Cape girls continue magical run, make history with OT win in regional final
KENNEBUNK—The "Cape Elizabeth Redemption Tour" has booked one more gig.
On the biggest stage of all.
Four days after a joyous, palate-cleansing victory over longtime nemesis Waynflete, the Capers girls' lacrosse team made the trip south to Kennebunk Wednesday afternoon for a Western Class B Final that proved to be both palpitating and historic.
After being frustrated in this round three years running, Cape Elizabeth wasn't about to have a letdown and hung tough with the potent Rams in a first half which ended deadlocked, 3-3.
That, in and of itself, was a victory for the Capers, who were essentially blown out of their regular season meeting at Kennebunk by the half, but this group has clearly hit its stride, even playing without injured senior standout Hannah Newhall.
Goals from senior star Abby McInerney and junior secret weapon Emma Landes gave Cape Elizabeth a 5-3 lead early in the second half, but the Rams stormed back to tie it, 5-5, when sophomore Olivia Sandford scored unassisted with 11:27 to go.
Kennebunk appeared to take the lead 10 seconds later, but the goal was waved off in a controversial decision and that swung momentum back to the Capers.
With 9:54 to go, Landes finished a feed from senior Liz Robinson to put Cape Elizabeth on top and exactly a minute later, the duo hooked up again to make it 7-5.
The Capers couldn't hold the lead, however, and after junior Haley Fecko scored on a free position with 4:23 remaining to pull the Rams within one, Kennebunk managed to draw even on a goal from sophomore Jenny Bush with just 15.2 seconds to go.
The contest would go to overtime, but instead of being disconsolate, Cape Elizabeth remained confident and was rewarded.
With the biggest prize it has yet to win.
After neither team scored in the first three-minute overtime, the Capers forced a turnover in the second and after not being able to spot an open teammate, Robinson did it herself, scoring an unassisted goal to give Cape Elizabeth the lead once more.
This time, the Capers didn't give it back and after Landes, fittingly, caused a turnover as time wound down, Cape Elizabeth was regional champion for the first time, 8-7.
Landes had three goals, McInerney and sophomore Sophie Hewitt added two apiece, Robinson tacked on five assists to go with her game-winner and junior goalie Kate Bosworth made nine clutch saves to help the Capers improve to 11-4, end the Rams' fine season at 10-4 and punch their ticket to the Class B Final for the first time, where they will face powerhouse Yarmouth (12-2) Saturday at 10 a.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
"It's pretty huge to get past Waynflete and win Western Maine in one week," said Cape Elizabeth coach Jeff Perkins. "These guys keep surprising me. The reality is that they have no business being out here if you look at the talent of some of these other teams. They've come to play and have figured out how to finish and man, it's been a great ride."
Cape Elizabeth expended so much energy and emotion in Saturday's historic victory at Waynflete (its first over the Flyers in 25 tries) that there was a legitimate question heading into the regional final whether it would have anything left for the Rams, who have been among the league's elite all season.
Both teams had a lot of highlights over the course of the season.
Cape Elizabeth, even after graduating Division I talent in Talley Perkins (now playing at Boston University) and two-time Spring Female Athlete of the Year Lauren Steidl (Princeton) was in the hunt from the start, even though the Capers had trouble with the Class B upper echelon.
Cape Elizabeth 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. A frustrating 6-5 loss at Waynflete was followed by an 11-10 home loss to Yarmouth, a game in which Newhall was sidelined for the season with a collarbone injury. The Capers then came alive by beating host Wells (17-13), Greely (9-6) and Falmouth (10-7), as well as visiting Marshwood (11-8), then closed by falling, 10-5, at home to Waynflete.
Cape Elizabeth earned the No. 3 seed for the playoffs and had little trouble with No. 6 Falmouth in the quarterfinal round, winning, 13-6. That set the stage for a win 12 years in the making, a 9-8 epic at Waynflete Saturday in the semifinals.
Kennebunk has been a longtime contender and after spending six years in Class A, returned to Class B this spring for a successful stint.
