Trap avoided...Yarmouth makes it eight in a row with win over Falmouth
YARMOUTH—Coming off a victory over crosstown rival North Yarmouth Academy and with two-time defending state champion Waynflete up next, it would have been understandable if the Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team suffered a letdown Wednesday evening when it hosted Falmouth.
The Clippers got off to a slow start, but quickly hit their dazzling stride, thanks in large part to the return to the lineup of senior Molly Maguire.
Maguire, after being out of action two weeks, returned to the game just after senior standout Grace O'Donnell put Yarmouth on top, 2-1, early in the first half. Maguire immediately made her presence felt, scoring a goal and she would add another as the Clippers' explosive attack opened up a 9-2 lead. Then, as time wound down in the half, Maguire set up junior Emma Torres for a score and a commanding 12-4 advantage at the break.
The Yachtsmen hung tough in the second half, but while Yarmouth appears vulnerable in stretches, it simply can't be held in check for long.
After Falmouth drew within 13-7 with 15:15 to play, out of a timeout, O'Donnell put on an individual show, winning the draw and racing in to score and that ended the competitive phase of the contest. Junior Shannon Fallon once again turned heads with her individual moves, scoring twice to ice it, and the Clippers went on to a 17-9 victory.
O'Donnell scored six times and Fallon had four goals as Yarmouth made it eight straight victories, improved to 8-1 and dropped the Yachtsmen to 3-6 in the process.
"We knew it wouldn't be easy," said Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. "We came out ready to play. We showed them how hard we've been working. (The girls) bring their intensity so much that we just need to learn how to keep it the whole game. It's the little things at the end of the season that I get to be nit-picky on, but they're doing a great job."
Quite a ride
This season has been quite eventful for both teams.
Yarmouth, which lost to Waynflete in a close game in last year's Class B Final, entered the 2014 season as one of the favorites, then began with a thud when it dug an early hole and couldn't quite complete a rally in a 9-7 loss at Scarborough.
Since then, the Clippers have had no peer.
The fun began with a stunningly one-sided 11-4 home victory over Waynflete. After roaring back to down visiting Greely, 11-9, Yarmouth rolled at Freeport, 14-3. After an 18-5 win at Gould, the Clippers eked out close victories at Kennebunk (9-6) at Cape Elizabeth (11-10), then got eight goals from O'Donnell in a 17-8 home win over visiting North Yarmouth Academy last Thursday.
Falmouth has shown glimpses of brilliance and has also suffered some tough defeats.
The Yachtsmen started with a 12-5 loss at Cape Elizabeth, then shocked host Waynflete, 8-6. After falling at home to Freeport, 8-7, Falmouth won at Thornton Academy (8-6), then lost at home to Greely (15-10), Gorham (11-9) and Kennebunk (9-8) and got back in the win column Friday at Gould, 17-11.
Yarmouth beat Falmouth in each of the first 10 meetings between the schools (see sidebar, below), but the Yachtsmen had won each of the past four, including a 16-7 home victory and an 11-8 win at the Clippers last season.
Wednesday, however, Yarmouth made another emphatic statement.
O'Donnell won the opening draw, but Falmouth got the ball on a turnover and 86 seconds in, junior Lizzie Goodrich set up senior Julia Spugnardi for the game's first goal.
That would prove to be the Yachtsmen's highwater mark.
The Clippers tied things up with 20:51 remaining in the half, when O'Donnell beat Falmouth sophomore goalie Sarah Hutcheon on a free position.
With 17:43 left, O'Donnell took a pass from Fallon and finished and Yarmouth was on top to stay.
Even better, before the ensuing draw, Holt sent Maguire in for her first action since she was hurt in a win at Kennebunk two weeks ago.
After Hutcheon robbed both O'Donnell and Fallon in close and Clippers freshman goalie Mary Kate Gunville preserved the lead by saving a shot by Spugnardi, Maguire scored unassisted with 13:32 to play before halftime and Yarmouth was up, 3-1.
"It felt great," Maguire said. "I really missed being out there. I felt a little winded, but I'm excited to be back."
"Obviously, it's great having Molly back," said O'Donnell. "She opens up so much and she's another scoring threat."
"We'll work her back in slowly, but it's nice to have her back in there," Holt added.
Falmouth first-year coach Kait Johnson called timeout, but the Clipper Express was rolling and wasn't about to be stymied.
Seventeen seconds after Maguire's goal, O'Donnell set up junior Lane Simsarian for a score.
With 12:22 to go before halftime, Fallon scored unassisted.
Then, with 9:56 left, O'Donnell earned a free position, but she eschewed the shot and passed to Simsarian, who finished to make the score 6-1.
Spugnardi (from Goodrich) answered with 8:52 to play in the half, ending Yarmouth's 6-0 run and a 14 minute, 42 second drought, but O'Donnell, Fallon and Maguire all scored unassisted goals in an 88-second span to push the lead to 9-2.
After Spugnardi set up senior Sabrina Smithwick, Torres answered with an unassisted goal.
Falmouth sophomore Marcy Kittredge scored unassisted with 2:05 to play, but O'Donnell went to her left hand and beat Hutcheon with a high shot 22 seconds later and as time wound down, just after Simsarian was barely off target on a great look, Maguire hit Torres, who finished with 0.4 seconds showing to make it 12-4 Clippers at halftime.
"We played really well together today and moved the ball," said O'Donnell. "We had great off-ball movement. Our defense really stepped up. They had great pressure and gave the offense a lot of opportunities. We came out really strong in the first half."
O'Donnell won 10 of 16 draws in the first half, Yarmouth had a 24-19 ground ball advantage and outshot the Yachtsmen, 24-7 (17-6 on frame). Most impressively, the Clippers, who held the ball for almost the whole 25-minute half, only turned it over three times (just once in the first 20 minutes).
