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Yarmouth girls survive NYA scare, off to regional final

Sports

Yarmouth girls survive NYA scare, off to regional final

YARMOUTH—If there's ever a rivalry where previous results and win-loss records mean absolutely nothing, it's Yarmouth-North Yarmouth Academy girls' lacrosse.

Saturday afternoon, 23 days after the Clippers left the Panthers in their wake in a 17-8 regular season romp, the ancient foes met again in an Eastern Class B semifinal where host Yarmouth quickly learned that it would have to scratch and claw for 50 minutes to advance.

In the renewal of a once-annual playoff battle, unheralded, fifth-ranked NYA staggered the No. 1 Clippers by taking a 5-3 halftime lead, but with its season on the ropes, Yarmouth responded like a champion.

After the teams traded goals early in the second stanza, Clippers junior Shannon Fallon took centerstage and saved her team's season.

Fallon scored four straight goals, including the tying tally with 15:24 to play and the go-ahead score 2:07 later. Yarmouth would go on top, 8-6, but NYA pulled back within a single goal when senior Abby McKelvy scored with just over 10 minutes to go.

After the hosts stalled for several minutes, Fallon scored one final goal and the Clippers were able to hang on from there and survive and advance, 9-7.

Fallon had a game-high five goals, senior standout Grace O'Donnell added two goals and two assists and Yarmouth improved to 11-2, ended the Panthers' best season since 2011 at 5-9 and advanced to host either No. 2 Freeport (10-2) or No. 3 Morse (11-2) in the Eastern Class B Final Wednesday at a time to be announced.

"It was a nailbiter," Fallon said. "NYA was definitely a different team this time. NYA's really good and did really well. They've got great athletes and they've gotten better and better. They caught us on our heels. It took us awhile to gain our rhythm and confidence."

Title time

Yarmouth, which lost in last year's Class B state final to Waynflete, was considered the favorite at the start of the season and despite stumbles to bookend their season, the Clippers have looked, for most of the way, to be the best team around.

Yarmouth was upset in its opener, 9-7, at Scarborough, but the Clippers turned things around 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) and Cape Elizabeth (11-10), then rolled past visiting NYA, 17-8, and visiting Falmouth, 17-9. Yarmouth then got pushed to the brink at Waynflete, but O'Donnell's overtime goal was the difference in a scintillating 7-6 win. Yarmouth returned to its decisive ways with a 14-2 home victory over Brunswick, then was shocked by visiting Kennebunk in the finale, 8-5.

Regardless, the Clippers' 10-2 record was good for the top seed in Eastern B and gave them a bye into the semifinals.

NYA missed the playoffs in 2012 and 2013, but this spring, under new coach and former Panthers standout Lucy Gerrity, the program returned to competitiveness.

NYA took two-time defending Class B champion Waynflete to the wire in the opener, before falling, 6-5. The Panthers then struggled at York, losing, 14-3, and at home versus Freeport, 12-3, before getting in the win column at Fryeburg (12-3). An 18-11 loss followed at Kennebunk, but NYA then prevailed at Mt. Ararat (6-3) and at home over McAuley (18-5) before losing at home to Gould (15-11) and at Yarmouth, 17-8. After outslugging host Wells, 17-15, the Panthers lost at home to York, 16-8, then finished with a 14-8 setback at Freeport to wind up 4-8 and fifth in the region.

Wednesday, NYA earned its first playoff win since 2011, holding off host No. 4 Gardiner, 12-10, in the quarterfinals.

Saturday's battle marked the 10th all-time playoff meeting between the schools (see sidebar, below), who have produced so much head-to-head drama that they were once the subject of a feature story in the New England Lacrosse Journal.

The first encounter was a Yarmouth win the 2000 East Region quarterfinals. Then, starting in 2004, for eight consecutive seasons, the rivals met in the regional final, with a trip to the state championship game at stake. The most recent came in 2011, when the Clippers rallied from early deficit to prevail, 6-5, on a late goal from unlikely hero Lindsey Purpura, en route to their most recent title.

