Waynflete keeps good times rolling, downs Greely for 17th straight time
CUMBERLAND—While this version of the Waynflete girls' lacrosse team might not be an unstoppable juggernaut as in years past, no one masters the fine details that win close games like these Flyers.
And as a result, Waynflete has risen from the depths of a 1-2 start back to its accustomed place at the forefront of contention.
Wednesday afternoon, playing at a Greely squad hungry for a signature victory, nothing came easily for the Flyers, but they still found a way to stretch their win streak to five games, thanks to an uncanny ability to execute the little things.
Waynflete didn't enjoy an edge in draws, but forced key turnovers.
When they couldn't gain possession, the Flyers played staunch defense.
And while it suffered through stretches of offensive futility, Waynflete also demonstrated that it can score in bunches.
A lackluster first half spelled a 4-2 deficit inside the final minute, but junior Hannah Thompson-Greaves and senior Leigh Fernandez scored to forge a tie at the break and seemingly put momentum in the Flyers' corner.
Then, after the Rangers got a pair of goals in a 15-second span, from senior Teal Otley and sophomore Maggie Reed, early in the second half, Waynflete had the hosts right where they wanted them.
Fernandez sparked the comeback with a pair of unassisted goals and after the Flyers killed off a two-man down situation, then found themselves playing short-handed again, they still managed to score and take the lead for good when senior Cat Johnson converted a rebound with just over eight minutes to play.
That opened the floodgates, as Johnson and sophomore Christian Rowe both scored twice in a six-minute span and Waynflete pulled away to prevail, 11-8.
Fernandez had a game-high five goals, Johnson added three and Rowe contributed two as the Flyers improved to 6-2 and dropped the hard-luck Rangers to 3-4 in the process.
"I knew they'd give us a battle," said Waynflete coaching maestro Cathie Connors, who might be in the midst of her piece de resistance this spring. "It's always tough here. I did think (improvement) would happen, but I thought we'd have to work into it. I'm really proud of the girls."
It's hard to believe that just a couple weeks ago, Waynflete was being written off. It just took a new group a little longer to hit their stride and behind Connors' guidance, they've done what all Flyers teams do, improve as the season progresses.
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 the Flyers beat a pair of visiting contenders: Scarborough (12-7) and Cape Elizabeth (6-5). Monday, Waynflete downed visiting York, 13-7.
Greely, meanwhile, has exhibited moments of excellence, but it hasn't been able to put together 50 solid minutes against top competition.
The Rangers won their opener, 21-8, at Gould and lost at home to Kennebunk (in a game played on the turf at North Yarmouth Academy), 8-3. Greely then appeared primed to upset host Yarmouth, opening up a six-goal first half lead, but they were blanked in the second half and the Clippers rallied to win, 11-9. After bouncing back by holding off York in an overtime thriller, 10-9, the Rangers registered an impressive 15-10 triumph at Falmouth before losing in the final seconds to visiting Western A champion Massabesic, 7-6.
While Waynflete and Greely have played their share of memorable games over the years, the rivalry has been decisively one-sided (see sidebar, below). The Flyers came into Wednesday's game having beaten the Rangers on 16 straight occasions, dating back to a 5-4 win in the 2004 West Region semifinals.
Greely's last win over the Flyers came May 18, 2004, 5-4, at home. Since then, Waynflete won close games and blowouts, in Cumberland and in Portland, and in the regular season and with a trip to the state final on the line.
The Flyers always seem to find a way against the Rangers and this meeting proved to be more of the same.
Offense was at a premium for much of the first half.
Greely got the scoring started on a free position just over four minutes in, when senior Eliza McKenney, on a free position, eschewed a shot and passed to senior Gabby Bouchard, who beat Waynflete sophomore goalie Charlotte Majercik.
Fifty-nine seconds later, Bouchard set up senior Teal Otley for a goal and a 2-0 advantage.
Majercik prevented the deficit from growing further, when she stopped senior Cameron Keefe on back-to-back free positions.
Waynflete's first goal came with 15:36 left in the first half, as Fernandez fired a shot which Rangers senior goalie Krystyna Rybka slowed, but couldn't prevent from crossing the goal line.
