Capers bounce back with home win over Greely
CAPE ELIZABETH—Considering its reputation as a team to beat and the emphatic way it opened the season, the Cape Elizabeth girls' lacrosse team probably didn't expect to find itself needing to beat Greely in the third week of May to remain in the hunt for a home playoff game, yet that's exactly the predicament which the Capers found themselves Friday evening at Hannaford Field.
Coming off another tough loss to rival Waynflete Monday, its third in five games overall, with distractions such as the seniors' last day of school and the looming prom threatening to derail it further, Cape Elizabeth overcame a slow start and delivered a much-needed triumph.
The athletic and confident Rangers shot to a 5-2 lead midway through the first half, forcing Capers coach Jeff Perkins to call timeout, but did his team ever respond, ripping off seven straight goals to take the lead for good.
Greely didn't quit in the second half and got to within 10-9 with 13:47 to play, but Cape Elizabeth tightened up the defense and scored the final four goals of the game to prevail, 14-9.
Senior Talley Perkins and junior Hannah Newhall each scored four times, while senior Lauren Steidl added three and the Capers improved to 6-3 on the season, dropping the Rangers to 7-2 in the process.
"We talked yesterday in practice and before the game that this was a chance for us to play a home playoff game," Jeff Perkins said. "(Being behind Greely in the Heal Points) was a big eye-opener for the girls. I said to them today, 'Seniors, today was your last day of school and tomorrow's the prom. I know there's a lot in your heads, but please give me 50 minutes.' I think they gave me 40 and I'll take it. It got us to where we needed to be."
Playoff push starts now
Greely, which lost in the Western B semifinals last spring, has quietly put together a superb season under alumna and first-year coach Becca Lambertson Koelker, handling host York (14-11), visiting Massabesic (10-9), Freeport (10-8) and North Yarmouth Academy (14-3), before losing a tough 10-9 overtime decision to visiting York. The Rangers then downed host NYA (21-6), Windham (11-7) and Wells (16-6).
Cape Elizabeth, a regional finalist in 2012, looked unstoppable at the start of the season, opening with an emphatic 18-5 victory at Falmouth. The Capers then pulled away to beat visiting Freeport, 13-4 and won a crossover game at Gorham, 13-7, but a home showdown with nemesis Waynflete resulted in a 10-8 home defeat, in a game Cape Elizabeth never led. After bouncing back with a 17-5 win at Wells, the Capers were stunned at home by Yarmouth (8-7). After rallying to beat visiting three-time defending Class A champion Scarborough (10-8), Cape Elizabeth lost to Waynflete for the 21st straight time (8-4, in Portland) Monday afternoon, again never leading the Flyers.
While that loss was certainly disappointing, the Capers were able to quickly move past it.
"I thought we actually played pretty well (Monday)," Newhall said. "I wasn't as disappointed as when we lost to them the first time. Although the point spread didn't show it, I thought we played better."
"Coach always says, 'Put it behind us and remember what we need to work on and tomorrow's a new day.'" Steidl said. "We didn't want (that loss) to linger."
"We didn't really talk too much about that game," Perkins added. "We said look, 'This is where we stand and if we want homefield advantage for the playoffs, we have to start right now.' I think the girls took that to heart and worked hard this week."
Speaking of one team dominating another, the Capers have owned the Rangers in recent seasons (please see sidebar, below).
Last year, Cape Elizabeth beat Greely in all three meetings (with all three being played at Hannaford Field), 19-8 and 8-7 in the regular season and 18-8 in Western B semifinals. That latter triumph gave the Capers a seven-game win streak against the Rangers, dating back to a 12-9 Greely home win April 30, 2008. The Rangers came in having not won in Cape Elizabeth since May 22, 2007 (15-11).
Friday, under one of the most pleasant nights for lacrosse in recent memory in Cape Elizabeth, Greely gave it a great effort, but the Capers simply had too much offensive firepower when all was said and done.
