Falmouth squashes NYA's playoff hopes with win in scorching finale
YARMOUTH—The mercury was sizzling and the stakes were high when the North Yarmouth Academy girls' lacrosse team welcomed Falmouth in the teams' regular season finale Friday afternoon.
The Panthers, on their Senior Day, entered with a chance to grab the final playoff spot in their region, but they dug too deep a hole, falling behind, 7-0, less than 10 minutes in. While NYA came to life and pulled within 11-7 late in the first half, the deficit was 13-8 after 25 explosive minutes.
When the Panthers cut the deficit to four once again early in the second half, dreams of a comeback were alive and well, but the Yachtsmen, as they did to start the game, flipped their dynamic offensive switch and produced another 7-0 run to put the game away.
Falmouth, in a game that took nearly two hours due to several necessary breaks for water, went on to a 21-10 victory, as nine different players scored.
Senior standout Alex Bernier had two goals and a whopping nine assists, while juniors Sabrina Smithwick and Julia Spugnardi and freshman London Bernier all had three goals, and the Yachtsmen closed the regular season at 7-5, ending NYA's year at 3-9.
"We connected on our passes today," said Alex Bernier. "We had a lot of different scorers. We wanted everyone to have a good last game before playoffs. (The heat) reminded me of summer tournaments. I'm kind of used to it. It's worse when you're not playing. It's better to be running around, because it cooled you off."
A lot on the line
For NYA, Friday's game was simple: Win or go home.
Falmouth was locked into the No. 5 position in Western Class B, meaning it will have to play all postseason games on the road, but the Yachtsmen were hoping to close an up-and-down regular season with a victory.
Falmouth began with an impressive 16-7 home win over Yarmouth, then was humbled by visiting Cape Elizabeth, 18-5, before bouncing back with a stirring rally to edge visiting Marshwood, 11-10. After holding on for a hard-fought 11-8 victory at Yarmouth, the Yachtsmen gave visiting Waynflete a scare but fell, 10-8. An 18-3 win at Fryeburg followed. Falmouth then lost at surprising York, 9-6. The Yachtsmen bounced back with a 20-9 home win over Wells and triumphed at Kennebunk, 14-8, but were beaten decisively at Waynflete, 16-3, and were outscored at Cape Elizabeth Tuesday, 17-10.
As for the Panthers, they dropped a 13-8 home decision to Freeport to start the year, then lost at home to York (8-5), at Greely (14-3), at Yarmouth (16-4), at home to Greely (21-6) and at Massabesic (14-3), before stunning host Freeport, 8-7. After a 17-6 home loss to Cheverus, NYA eclipsed last year's win total with a 17-5 home victory over Fryeburg and downed host Wells, 14-11, before losing, 16-7 at York, setting up Friday's do-or-die scenario.
NYA won the first six meetings between the programs, but in 2011, Falmouth finally got over the hump and took a four-game win streak into Friday's battle, where the Yachtsmen had too much firepower for the Panthers to counter.
It took Falmouth only 35 seconds to take the lead for good as Alex Bernier scored unassisted.
A little over a minute later, Bernier registered her first assist, finding Smithwick for a goal and a 2-0 lead.
After NYA's first good bid resulted in a shot off the post by senior Emma-Kate Metzger, the Bernier-to-Smithwick combination resulted in a goal and a 3-0 advantage with 21:18 to play in the first half.
There would be a lot more scoring before halftime.
After Panthers senior goalie Bailey Clock was ruled to have come out of the crease and gone back in, resulting in a turnover that forced the goalie out of the cage, Yachtsmen senior Molly Ryan, who controlled possession in the draw circle much of the afternoon, got on the board when she finished a pass from Geneva Waite with 18:39 to go, forcing NYA coach Lynn Sullivan to call timeout.
It didn't help as London Bernier set up senior Angela Mallis for a goal a minute later.
Waite (from Alex Bernier) and Ryan (unassisted) then scored to push the lead to 7-0.
The Panthers got on the board with 12:35 to play in the half as junior standout Olivia Madore converted a free position.
Spugnardi (from Alex Bernier) got a goal right back, but NYA sophomore Mary Noyes answered with 10:38 to go before halftime.
After Panthers sophomore Melanie Regan hit the post, Falmouth pushed its lead back to seven, 9-2, when junior Mikey Richards finished a feed from sophomore Lizzie Goodrich.
NYA junior Abby McKelvy countered with an unassisted goal, but Smithwick (from Alex Bernier) and sophomore Leigh Bernardy (on a free position) scored to give the Yachtsmen their biggest lead of the half, 11-3, with 5:01 to go.