The Rams were unstoppable early in the season, opening with a 10-7 victory at reigning Western A champion Massabesic in a rematch of last year's Western A Final. They then won at Greely, 8-3, held off visiting Cape Elizabeth, 14-11, outslugged visiting North Yarmouth Academy, 18-11, and handled visiting Wells, 16-7. After losing at home to Yarmouth, 9-6. Kennebunk romped over visiting Messalonskee, 19-9, rallied late to win at Falmouth, 9-8, then rolled at Fryeburg, 20-2. The Rams then appeared poised to earn a rare victory at Waynflete, leading, 5-1, at halftime, but the Flyers roared back to stun Kennebunk, 7-6, in triple overtime. The Rams were then upset at home by Greely, 8-6, before they went to Yarmouth for the finale and shocked the Clippers, 8-5, to lock up the top seed in a deep and dangerous region.
After earning a bye into the semifinals, Kennebunk held off No. 5 York's spirited upset bid Saturday, 8-7, to advance.
The Capers and Kennebunk had met three previous times in the playoffs, with the Rams winning all three (see sidebar, below). The most recent was nine years ago, when Kennebunk won in the semifinals, 11-8.
Wednesday's game was tight throughout and produced a memorable finish.
Any concern about the Capers suffering a letdown after beating Waynflete went quickly out the window as McInerney won the game's opening draw and after Landes was just wide on a shot, McInerney took a pass from Robinson and as she did six times against the Flyers in the semifinals, finished, making it 1-0 just 99 seconds in.
"We knew we had to stay pumped up and that we still had two games to win," Robinson said.
"We talked a lot Monday in practice about Waynflete not being the end of the season," Perkins said. "We said, 'Guys, it's a great win and I'm glad you enjoyed it, but now it's time to get past it and focus on our next game.' We had a great practice Monday, but yesterday was flat, so I was nervous that we'd be drained mentally. On the bus ride down today, they were loose. I tell them to stay loose and have fun."
The Rams quickly answered, as Fecko scored an unassisted goal with 22:20 to play in the half.
Cape Elizabeth had chances to go back on top, but junior Taylor Hererra shot high and Landes missed just wide.
At the other end, Kennebunk sophomore Kyra Schwartzman hit the post and after Capers junior Kirsten Rudberg received a yellow card and had to sit for two minutes, Bush sent a free position shot just wide.
The Rams would take advantage of their man-advantage, however, as with 16:07 to play in the half, Bush converted a free position to give her team its first lead.
The Capers continued to be frustrated, as freshman Mariah Deschino was robbed by Kennebunk sophomore goalie Bella Kudas and an apparent McInerney goal was waved off, as she wound up in the crease.
With 11:12 remaining before halftime, Schwartzman scored unassisted and the Rams had a 3-1 lead, but this time, Cape Elizabeth didn't let them pull away.
After McInerney was robbed by Kudas, Schwartzman hit the post and Bosworth kept her team in the game, by denying Bush and sophomore Olivia Sandford.
Then, with 7:14 to go, Hewitt scored on a free position to end the Capers' 16 minute, 7 second scoring drought, cutting the deficit to one.
With 2:18 remaining, the visitors pulled even, as Deschino passed to Hewitt and Hewitt's shot deflected off the post and in, causing Kennebunk coach Annie Barker to call timeout.
The Rams pressured to take the lead before halftime, but senior Ali Truman shot wide with 5 seconds to go and the game remained 3-3 at the break.
"We were ecstatic to be tied at halftime," Perkins said. "We just had to go finish the game."
In the first 25 minutes, almost every statistical category was even and it was clear that thins one was going to go down to the wire.
And then some.
Bush won the draw to start the second half and Kennebunk almost retook the lead, but Bosworth made a save on a shot from sophomore Carly Sandler.
With 23:52 to play in regulation, the potent Robinson-to-McInerney combination clicked once more, as McInerney's one-timer put Cape Elizabeth on top, 4-3.
After Bush shot wide and Bush had a shot saved by Bosworth, Robinson set up Landes for the first time, making it 5-3 with 20:55 to go.
The Capers had a chance to extend their lead further, but turned the ball over and the Rams took advantage.
With 19:11 showing, Schwartzman converted a free position to make it 5-4, ending Kennebunk's 17:01 drought in the process.
After Bosworth momentarily preserved the lead with a save on a shot from Truman, Sandford tied the game with an unassisted tally with 11:27 remaining.
The Rams then took the lead, or so we thought.
Bush won the draw, the ball came to Sandler and Sandler raced in and sent a shot past Bosworth while crashing to the ground after colliding with a defender.
