Flyers continue to soar, rally past Kennebunk in OT classic
PORTLAND—It was yet another Waynflete-Kennebunk thrill ride.
It was a microcosm of the Flyers' season.
And most of all, it was a reminder that as the month of June looms, the two-time defending Class B state champions have to be viewed as a squad more than capable of bringing home the hardware once again.
"It" all took pace Thursday afternoon at Fore River Fields, where lacrosse fans were treated to a 56-minute-plus passion play (as well as a four-legged intruder and terrific weather) as the visiting Rams seemingly put a stranglehold on a rare victory over Waynflete, racing to a 5-1 halftime lead behind the dynamic play of sophomore Jenny Bush, who scored three times.
Then, the Flyers roared back.
Sparked by an unexpected source, underappreciated junior Hannah Thompson-Greaves, Waynflete pulled within two goals just over seven minutes into the second stanza and when clutch senior Cat Johnson scored a pair of her own, Waynflete was even, 5-5.
And there were still over 14 minutes to go.
Neither team would score before the end of regulation, as Flyers sophomore Charlotte Majercik made several key saves and on offense, the hosts just missed winning it when senior Ella Millard's shot with a second left went just wide of its mark.
Then, it was on to overtime, which in girls' lacrosse, consists of two three-minute sessions which are played out regardless of the score.
Kennebunk seemingly retook control when it benefited from a fluky bounce which resulted in a go-ahead goal, but late in the first OT, Millard scored to make it 6-6.
Neither team scored in the second session and it was on to a third, "sudden victory" overtime.
On the opening draw, Waynflete won possession even though a player entered the circle early and took advantage, as Johnson fed senior Leigh Fernandez, who has never met a big-game situation she didn't like, and she finished to give the Flyers a palpitating 7-6 triumph, just the latest in a seemingly non-stop series of epic victories for the state's premier program.
Waynflete earned an abundance of critical Heal Points, made it six straight victories and improved to 7-2, dropping the frustrated and exasperated Rams to 8-2 in the process.
"It was anybody's game," said Flyers coach Cathie Connors, whose 258th career victory was one of her most memorable. "It was a game of beautiful transition with two teams playing hard. Classic Kennebunk-Waynflete. It really was. (My girls) could have put their heads down and said forget it, but they didn't. This is special. I'm so proud of them. It makes me want to cry."
Never out of it
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), downed visiting York, 13-7, and won a back-and-forth affair at Greely (11-8) last Wednesday.
Kennebunk opened with a 10-7 victory at reigning Western A champion Massabesic in a rematch of last year's Western A Final, then made a statement at Greely, 8-3, held off visiting Cape Elizabeth, 14-11, outslugged visiting North Yarmouth Academy, 18-11, and handled visiting Wells, 16-7, before suffering its first loss, 9-6, to visiting Yarmouth. The Rams bounced back with a 19-9 home win over Messalonskee, rallied late to edge host Falmouth, 9-8, then prevailed at Fryeburg, 20-2, last Thursday.
The Waynflete-Kennebunk rivalry dates back to last century and has featured some memorable duels, both in the regular and postseasons.
Entering Thursday, since 2004, the Flyers held an 11-1 edge, (see sidebar, below) which included playoff wins in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Last year, Waynflete romped at home, 15-1.
This time around, the Rams were seeking to snap a two-game skid against the Flyers, but Waynflete wasn't about to let that happen in the first overtime contest between the rivals since the 2004 regional final.
The Flyers came out sizzling, as junior Helen Gray-Bauer won the opening draw, the offense settled and in a foreshadowing of what would end the game some 90 minutes later, Johnson set up Fernandez for a goal and a 1-0 advantage.
Waynflete wouldn't score again for a long, long time and Kennebunk controlled the rest of the half.
The Flyers had a chance to double their lead, but a Johnson free position was saved by Rams sophomore goalie Bella Kudas.
After Kennebunk's first shot, from sophomore Kyra Schwartzman, was turned aside by Majercik, the visitors drew even with 18:20 to play in the first half, as Bush got on the board for the first time, unassisted.
After Bush won the ensuing draw, Schwartzman's bid to put the Rams ahead was denied by the post.
Then, things went from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Play was halted with 16:10 to go in the first half when a dog, yes, a dog, got loose and ran on to the field.