After Rybka saved a Fernandez shot and Majercik turned aside a free position from Greely freshman Katherine Leggat-Barr, Leggat-Barr took a pass from senior Katie Nicoleau and beat Majercik with 11:29 to go before halftime, making it 3-1 Rangers.
Connors called timeout to fire up her charges.
"We were slow moving in the beginning," Connors said. "I saw it in the warmup. What I said in the timeout was that we needed to clean up our game."
After Rybka denied Flyers junior Hannah Thompson-Greaves in front and induced Johnson to send a couple free position shots wide, Johnson fed Fernandez for a goal which cut the deficit to 3-2 with 1:57 showing.
"We were playing very sloppily in the first few minutes," Fernandez said. "We weren't pleased at all. The timeout helped. We cleaned it up a little bit more and we got our momentum back."
That was just the beginning of a frenetic finish to the half.
Fifty-four seconds later, sophomore Maegan Dougherty scored on a free position, her first varsity goal, to make it 4-2 Greely.
It appeared that the Rangers would take a lead to halftime, but no team is more dangerous in the final minute of a half than Waynflete and momentum would swing big-time toward the Flyers by the time the horn sounded.
Off a free position with 48.5 seconds to go, freshman Isabel Canning passed to Thompson-Greaves, who finished to cut the deficit to one.
Then, the Flyers got the ball again and after Johnson had a shot saved, Johnson, in a harbinger of events to come, pounced on the rebound and kept possession. The ball then came to Fernandez and as the clock ticked down, she made a move on a defender and finished unassisted with 6.3 seconds to go and despite a sluggish start, Waynflete was all even at the break, 4-4.
"I noticed in transition that some lanes were open," Fernandez said. "My teammates cleared out for me. Everyone moved and cut off ball and played very well. We needed to be tied at halftime. I had confidence to shoot it and I happened to have the ball at that point. We have a 'last shot' play. I think it's a general mindset that we all trust whoever has the ball and we get them the best shot possible. We want to have momentum going into halftime. It's huge to score before halftime."
"We know that we don't play the prettiest games all the time, but we try to end on a high note before timeouts, before the half, to raise our morale," said Johnson. "We find lacrosse is a mental game. It's not always the most strategic thing, but those were big goals. Momentum can change."
"We were a little tired," Rowe said. "We got here a little late. We needed to pick it up and we did."
"I don't really know how we do it," Connors added. "We talk a lot about ending on a positive note and working hard until the very last second. Every step and every second counts. They just know what to do. Leigh had some big goals. What's great is that it shifts every day. The girls realize when it's their 'on-day' and they take charge."
The Rangers were staggered.
"We played so well as a team in the first half, but you could tell the girls had their heads down when they came in," said Greely coach Becca Koelker. "I just told them to continue what they were doing."
In the first 25 minutes, the Flyers, behind junior Helen Gray-Bauer's continued hard work, held a 5-4 edge in draws and collected 24 ground balls to 20 for the Rangers.
Waynflete looked to take the lead early in the second half, but Rybka denied senior Ella Millard.
Then, with 16:59 to play, Otley took a pass from sophomore Jocelyn Mitiguy in front and from a tough angle, beat Majercik to put Greely back on top, 5-4.
The Flyers had a chance to win the ensuing draw, but couldn't do so and Rangers sophomore Maggie Reed scooped up the loose ball, ran into the Waynflete zone and didn't stop until she approached the crease, where she fired a shot into the net for her first varsity goal, making it 6-4 Rangers.
Again, just when it appeared Greely was ready to seize control, the Flyers bounced back.
Fernandez, one of the great champions in school history, immediately stemmed the tide, when she scored an unassisted goal with 16:28 remaining, beating Rybka to the far post.
"I thought about a timeout, but at that point, I was afraid (Greely would) get so psyched up and we'd be flat," Connors said. "I knew our senior leaders were strong."
Then, after Millard had a shot saved by Rybka, Fernandez beat Rybka low and that tied the game, 6-6, with 14:38 to play.
"Leigh is so sick," Rowe said. "I love her. She's one of my closest teammates. She's awesome. She helped bring us back."
Two minutes later, Greely got a golden opportunity as first Gray-Bauer, then Johnson, received yellow cards and had to go to the sidelines for two minutes.