The goal was put up on the scoreboard, Kennebunk celebrated, then the officials huddled and the goal was taken away, leaving the score tied, 5-5.
"It didn't help when they took Carly's goal away," Barker said. "That was huge. (The official) said she was in the crease, but Carly said the defender pushed her into the crease after the shot. It was a huge turning point."
Sure enough, the Capers took advantage, going on top with 9:54 to go when Robinson set up Landes.
A minute later, Robinson found Landes for another goal and the lead was 7-5.
"There was just this one spot that was always open," Landes said. "Liz set me up every time. She's a beautiful feeder. I can always trust her."
"Last game, I waited for Abby to cut, but today, I drove and waited for Emma to go to the goal," Robinson said.
"We've worked with Emma all year," added Perkins. "We told her a time would come when everybody would either slide to Abby or to Liz and her spot would be open. She put three in and really stepped up."
The Rams called timeout, but Cape Elizabeth got a golden opportunity to ice the victory when Landes had a good look with 7:38 to play, only she shot wide and a subsequent shot from McInerney was saved by Kudas.
Back came Kennebunk and with 4:23 to go, Fecko was awarded a free position and sailed her shot into the net to make it a one-goal game, 7-6.
McInerney won the ensuing draw to herself, but the Capers turned the ball over. The Rams gave it right back and Perkins called timeout.
After junior defender Rhoen Fiutak and McInerney both won ground balls to keep possession, McInerney was given a free position with 1:54 remaining, but shot wide.
That gave the Rams life and with 50.4 seconds to go, Fecko got another free position opportunity. Her shot eluded McInerney, but rang off the post.
Kennebunk kept possession, however, and a shot from Schwartzman with 27.3 seconds remaining was wide.
Cape Elizabeth had a chance to win a ground ball that might have iced it, but Sandford came up with it, fed Bush and Bush fired a shot past Bosworth with just 15.2 seconds to go and the Rams had tied it, 7-7.
Neither team could do anything with the limited time remaining and it was on to overtime.
Two years ago, the undefeated Capers led Waynflete all the way in the regional final and were up, 8-4, in the second half, only to see the Flyers rally to tie, then win in triple overtime.
The sting of that loss had to be on the minds of some players heading into overtime Wednesday, but Perkins made sure his message stayed positive.
"I just said the same thing I said at the beginning of the game," Perkins said. "I told them, 'Look. It's 0-0 again. You've got six minutes guys. Nobody expects you to be here. Go out and finish this game. Let's write some more history.' They were so psyched. They were nervous, but after that they had a big smile."
"Coach always knows what to tell us," said Robinson. "He gave us some spirit."
In girls' lacrosse, teams play two, three-minute overtimes and if the game is still tied at the point, it's on to "sudden victory."
That wouldn't be needed in this one.
Robinson made sure of that.
Bush won the draw to start the first OT, but Kennebunk couldn't manage a shot for over two minutes. Finally, Fecko took one, but Bosworth made the save.
With 2 seconds to go, Deschino earned a free position, but didn't have time for a shot and it was on to the second overtime.
Bush again won the draw, but the Rams turned the ball over, as Rudberg came up with a ground ball.
Cape Elizabeth gave up possession, but forced another turnover and finally set up on offense.
In the semifinal win at Waynflete, the Capers ran the clock down to 16 seconds before Robinson, from behind the cage, set up McInerney for the winner.
It appeared Cape Elizabeth was doing the same thing, but Robinson suddenly saw open space and pounced, faking to her right, rolling to the left and running around the crease to shoot past a stunned and helpless Kudas to put the Capers on top for good, 8-7.
"I just saw (the defender) was turning the other way and the goalie was looking at the other side," Robinson said. "They thought I was going to go right, but I went left. It felt really good."
"(Liz's) winning goal was perfect," Landes said. "We passed the ball around and we knew if we were patient, their zone would break down. Liz took advantage of it."
"Liz knew I wanted her to hold the ball, but she saw something," Perkins added. "I'm sure she was thinking as she was shooting it, 'I better put it in the back of the net or Coach will be mad.' I saw her finish and read her lips and she screamed, "Oh, my God!' What a great feeling. We still had to go out and get possession."
Cape Elizabeth still had a lot of time to kill and there were some anxious moments.
McInerney won the final draw of the game and Deschino saved possession with a ground ball win, but with 9 seconds remaining, the Rams got one final chance.