Only five saves from Hutcheon stopped Yarmouth from inducing a "mercy-rule" running clock.
The Clippers got off to a fast start in the second half, as O'Donnell took a pass from junior Caitlin Teare and finished to make it 13-4, but Falmouth sophomore London Bernier set up freshman Sydney Bell for a score and after Hutcheon robbed Maguire, Bell scored unassisted and with 15:15 still to play, junior Elle Fitzgerald (assisted by freshman Olivia Stucker) beat Gunville to cut the deficit to 13-7.
Holt called timeout and her team responded.
Most notably the state's premier player, O'Donnell, responded, winning the draw, collecting the ball and beating several defenders before firing past Hutcheon to make the score 14-7 and restore order.
"We let them score a few goals (out of halftime) and that's not how we wanted to start," O'Donnell said. "Lacrosse is a fast game. Anyone can have runs. It's crucial to have momentum, especially off the draw. That's what we do best."
Bell answered for the Yachtsmen, but after a turnover, freshman Eliza Lunt set up Fallon for a goal to make it 15-8.
Then, with 6:34 remaining, Fallon put on yet another individual show.
Much has been made of Fallon using her basketball background to achieve success on the lacrosse field, but her final goal of the evening and her team's 16th, was one she had yet to unveil this season.
Fallon spun through not one, not two, but three Falmouth defenders before beating a hapless Hutcheon to make the score 16-8.
With 4:45 to play, Lunt got in the scoring column, finishing a feed from Torres, to finish the Clippers' offensive production.
"We just got a little complacent (at the start of the second half) and that's bound to happen," Holt said. "The girls just need to know that we need to keep our intensity up. They learned something today. We have to keep it together for two halves. They turned it on again and they know can do it."
With 1:37 left, Yachtsmen freshman Devin Sarazin scored on a free position and that accounted for the final score as Yarmouth slammed the door on its 17-9 victory.
"Dorothy talks about mental toughness and working as a team," Maguire said. "When we focus on that, we can really do anything."
"We were on our game," said Clippers senior defensive standout Julia Primeau. "We knew we had to deny the pass. We talked about coming out strong. We came out strong against NYA and we came out strong again today. We can't take anyone lightly."
Once again, the Clippers displayed enviable offensive balance, as O'Donnell headlined with six goals, Fallon added four and Maguire, Simsarian and Torres each had two, while Lunt finished with one.
"We wanted to come out with fire and we did that and it really worked," Maguire said. "Especially on attack, we've really gotten our mojo. Every player on attack realizes she can be a threat and can score. That's really unique, to have so many scoring threats, especially when teams give Grace such a hard time."
"The composure of the whole attack has been impressive," Holt said. "They're working really hard."
Fallon, Lunt, Maguire, O'Donnell, Teare and Torres all had one assist.
Gunville made four saves.
"Mary Kate's really stepped up," Holt said. "It's a tough role. To step into this program as a freshman, she's really been phenomenal. I love how she keeps her head in the game. She's making saves, especially off free positions."
Yarmouth won virtually every statistical category.
For starters, O'Donnell was successful on 17 of 27 draw controls.
The Clippers enjoyed a 44-30 advantage in ground balls, as O'Donnell led the way there as well, collecting 13. Primeau had seven.
Yarmouth played a 50-minute game only turning the ball over nine times and forced 18 in the process.
"We did a great job taking care of the ball," Holt said. "We just need to show a little more patience and composure."
The Clippers outshot the Yachtsmen, 36-15 (28-13 on frame).
Falmouth's offense was led by Bell, who had three goals. Spugnardi tickled the twine twice and Fitzgerald, Sarazin and Smithwick each had one goal. Goodrich assisted on two goals, while Bernier, Spugnardi and Stucker all had one assist. Bell had a team-high eight ground balls. Hutcheon stopped 11 shots.
"The talent's there, we're just struggling putting the pieces together," Johnson said. "(Yarmouth's) an excellent team. We got caught on our heels a little bit. They move really well off-ball. They were hard to catch."
Playoffs come early
Both teams have some huge tests to deal with before they can even think about making a run in the postseason.
Falmouth (still fifth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) is home with Cape Elizabeth Saturday and goes to Greely Tuesday before closing at home versus York Wednesday.
"We only have a few games left, but anything can happen," Johnson said.
Yarmouth, meanwhile, will get a true test of just how good it is when it goes to Waynflete Saturday morning. The Clippers (who are close to locking up the top seed in Eastern B) pounded the Flyers April 30, but Waynflete is back to accustomed top contender form and is looking forward to the rematch.
Yarmouth hasn't won at the Flyers since the opening game of the 2007 season.
"We love playing Waynflete," O'Donnell said. "We get fired up for them unlike any other team. Cathie Connors is a great coach. They have strong seniors. They want it. They know what it's like to be in tough games. We need to bring what we have all season and really show them Yarmouth lacrosse."
"(Waynflete's) phenomenal," Holt said. "We have the utmost respect for them. We'll try to go in and play our game."
The Clippers close with home games next week against Brunswick Monday and Kennebunk Wednesday.
"We have to keep working on ground balls, coming out strong, having intensity," said Primeau. "We've done a great job on draw controls, but all over the field there are things we can work on."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Falmouth-Yarmouth meetings
@ Falmouth 16 Yarmouth 7
Falmouth 11 @ Yarmouth 8
Yarmouth 14 @ Falmouth 9
Yarmouth 12 @ Falmouth 1
Yarmouth 11 @ Falmouth 2
@ Yarmouth 9 Falmouth 2
@ Yarmouth 13 Falmouth 2
@ Yarmouth 16 Falmouth 5
@ Yarmouth 14 Falmouth 1