greely," Connors said. "We'll keep working on our transition and being careful on not fouling. It's all about tweaks."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Waynflete-Cape Elizabeth history
Western B Final
Waynflete 11 @ Cape Elizabeth 10 (3 OT)
Waynflete 13 @ Cape Elizabeth 6
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 8 Cape Elizabeth 7
Waynflete 11 @ Cape Elizabeth 7
Waynflete 11 @ Cape Elizabeth 2
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 9 Cape Elizabeth 5
@ Waynflete 15 Cape Elizabeth 5
Waynflete 16 @ Cape Elizabeth 1
Western B semifinals
@ Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 1
Waynflete 18 @ Cape Elizabeth 7
@ Waynflete 15 Cape Elizabeth 7
Western B quarterfinals
@ Waynflete 13 Cape Elizabeth 3
@ Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 6
Waynflete 7 @ Cape Elizabeth 1
@ Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 6
@ Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 5
Waynflete 9 @ Cape Elizabeth 8 (OT)
Waynflete 8 @ Cape Elizabeth 6
West Region semifinals
@ Waynflete 16 Cape Elizabeth 7
Cape Elizabeth 10 @ Waynflete 9