The dog was removed (humanely, of course) and Kennebunk took the lead on a free position goal from sophomore Kristen Koch.
Our four-legged friend then made a return and play was again suspended as the dog was put safely into a vehicle once and for all and Dog Day Afternoon came to an end.
The fun on the field, meanwhile, was just beginning.
After Kudas preserved the lead by robbing Fernandez point blank, the Rams took a 3-1 lead when Bush took a pass from sophomore Olivia Sandford and finished with 10:01 remaining in the half.
A mere 26 seconds later, Schwartzman was finally rewarded for her hard work, finishing a feed from senior Allie Truman, and Kennebunk was up, 4-1, forcing Connors to call timeout.
Her timeouts usually work like a charm, but even though she replaced junior Helen Gray-Bauer with Fernandez to take the draw and the Flyers won it, they couldn't do anything with the ball and the Rams once again went on the attack.
After Majercik made a save on a bid from sophomore Carly Sandler, Kennebunk took a 5-1 lead with 2:38 to go in the half, as Bush finished a Sandler feed.
That would be the Rams' last traditional goal of the contest.
Unlike recent games, Waynflete wasn't able to produce any last second magic before halftime and faced a daunting deficit at the break.
"Unfortunately, we're used to coming from behind," Connors said. "I had that sense that we would start slowly because we hadn't played in a week. We just had to get back in the groove. At halftime, we talked about how in the first half we played as single units, not as a team."
In the first half, Bush won four of seven draws, the Rams had a 19-18 edge in ground balls, forced 10 Flyers turnovers and enjoyed a 10-4 shots advantage, but few on hand thought that the hosts wouldn't respond in the second half.
Bush won the second half's opening draw and Kennebunk had a chance to extend its lead, but Majercik saved a free position shot by Sandford and turned aside a shot from Schwartzman.
Then, with 20:27 remaining in regulation, Waynflete ended a 28-minute, 55-second scoring drought and the Rams' 5-0 run as Fernandez set up Thompson-Greaves for a goal which cut the deficit to 5-2.
The Flyers kept the pressure on and after Fernandez was denied by Kudas, Thompson-Greaves got a good look. Even though her initial shot was saved by Kudas, Thompson-Greaves pounced on the rebound and fired it into the net to suddenly make it a two-goal game.
"I grabbed it and just made sure it was going in," said Thompson-Greaves. "They have an amazing defense. They're so quick to the ball. Their goalie was right on the spot every time. Kudos to her."
"Hannah was huge today," Fernandez said. "She gets the credit for changing momentum. Those goals turned the tide. She's not a big-name star, but she's always there scoring the goals we need, like she did today."
"To go back in and get the ball again says a lot about (Hannah)," Connors added.
Kennebunk coach Annie Barker took timeout, but Johnson, who was new to the draw circle, won possession and after a defensive breakdown, found a clean lane to the goal, which she took before firing past Kudas to make the score 5-4 with 17:15 still to play.
After another Johnson draw win, the Flyers looked to complete the comeback, but Millard's shot was saved.
Finally, with 14:32 to go in regulation, Waynflete got the equalizer, as Fernandez somehow threaded a pass to Johnson, who made an athletic move to catch the ball and shoot it past Kudas to tie the game, 5-5.
"We had a good halftime talk and Cathie got us all on the same page," Fernandez said. "It was everyone today. We just tightened up the defense more in the second half. We played more together and did little things like getting ground balls and making safer passes."
The contest would remain deadlocked for the next 14:32, but there were opportunities aplenty down the stretch.
With 11:39 left, Bush earned a free position, but Majercik made the save.
A little over a minute later, Sandler earned a free position, but again Majercik stood tall.
Sandler got another chance on a free position with 8:41 remaining, but shot high.
Then, with 4:18 to play, Schwartzman got her chance on a free position, but Majercik came through again to preserve the tie.
"It was so nerve-wracking," Majercik said. "It was really intense. There was a lot riding on this game. I can still feel my heart pounding. I had to take a deep breath and remind myself how much I trust my team and how close we are. I was totally keeping my eye on the ball. I caught myself a few times trying to predict passes and stuff, but I was just eye on the ball and nothing else."