Saturday's game lived up to the schools' proud lineage and heavily favored Yarmouth wasn't able to exhale until the final horn.

While the Panthers fell behind, 5-0 and 8-1 in the regular season encounter, this time, they struck first on a goal from sophomore Alex Wahlstrom with 18:56 to play in the first half.

The Clippers got on the board 2:18 later, when O'Donnell scored unassisted.

NYA retook the lead with 12:05 to play in the half, when Wahlstrom scored unassisted, but Yarmouth appeared to get things going with consecutive goals.

First, with 10:12 showing, junior Lane Simsarian set up freshman Eliza Lunt for the tying goal.

Then, 51 seconds later, senior Molly Maguire gave the Clippers their first lead, 3-2, with an unassisted tally.

Just when it appeared the Panthers were staggering, however, they closed the half in stunning fashion.

With 5:55 to go in the first, senior Olivia Madore took a pass from classmate Abby McKelvy and beat Yarmouth freshman goalie Mary Kate Gunville to tie the score.

McKelvy then put NYA back on top 80 seconds later with an unassisted strike and with 2:39 to go, sophomore Juju Tardif scored unassisted to give the Panthers an improbable 5-3 lead at the break.

The Clippers knew they had to crank up their level of urgency.

"(Coach) Dorothy (Holt) reminded us to play for each other and play Yarmouth lacrosse," Fallon said. "We refocused."

"We started out taking a lot of fouls and NYA came out tough," Holt said. "We hadn't played in over a week. We talked at halftime about maintaining our composure and we turned it around."

NYA was thrilled to be ahead, but knew it still had much work to do.

"We were more prepared this time," Gerrity said. "We knew how to adjust to what they wanted to do. Our defense was on fire and we were much better on the draws. We were on our game and Yarmouth was caught off-guard. It was just a matter of the girls working with the plan. We went into halftime knowing we had the challenge of telling the girls how to do better because we knew that a two-goal lead wasn't much. It's the easiest lead to lose."

Sure enough, just 41 seconds into the second half, O'Donnell scored unassisted and it appeared the Clippers were ready to make a run.

Except they didn't.

With 21:55 remaining in regulation, Wahlstrom's third goal, unassisted, pushed the Panthers' lead back to two goals.

Enter Fallon.

Fallon, the goalkeeper on the girls' soccer team in the fall and a member of the basketball team in the winter, has emerged as a star this spring and with Yarmouth desperately needing a savior, she welcomed the challenge.

With 17:50 remaining, Fallon took a pass from O'Donnell and finished to cut the deficit to 6-5.

With 15:24 to go, Fallon scored unassisted and the game was deadlocked for the fourth and final time.

Fallon scored another unassisted goal with 13:17 left and finally, the Clippers were on top to stay.

"The comeback started with defense," Fallon said. "They played solid and forced turnovers. We transitioned well to midfield and that helped the offense. We had to set the tone in the second half."

Fallon wasn't done and with 12:14 to go, she converted an O'Donnell feed to give Yarmouth its first multiple-goal lead, 8-6.

"Shannon stepped up," Holt said. "She had a good game and scored when we needed it. Grace looked for her and Grace, Lane and Emma created isolation for her."

NYA could have folded, but it fought to the finish.

With 10:35 left, McKelvy scored the final goal of her career, unassisted, and the Panthers were only down one, 8-7.

While NYA hoped for the equalizer, which would have put all the pressure on the Clippers, they never got it and after Yarmouth took several minutes off the clock, junior Emma Torres delivered a feed to Fallon, who scored her fifth and final goal to stretch the Clippers' lead to 9-7.

"We stalled and they had great pressure and that made us a little nervous, but we were able to move the ball," Fallon said. "Emma had a great assist. We needed to go ahead by more. It finally clicked for us."

That finally did the trick and Yarmouth held on to advance.