The Rangers almost went ahead 33 seconds in, but an apparent goal from junior Cameron Keefe was waved off.
Cape Elizabeth broke the scoring ice with 19:30 to play in the first half when Talley Perkins scored unassisted, but Greely tied it on a goal from senior Etta Copenhagen (from junior Teal Otley, in transition) and went ahead, 2-1, when Keefe (from Copenhagen) beat Capers sophomore goalie Kate Bosworth with 16:59 left before halftime.
The Capers tied the score on a free position goal from junior Abby McInerney 49 seconds later, but the Rangers got an unassisted tally from senior Julia Mitiguy, a goal from Keefe (set up by Otley) and another from Copenhagen (on a free position), all in a 2 minute, 19 second span, to race to a 5-2 advantage.
With 13:24 left in the half, Perkins called timeout, Steidl replaced Newhall in the draw circle and the Capers responded with a flourish.
"Coach told us to get fired up and not repeat Yarmouth," senior defender Jane Coffrin said.
Out of the break, Cape Elizabeth won possession and Steidl got the comeback started by weaving through the defense before shooting past Greely junior goalie Krystyna Rybka.
With 11:13 to play before halftime, Newhall won a ground ball, then shot and scored.
With 6:10 left, the Capers pulled even when Newhall scored unassisted and with 3:33 showing, in transition, McInerney took a pass from sophomore Kirsten Rudberg and finished to put Cape Elizabeth ahead to stay.
"(Coach) told us the goalie was a lefty and that helped," Newhall said. "We got really fired up. We switched the draw around. We realized we had to come out hard and fast."
The hosts weren't finished as Perkins scored on a free position with 2:27 left, Newhall, off a win on the ensuing draw, scored unassisted 14 seconds later and after a Greely timeout, Capers sophomore Melissa Rudberg showed her persistence in winning a ground ball, which led to another Perkins unassisted goal and a 9-5 lead.
In just over 11 minutes, Cape Elizabeth had gone from trailing by three goals to leading by four.
"(The girls' response) was pretty good," Jeff Perkins said. "We were flat. Playing Greely is like playing ourselves. They have athlete after athlete. If you're not ready to play, they'll put it up on you. I told them, 'If you don't start playing, they'll blow you out. They're that good. It's up to you to make the difference.' They took it to heart. We weren't quick off the draw at the start, so we mixed that up and told them the goalie was lefthanded. That seemed to help. That and a few other secrets I can't tell you seemed to work."
Greely managed to end the run and its 13 minute, 15 second drought when senior Meg Finlay scored unassisted with 9 seconds to go before halftime, but the Rangers had been staggered by the Capers' surge.
The game was far from over, however, and Greely made things very interesting in the second half.
First, Newhall extended the lead back to four goals, when she finished a feed from Steidl just 41 seconds into the second half.
Then Rangers crept back to 10-7 when Otley converted a free position with 20:02 remaining and after Bosworth and Rybka came up big, stopping Otley and Steidl on respective free positions, Greely got a break as both Perkins and McInerney had to go to the sidelines with yellow cards 13 seconds apart.
The Rangers had two minutes to play with two extra attackers and not surprisingly, took advantage.
With 14:09 to go, Keefe scored unassisted.
Then, with 13:47 left, senior Paige Tuller set up Copenhagen for a shot Bosworth couldn't stop and Greely only trailed by one, 10-9.
The Rangers still had nearly a minute of the personnel advantage remaining, but Steidl earned arguably her biggest draw win of the day and Cape Elizabeth soon was back to full strength.
"We got lucky," Coffrin said. "We played five-man defense versus seven-man offense. We didn't have much of a chance. We hoped to win the draw so we could hold it."
"It was scary," Jeff Perkins said. "I don't know how to deal with all these yellow cards. We keep talking about cleaning it up. I hope we have a clean game coming up where it doesn't happen. We survived that."
The breathing room came courtesy of Steidl with 11:30 to go, when she scored on a free position.
With 8:55 left, Steidl did it again and the lead was 12-9.