Waynflete then controlled possession in the final moments and had its opportunities.
With 2:57 showing, Millard intercepted a pass and set up Johnson, but she shot high while being knocked down by a defender, earning a free position in the process. Johnson decided not to shoot on the free position and the Flyers kept possession and with 1:45 left, Millard earned a free position, but she too passed up a shot and tried to feed a teammate in front of the goal, only to have Kennebunk junior Hannah Pepin intercept the ball.
The Rams couldn't retain possession, however, as Gray-Bauer forced a turnover and scooped up a ground ball and that allowed the hosts to run down the clock for a last shot.
They would have an excellent chance as the ball came up top to Millard and as time wound down, she got a great look, but sent her shot just wide of the left post.
Johnson won the draw to start OT and Thompson-Greaves had a chance to put Waynflete on top, but her shot was blocked.
Kennebunk then got to set up in the Flyers' offensive zone and benefited from a fluky goal, as Truman's pass bounced off a Waynflete stick and eluded a surprised Majerick to make the score 6-5.
"I'm not sure what happened," Majercik said. "I think it went off someone else's stick. That was rough. I was really confused about what had happened, but I looked over and saw Cathie and she told me it was a fluke and I put it behind me."
That goal ended a 28:25 drought and a 4-0 Waynflete run.
Bush then won the draw and the visitors had a chance to run out the clock on the first three-minute OT, but Sandler tried to stretch the lead, only to have Majerick make the save.
That gave the Flyers an opportunity to answer and sure enough, they did, as Millard scored unassisted with 23 seconds to go, weaving through the defense before burying a shot which tied the game, 6-6.
Neither team scored in the second OT, although both had great opportunities.
Just 24 seconds in, Fernandez had a shot saved by Kudas. Johnson collected the rebound, but Waynflete turned the ball over.
After the teams traded turnovers, Kennebunk twice almost got the go-ahead tally, but with 26 seconds left, Schwartzman shot just high and with 6 seconds remaining, Schwartzman shot high again and it was on to "sudden victory."
The third OT began with controversy.
Just prior to Bush and Johnson taking the draw, a Flyer stepped into the circle, which should have given the ball to the Rams.
Instead, the officials didn't make the call, the draw ensued and Gray-Bauer came up with the loose ball, giving Waynflete possession.
"The call needed to be made," Barker said. "They obviously didn't want to make the call. It hurts. Putting (Gray-Bauer) on the circle was a good move on (Cathie's) part because she knew she couldn't get the draw from Jenny."
The Flyers made the most of their chance.
Waynflete set up on offense, the ball came to Johnson behind the goal and after circling out to the right flank, Johnson waited for Fernandez to make her cut, delivered a perfect pass and Fernandez, who already has one basketball, two soccer and two lacrosse state titles to her credit over the past two years, tickled the twine.
"We just ran through one of our plays," Fernandez said. "I just saw a lane. I'm not sure I was totally open. Cat had an amazing feed and when you're all alone in front, you just shoot it. It was pretty exciting."
"That's our go-to play," said Thompson-Greaves. "Leigh's a magician. I'm not surprised she had the winning goal."
"(Cat and Leigh) have a special connection and it worked," Connors added.
As the clock showed 5:35 p.m., a 92-minute instant classic was complete.
Flyers 7 Rams 6.
"The second half and overtime were very fun for us," Fernandez said. "We've anticipated this game for awhile. Kennebunk played unbelievably well today. It was just a fun game to win. It was a big win for us. I credit the win to our defensive effort and to Charlotte in goal. Helen had some plays, Cat's feeds were great, Hannah had some goals. Those were all so pivotal. I thought we had momentum going into overtime. Their first goal didn't rattle us very much. A couple other games we've started out slowly, then turned it on. That's been our team this year in a nutshell."
"I'm so excited," Thompson-Greaves said. "I can't even form words right now. I'm shaking. It's just the best feeling. I don't think I can do my homework after this. At halftime, we talked about coming together as a family. This team is so special and we just needed to pull it together and we clearly did. We talked about staying composed going into overtime. We didn't want to throw the ball away or foul."
"I wasn't even sure what happened, but it was so exciting," Majercik said. "This was really special."