The Rangers weren't able to keep possession, however, and Waynflete was able to kill the penalties.
"I don't think we've played two down before," said Fernandez. "It was a new experience for us. We had to play really smart. It was just composure on offense and defense. I'm glad we held them from scoring. That could have changed the game."
"The girls know what to do even though we'd never been down two players," Connors said. "I'd like to never see that happen again. That's not our style at all. Down two players, I'm proud of the girls on the zone who handled it well."
With 11:58 to play, Otley looked to put Greely back on top, but her shot hit the post.
At the other end, Rybka robbed Thompson-Greaves and with 9:57 remaining, Thompson-Greaves was sent to the sidelines for two minutes with a yellow card.
Again, the Rangers failed to capitalize, as they turned the ball over and instead of taking the lead, they soon found themselves behind.
With 8:11 to go, Millard had a shot in close denied by Rybka, but the rebound came to Johnson and two seconds later, she buried a shot to put Waynflete ahead to stay, 7-6.
"Because (Rybka's) a good goalie, it's all about going for the rebound," Johnson said. "I camped out and scuffled for it. I got it in my stick and it was just a jump and a look."
Greely couldn't answer, as Gray-Bauer won the draw and Millard found an unlikely source, Rowe, for a goal with 7:24 left to give the Flyers a little cushion.
Koelker called timeout, but it didn't turn the tide.
Out of the timeout, Greely turned the ball over and after milking over a minute off the clock like only they can, the Flyers went up, 9-6.
The goal came courtesy gorgeous passing, as senior Sofia Canning passed up a free position, instead feeding Fernandez, who spotted an open Johnson, who beat Rybka.
"We practiced keeping possession of the ball and being patient and we stopped doing that once they went ahead," Koelker said.
Otley tried to answer with just under four minutes to go, but Majercik made her final save, and with 2:20 to play, Johnson's unassisted goal stretched the lead to 10-6.
With 1:38 remaining, in transition, Thompson-Greaves passed to Rowe, who scored her second goal and her team's final, making the score, 11-6.
"I had some nice goals, but I wouldn't have done it without anyone else," Rowe said. "They were both assisted. That's more props to the team than to me. We go out there and play as a family. We're always there for each other. That keeps us calm."
"Christian's a very skilled player," Johnson said. "The new players are showing confidence."
"Christian today was unbelievable," Fernandez said. "I'm really proud of her and the other underclassmen."
"Christian really put herself out there," added Connors. "She's really come a long way."
Twenty seconds later, Greely snapped the Flyers' 7-0 run and a 15 minute, 26 second drought when Otley converted a free position.
With 1:02 left, senior Maura Kaminow scored unassisted, but the Rangers could draw no closer and Waynflete slammed the door on its 11-8 triumph.
"I was very concerned today, because Greely's an amazing team," Fernandez said. "They're fast and have a good offense. We came together with passing and trusting each other. It was a true team effort moving off ball and connecting with each other."
"We never underestimate Greely," Johnson said. "You can see they fought all the way to the end. That's the theme for a lot of teams this season, who can play a full 50 minutes and then some. Greely has amazing players. Teal, Cam, their goalie."
Fernandez had five goals, but the Flyers' offense was a team effort.
Johnson scored three times, while Rowe added two and Thompson-Greaves finished with one.
"It was good to see everyone get in on (the offense today)," Johnson said. "That makes it equally fun. Last game, Ella carried the ball and (senior) Sofia (Canning) carried the ball against Cape. It's who steps up. Today it was Leigh."
Isabel Canning, Fernandez, Millard and Thompson-Greaves each had an assist.
Waynflete enjoyed a 37-34 edge in ground balls, as Gray-Bauer collected a game-high seven and Fernandez, Johnson and Thompson-Greaves each scooped up five.
Majercik made five saves.
The Flyers enjoyed a 23-15 shots advantage (19-13 on frame), but most impressively, only committed 11 turnovers.
Waynflete's resurgence, even though it hasn't come as a surprise to those close to the program, has been something to behold.
"I knew the incoming freshmen and sophomores were promising, but I didn't think it would change this fast," Fernandez said. "After Yarmouth and Falmouth, we put our heads together and focused more on practice. Everyone's had an open mind. It's been a team effort."