"What really helps get free positions is that most of them are shooting space violations," Steidl said. "Hannah and Abby were inside the 8, kind of setting picks and when I drove, they'd cut out and I'd get the free positions. I just had to keep challenging. It was a huge team effort."
Junior Liz Robinson allowed her team to exhale even more when she scored unassisted with 6:57 to play and with 4:34 to go, Perkins scored an unassisted goal which brought the curtain down on Cape Elizabeth's 14-9 triumph.
"It was a great game," said Steidl. "(Greely) always comes out really strong. It's always a challenge for us. We knew we'd have to go really hard today and it paid off."
The Capers are at their best when several different players strut their stuff and Friday, five girls tickled the twine. Newhall and Perkins both had four goals, Steidl added three, McInerney two and Robinson one. Rudberg and Steidl had one assist each. Bosworth made eight saves.
Cape Elizabeth wound up winning 14 draws to 11 for Greely, as Steidl was successful on 11 of 19 opportunities.
"We ended up switching, so I took them and we had Hannah coming off the circle," said Steidl. "We work well like that. I can draw it to her. The connection really worked."
The Capers also won the ground ball battle, 34-30, as McInerney, Newhall and Perkins all collected six.
Cape Elizabeth outshot Greely, 26-23 (24-17 on cage) and only turned the ball over 14 times.
The Capers also held Greely scoreless the final 13:47.
"We're used to being athletic, because we have such great athletes, but Greely's really, really quick, so that was different for us (at first)," Coffrin said. "They're very into the fastbreak. We had to change our mentality. At first it was a little shocking, then we figured out what they were doing."
"If we could stop them initially and get them into a settled offense, we did pretty well," Newhall said. "We were able to stop their plays. Their fastbreaks were what got us."
The Rangers were led by three goals apiece from Copenhagen and Keefe and one each from Finlay, Mitiguy and Otley. Otley also had two assists, while Copenhagen and Tuller both had one. Mitiguy, Otley and freshman Kelsey Otley all had a team-high five ground balls. Rybka made 10 saves.
"Krystyna's done great for us this year," Koelker said. "When you have shooters like Lauren and Talley, it's hard to stop that. The defense could have done a little better job helping her out on the angles, but she made some huge saves."
All in all, Koelker was happy with Greely's effort.
"(Cape's) such a strong team," Koelker said. "We knew that coming in here. I was really proud of the girls. They fought to the very end. This was our opportunity to show people what we're made of. Even though we lost, I think we showed we can play with any team. I'm competitive, so I'd like to be 9-0, but there's a lot we can take away from this game. We played some beautiful lacrosse."
Two weeks left
Greely will look to return to the win column Thursday, when it hosts Fryeburg. The Rangers close by facing last year's Class B finalists, welcoming Waynflete for a makeup game (the Flyers had a 3-1 first half lead 12 minutes in on May 9 before thunder and heavy rain postponed it) and going to Freeport.
"I know we're going to peak at the end of the season," Koelker said. "We have some challenges coming up. We're excited. I think the team's been surprised at what they're capable of. I came in and knew they were a talented group of girls. Even though we lost today, we know we can play with the best teams. We know what we need to work on. We can't wait for the playoffs."
Cape Elizabeth hopes to keep its momentum and finish the regular season strong as it goes to Fryeburg Tuesday and closes with a home game against rival Falmouth May 28 and a hoped-for-revenge trip to Yarmouth May 30.
The Capers are still seeking to return to the dazzling form they displayed in their opener and hope it returns for the postseason.
"Transition is always something we can improve on," Newhall said. "Both offense and defense."
"I think we get better with every practice and every game we play," said Steidl. "This was a great example of what we can do if we put our minds together, even if we're down. I think we want to keep having games like this and persisting."
"We have to be consistent," Jeff Perkins added. "All our plays and our defensive sets are in. It's just recognizing. It's easier if they identify and I don't have to yell at them. We want to finish strong and see where the chips lay."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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