The hosts could have folded and a mercy rule running clock could have taken effect, but instead, the Panthers erupted for four straight goals to make things interesting.
Madore scored two unassisted goals in a 27-second span, McKelvy (from freshman Alex Wahlstrom) scored with 3:13 to go and 20 seconds later, Wahlstrom scored unassisted to suddenly make it an 11-7 contest.
Richards stemmed the run with a free position goal with 2:06 to go and Spugnardi scored (from London Bernier) 36 seconds later, but with 23 seconds showing, Wahlstrom scored unassisted to make it a 13-8 game at the break.
Most lacrosse games don't feature 21 goals in 50 minutes, so this one's abundance came as a surprise.
When senior Lillie Reder scored unassisted early in the second half, NYA was back within four, 13-9, but Falmouth quickly put the game away.
First, Mallis took a pass from Alex Bernier and finished with 18:56 left.
Fourteen seconds later, Ryan scored unassisted for a 15-9 lead.
The onslaught continued as Alex Bernier scored (from Ryan) with 12:41 to go.
After Madore became the third Panther to hit the post, London Bernier got involved in the scoring as her cousin, Alex, set her up with 10:07 left, then did it again 45 seconds later.
With 8:32 remaining, Mallis fed Waite for a goal, inducing a running clock. With 6:59 to play, Alex Bernier found Spugnardi for a goal, capping the 7-0 surge.
With 3:44 left, Madore scored unassisted to end a 17 minute, 41 second drought.
With 1:21 showing, London Bernier (from Smithwick) brought the curtain down with a goal and the Yachtsmen went on to a 21-10 triumph.
"It was a great way to end the season," Falmouth coach Robin Haley said. "We've had some bumps along the way. We were able to execute. We moved the ball around a lot today. When we do that, we have a good shot at being successful. (The heat) was really difficult. I subbed early, hoping it would help out in the second half. I wanted to see how we'd react. It didn't seem to matter. I'm pleased with how we adjusted to NYA picking up the momentum."
Alex Bernier factored in more than half of Falmouth's goals, scoring twice and assisting on nine others.
London Bernier, Ryan, Smithwick and Spugnardi all tickled the twine three times, while Mallis, Richards and Waite also scored twice. Bernardy had the other goal. London Bernier had two assists, while Goodrich, Mallis, Ryan, Smithwick and Waite each finished with one. Hutcheon made eight saves.
Falmouth won 20 of 33 draws, as Bernardy was successful on seven of nine attempts, Ryan went 10 for 20 and Alex Bernier won three of four.
The Yachtsmen also had a commanding 53-29 ground ball advantage, as Alex Bernier had a game-high 10 and Mallis collected seven.
Falmouth ousthot NYA, 34-25 (30-18 on cage) and only turned the ball over 15 times.
The Panthers were paced by four goals from Madore. McKelvy and Wahlstrom both had two goals, while Noyes and Reder each scored once. Wahlstrom had the team's lone assist. Madore had a team-high five ground balls. Clock stopped nine shots. NYA committed 15 turnovers.
"We've given up a lot of goals at the beginning of games, then come back and played even," Sullivan said. "We've got to solve that issue. That's mental.
"We learned a lot this season. We beat some good teams. When we're on, we play well. We've played good games, but we have that habit of spotting leads."
The Panthers made nice strides in 2013, but not enough to return to the postseason. That figures to happen next spring.
"The seniors are a great group," Sullivan said. "Seven have been with the program for four years. They're great contributors. They see a lot and help with adjusting. They did a pretty good job of that. We hope to improve. Playoffs are a realistic goal. I have a talented group of ninth and 10th graders. We lost four girls today to heat or injury. They're all contributors. They'll be back. That's going to be huge."
Falmouth rode a roller-coaster this season, but hopes it's saving its best for last.
"I think we've had some good games and some bad games," Bernier said. "We've had ups and downs. We're hoping we get to the point where we won't have any more bad games.
The Yachtsmen go to York for a quarterfinal Wednesday. The teams have no playoff history.
"Everyone will have to be ready and know we have to come out hard and not underestimate York," Bernier said. "We'll give teams a run for their money."
"It only matters how you finish," Haley said. "There are some games we'd like to take back, but we learned from them. You can't change what already happened. We hope to build on this and get ready for York. We have to work together as a team."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Falmouth-NYA meetings
Falmouth 17 @ NYA 3
@ Falmouth 18 NYA 6
@ Falmouth 13 NYA 10
Falmouth 15 @ NYA 5
@ NYA 15 Falmouth 10
@ NYA 10 Falmouth 8
NYA 17 @ Falmouth 2
NYA 18 @ Falmouth 0
@ NYA 16 Falmouth 0