"We started out with new players, me included," said Rowe. "We started working as a team and I think it's clicking now. It's super-awesome. I wouldn't want to be on any other team. I love Cathie. I love all the players."
"I think the girls are working super-hard," Connors added. "Everybody knows their role and plays their role and they're trusting each other. Our transition is better and our ride is better. It's really fun to do some new things."
Greely was led by Otley, who scored three goals. Bouchard, Dougherty, Kaminow, Leggat-Barr and Reed all had one. Bouchard, McKenney, Mitiguy and Nicoleau each had one assist. The Rangers won 13 of 21 draws and only gave the ball away 14 times. McKenney and Otley had a team-high six ground balls, while Leggat-Barr collected four. Rybka made eight saves.
"There were stretches of great lacrosse," said Koelker. "At the end of the game, (longtime official) Mary Parker came up and said, 'That's the best Greely team I've seen in 10 years.' We're making progress. Not as fast as we want, but we're making progress toward our goal. We have the talent, but now we need to pull it together for 50 minutes."
Both teams believe they can make noise in June, but both have some serious tests to pass first.
Greely (fifth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) returns to action Saturday, with another tough test, at Freeport. After hosting Cape Elizabeth and going to Gardiner (for a makeup game) and Kennebunk next week, the Rangers close at home versus Falmouth.
Eventually, Greely will get over the hump and won't look back.
"Each day, we get stronger," Koelker said. "These games are great to learn from so when the games matter with the season on the line, we'll have that experience. Our defense was on today. Our attack was on the other day. One day, we'll have both. We can't put our heads down. Teams are taking us seriously and that's a compliment. We are a team to watch. We're getting there and we'll keep working to hard to put it all together."
Considering what's coming up, you can say that Waynflete will be battle tested come tournament time. The Flyers (second in Western B) are back in action with two huge home showdowns in a three-day span next week, when they battle Kennebunk (in a game that will go a long way toward determining who has the top seed for the playoffs) and Yarmouth. After going to defending Class A champion Cheverus, Waynflete finishes at Cape Elizabeth.
Talk about a gauntlet.
Of course, if the Flyers continue to improve at the rate they have the past few weeks, a three-peat, something that wasn't even within the realm of possibility when they were 1-2, will be back on the table.
"We still have to possess more," said Fernandez. "Today, we did well in the second half. We can do better in transition defense and overall defense."
"Every team changes over the season," said Johnson. "We lost to Yarmouth, but we're nowhere near what we looked like then. In the preseason, we came to terms with the possibility of losing. There's not a single easy game we've had. We knew we wouldn't go undefeated. Each game, Helen says, 'Let's get better than last time.' Each game, we learn something new about our team. Cape was a really close game the first time. Cheverus has done great things in their division. What can you say about Yarmouth? They're so good. Kennebunk was scouting us today. That will be a fun game. They're similar to us. They're fast, they're good, they never give up. We just hope to be a little better."
"(Those games will be) a great way to end the regular season," added Connors. "We haven't really had any breathing room all season. We have to be up for every game. We have (Kennebunk) on our field, which is great. They're a really good team. Beating them would make a big difference with Heal Points."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Waynflete-Greely results
Waynflete 10 @ Greely 6
@ Waynflete 22 Greely 11
Western B semifinals
@ Waynflete 12 Greely 11
@ Waynflete 14 Greely 3
Waynflete 14 @ Greely 4
@ Waynflete 14 Greely 2
Waynflete 15 @ Greely 4
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 16 Greely 5
Waynflete 9 @ Greely 5
Waynflete 14 Greely 8 (game played at Yarmouth)
Waynflete 7 @ Greely 6 (3 OT)
Western B semifinals
Waynflete 8 Greely 5 (OT) (game played at Fitzpatrick Stadium)
Waynflete 6 @ Greely 5
West Region semifinals
@ Waynflete 5 Greely 3
Greely 8 @ Waynflete 5
@ Greely 5 Waynflete 4
West Region semifinals
Waynflete 5 @ Greely 2
@ Waynflete 10 Greely 6
West Region Final
@ Waynflete 15 Greely 7
Waynflete 8 @ Greely 5
@ Waynflete 12 Greely 8