"We had to trust each other and commit to each other and take risks and the girls did all those things," Connors added. "We had to make some adjustments on defense and we did. To keep them scoreless for over 25 minutes without a goal was amazing. Going into overtime, I just said, 'This is your game right now. You've played great under pressure.'
"We're very resilient. The girls are fighters. They know they have to work extra-hard. We have a lot of athletes out there. It's so rewarding and special to watch it. Just when you think we're doomed, they make the shift. We've come light years."
It was Waynflete's first overtime win since it beat Cape Elizabeth in the 2012 Western B championship game/de facto state final.
The Flyers featured a balanced offense, as Fernandez, Johnson and Thompson-Greaves all had two goals and Millard added one. Fernandez and Johnson each had two assists. Gray-Bauer and senior Sofia Canning tied for top honors in ground balls (seven). Johnson collected six.
Majercik saved the day with 10 saves.
"Charlotte is the backbone to this team," said Thompson-Greaves. "She's young and she's taken on a huge role leading the team. I'm so proud of her."
"Charlotte came up huge," said Connors. "She made giant saves in the second half. She's scored big goals for us. She's taken giant steps forward this year. She's totally come through for us."
Like a true perfectionist, Majercik isn't satisfied with how well she's playing at this point in her career.
"I definitely feel like I've learned a lot, but I need to learn more and I know that," she said. "This is just a starting point. I just want to get better and better and better and I'm going to work for that."
Waynflete turned the ball over 19 times and was outshot, 22-14 (16-14 on cage), but as it so often seems to do, it found a way to escape.
Kennebunk was led by Bush's three goals, but she was shut out in the second half. Koch, Schwartzman and Truman each scored once. Sandford, Sandler and Truman had one assist apiece. Bush helped the Rams hold a slight 9-8 advantage in draws. Bush also had a game-high 11 ground balls as Kennebunk had a 43-37 edge (Sandford grabbed eight and Sandler collected six). Kudas made seven saves. The Rams committed 15 turnovers.
"I think the game plan we put in place was the right game plan," Barker said. "It worked in the first half. (Their defense) was tighter in crashing in the second half and we didn't keep the ball hot enough to be effective. The girls are definitely bummed because they knew they could have won it and they saw how the game ended."
Kennebunk remains first in the Western Class B Heal Points standings, but Waynflete is closing in.
The Rams play host to Greely Saturday, then close the regular season Wednesday at Yarmouth.
"We just have to swallow hard and keep on moving," Barker said. "We have to beat Greely, then go to Yarmouth. We want to be right there until playoff time. We don't want to see Waynflete again until the end."
Speaking of Yarmouth, with Kennebunk out of the way, Waynflete can now focus its sole attention on an eagerly awaited rematch with the visiting Clippers (8-1, on an eight-game win streak and first by a mile in the Eastern B Heals) Saturday at 11 a.m.
The Flyers are not only hungry to avenge last month's loss, but also to measure themselves and their improvement against what has clearly been the best team in the state in recent weeks.
"We have to play a full 50 minutes," said Fernandez. "Today, our whole first half wasn't what we hoped for. If we play a full 50 minutes, it will be different than last time. Yarmouth's a very good team. We'll see how it goes."
"I think that if we just play like we know how to, we'll be fine," Majercik said. "Last game, we hadn't come together as a team. Now we have. They've seen that. If I were them, I'd be worried. It will be a great game."
"We have the biggest heart," said Thompson-Greaves. "We're really meshing well. I'm so excited to move forward. I think we're ready. We'll be a team, stay together and see what happens Saturday."
"Yarmouth is amazing and we're going to play a lot of defense," Connors added. "We didn't give them a lot of pressure last time. Charlotte's a different goalie now. And we have a different team."
Waynflete closes the regular season with games next week at Cheverus (June 4) and Cape Elizabeth (June 6).
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Waynflete-Kennebunk history
Waynflete 11 @ Kennebunk 6
Waynflete 16 @ Kennebunk 5
@ Waynflete 5 Kennebunk 4
Waynflete 13 @ Kennebunk 5
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 14 Kennebunk 8
Waynflete 14 @ Kennebunk 3
Western Maine Final
@ Waynflete 11 Kennebunk 6
Western Maine Final
Waynflete 8 Kennebunk 7 (3 OT)