"(NYA) played really well," Holt said. "They're a really good team and they have a really good coach. We knew it wouldn't be easy. It's nice to have the rivalry back. We turned the Kennebunk loss into a positive and pulled out a win together. I'm so proud of the girls."

Fallon's five goals sparked the Clippers. She also had an assist. O'Donnell finished with two goals and two assists, while Lunt and Maguire both had one goal and Simsarian and Torres added one assist apiece.

Progress

NYA was paced by three goals from Wahlstrom. McKelvy scored twice, while Madore and Tardif both tickled the twine once. McKelvy added an assist.

"We either tied or were in the led most of the game," Gerrity said. "I really think it was a matter of possession in the second half. If we played 10 more minutes, it could have been completely different."

The Panthers wound up 5-9, but that record doesn't reflect just how far the program has come.

"I'm not happy with the loss, but it's a great turning point for the program," Gerrity said. "Overall, I'm pleased with how the season turned out. It's the beginning of something exciting. I'm proud of the girls. I hope they're at a turning point. We could have won more games this year, but it went well. I couldn't be happier."

While Madore, McKelvy and Jen Machin graduate, much returns for the 2015 Panthers, who could be poised for an even bigger leap.

"We lose three starters, but we'll be starting off in good shape next year," Gerrity said. "We have a small team, but we have a lot of depth. We have girls coming up who are athletes. We don't want to be in the regional semifinals next year. We want to be in the regional final."

One hundred minutes from glory

As for Yarmouth, it will have its hands full Wednesday. The Clippers handled the host Falcons back on May 5 (Holt's 100th career win), but each of the past two seasons, the schools have played down-to-the-wire playoff contests (Freeport won, 12-11, in overtime in the 2012 Eastern B Final and Yarmouth got a measure of revenge with a 12-10 semifinal victory last spring). The Clippers have never been pushed by the Shipbuilders in the playoffs and handled them, 22-9, in last year's regional final (behind nine goals from O'Donnell).

While it will be the favorite Wednesday, Yarmouth has learned it can't take anyone for granted if it wants to reach the pinnacle.

"Our goal is to make it to states," Fallon said. "We definitely expect another tough game (Wednesday). We can't look past anyone. Either way, I'm pretty sure it will be an even matchup, but we're not done yet."

"We'll be home and we'll be ready," Holt added. "We'll have to bring it. As we've said since the beginning this year, it's anybody's game on any day."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Photo:

Yarmouth freshman goalie Mary Kate Gunville makes a key late save.

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NYA senior Olivia Madore is defended by Yarmouth junior Lane Simsarian.

Photo:

NYA senior Abby McKelvy styles her way to a goal.

Photo:

Yarmouth senior Grace O'Donnell fires a shot for one of her two goals.

Photo:

NYA sophomore Juju Tardif tries to navigate Yarmouth defenders senior Abby Belisle-Haley (red headband) and junior Mary Coyne.

Photo:

NYA sophomore Emily Taylor defends Yarmouth sophomore Lilly Watson.

Photo:

NYA sophomore Alex Wahlstrom tries to pick up a loose ball as Yarmouth senior Julia Primeau closes in.

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Yarmouth sophomore Lilly Watson fires a shot.

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Yarmouth junior Shannon Fallon (smiling) is congratulated by senior Grace O'Donnell after scoring of her five second half goals.

Previous Yarmouth-NYA playoff matchups

2011
Eastern Class B Final
@ Yarmouth 6 NYA 5

2010
Eastern Class B Final
@ NYA 9 Yarmouth 5

2009
Eastern Class B Final
NYA 10 @ Yarmouth 7

2008
Eastern Class B Final
@ NYA 10 Yarmouth 9

2007
Eastern Class B Final
@ Yarmouth 10 NYA 7

2006
Eastern Class B Final
@ Yarmouth 10 NYA 6

2005
East Region Final
@ NYA 9 Yarmouth 8 (3 OT)

2004
East Region Final
@ NYA 13 Yarmouth 7

2000
East Region quarterfinal
@ Yarmouth 10 NYA 6