Problem was, they had to go three-quarters of the field in little time.
They never got the ball across midfield, as Landes stripped it, time ran out and at 5:47 p.m. on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, after 102 scintillating minutes of lacrosse, the Capers were Western B champions.
"It's stop two on the redemption tour," Landes said. "We have one more stop. We were motivated because we wanted to play for Hannah. We wished she was out there. I think people wrote us off, but we knew we could prove ourselves and we do well when we want to prove ourselves. It's so good. I don't even know how to explain it. No one thought we'd be here and we made it. We knew we had to keep pushing. Coach told us to finish it. We knew we could and we did."
"It feels amazing," Robinson said. "I thought that the last two years we would have gone all the way, but this year, I feel so close to my team. It's so incredible. We went out there and knew we needed to win every draw and ground ball and keep possession. Everyone pulled together. It's really grueling. Watching other players running around with the ball is really nervewracking. You just have to keep your head in the game. When I saw one second left, I was like, 'Woo!' and ran right to Kate."
"No one expects us to win," Perkins added. "I'm impressed they've put the outside stuff away and go out and play their game. It's all about team. I know it sounds stupid. The girls realized that only way we'd do this was as a team. We did team building exercises and learned to trust each other. Everybody has played their role. There was great momentum back and forth, but we just did our jobs. The results have been fantastic. The girls were confident today."
Landes had the game of her young life so far, leading all scorers with three goals. Hewitt and McInerney both scored twice and Robinson's lone goal was one for the ages.
Robinson continued to vie with Waynflete's Cat Johnson for the title of best table-setter in the state by assisting on five goals. Deschino also had an assist. Bosworth made nine saves and McInerney and Rudberg both had seven ground balls, as Cape Elizabeth enjoyed a slim 35-33 advantage in that critical category.
While the Capers were outshot, 23-18 (16-12 on cage), they only committed 16 turnovers, on the road, on grass, in the crucible of a regional final.
Kennebunk also had a balanced attack, as Bush, Fecko and Schwartzman all tickled the twine twice. Sandford had the other goal and also had an assist. Kudas made four saves. Bush, Fecko, Sandford, Schwartzman, Truman and senior Sophie Joseph all collected four ground balls.
The Rams did enjoy a 10-9 edge in draws, as Bush won 10 of 17.
Kennebunk committed 18 turnovers.
"I thought we had momentum, then we decided not to shoot the ball," Barker said. "I don't know why. I kept screaming to shoot. We're best when we fastbreak. That was our gameplan and we didn't fastbreak. We might have had one or two.
"I'm proud that we came back, but it seemed like (Cape) had more fire than we had. Hopefully we'll build on this next year. We lose four people, but we have a ton of talent coming back."
Cape Elizabeth can now focus on the biggest prize of all.
A state title.
Something that the Capers have never won (not in the Maine Principals' Association-sanctioned era anyway, as they did win a Division I crown in 1997, the year before the playoffs as we now know them commenced).
It won't come easily, as Yarmouth will be a formidable foe.
Cape Elizabeth can take solace in its strong play against the Clippers during the regular season.
Cape Elizabeth last played Yarmouth in the playoffs in the 1998 state semifinals (an 8-7 loss).
After such a magical run to date, the Capers believe they can put the cherry on the sundae and call themselves the best Class B team in the state.
"We just have to keep our heads in the game like we did this game," said Robinson. "Don't think they have the upper hand. We're equal. We know what we can do. We just have to put some goals in the net."
"We're all excited to keep this up," Landes said. "All these games have been so close. We have momentum and motivation and I think we can pull one more off if we play our best and I think we will."
"Yarmouth's a great team," added Perkins. "Talk about athletes up and down the field. For us to finish, we've got to play another perfect game. We've played two in a row. I don't know how we play much better. It would be a very proud moment for this girls' program and school if we can walk into (Fitzpatrick Stadium) and do what the boys have done for years and years and years. We've always wanted to get there. We finally gotten there and get to play on the big stage. I can't wait. It's going to be fun. I know the girls are excited too."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Cape Elizabeth-Kennebunk playoff results
2005 West Region semifinals
Kennebunk 11 Cape Elizabeth 8
2004 West Region semifinals
Kennebunk 11 Cape Elizabeth 10
2001 West Region South Division quarterfinals
Kennebunk 19 Cape Elizabeth 10