Round one goes to the Capers
CAPE ELIZABETH—The defending Class B state champion Falmouth boys' lacrosse team has gotten most of the preseason buzz, but Saturday evening at Hannaford Field, the state's proudest program reminded everyone that it has what it takes to return to the pinnacle this spring.
In a 48-minute end-to-end battle, featuring playoff intensity as well as inconsistent play representative of the start of a season, Cape Elizabeth got a solid team effort, then rode the broad shoulders of senior Timmy Lavallee when it mattered most.
Lavallee, who didn't score in the first half, had three second half goals and the Capers went on to an 8-6 win, improving to 2-0, while dropping the Yachtsmen to 0-1.
"It's a great win," said Lavallee, who will play at Providence College next year. "It's always our biggest game. It determines homefield advantage. The seniors wanted this one. I love being the underdog coming into a game like this. We wanted this one."
Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth have met in the Western Class B Final three years running. The Capers won in 2009 and 2010, but the Yachtsmen had the last laugh last spring.
After splitting in the regular season (Falmouth winning at home, 12-4, and Cape Elizabeth triumphing on its home turf, 8-7, in overtime), the Yachtsmen held off the Capers, 11-9, in the regional final en route to their first state championship.
Falmouth returned plenty of firepower and as a result, was given the edge heading into the year, but Saturday, Cape Elizabeth (which dominated Lake Region, 20-0, in its opener) staked its claim as the best team in the state.
The Yachtsmen shot themselves in the foot in the first period, turning the ball over eight times, but despite 11 shots, the Capers couldn't capitalize as Falmouth senior Connor Jordan, filling in for senior all-star Cam Bell (who was unavailable for the game), stood tall.
The hosts finally broke the scoring ice with 9:06 remaining in the second period when senior Thomas Bottomley scored unassisted.
With 7:57 to go before halftime, senior Forest Hewitt set up junior Alex Bornick for a goal and a 2-0 lead.
Finally, with 6:55 to play in the half, the Yachtsmen snapped a 17 minute, 5 second drought as junior Will Sipperly managed to beat Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Will Goduti, who replaced All-American Jack Roos this season.
It took only 34 seconds for Falmouth to tie the score as junior Charlie Fay set up senior Jack Cooleen.
The tie would be short lived.
With 5:58 remaining in the half, an unassisted goal by Bornick put the Capers back in front. Forty-eight seconds later, Hewitt scored unassisted and again the hosts were up by two.
It wouldn't last.
With 2:09 to go in the half, Yachtsmen senior All-American Mitch Tapley scored unassisted.
As time wound down, Falmouth would tie the score again. With 8.2 seconds showing, Fay finished unassisted and the game went to the break deadlocked, 4-4.
Cape Elizabeth's first half success began in the faceoff circle where Bottomley and junior Adam Haversat took five of the first seven encounters.
"I play indoor in the winter and I took faceoffs there," said Haversat. "I went up against good guys like (Yachtsmen senior specialist Abyn Reabe-Gerwig)."
Strong defense, dominance on ground balls (a 26-12 advantage) and continued Yachtsmen inability to hold on to the ball should have given the Capers a lead, but Falmouth was in great shape at the start of the second half.
But there, Cape Elizabeth finished the job.
With 9:54 to play in the third period, Lavallee got into the scoring column, courtesy senior Brian Brett, who won a contested ground ball and fed Lavallee for a goal which made it 5-4 Capers.
Again, the Yachtsmen answered, drawing even for a final time when Tapley passed to senior Hunter LaFond for a goal at the 6:50 mark.
With 2:43 left in the third, Brett appeared to give Cape Elizabeth the lead when his shot hit the post, but was ruled a goal nonetheless. After a conference, however, the call was overruled and the goal was waved off.
With 2:01 to go, freshman Griffin Thoreck hit the post.
Finally, with 1:05 left in the period, Thoreck finished the job, firing a bounce shot past Jordan to put the Capers ahead for good, 6-5.
Falmouth would have chances to answer, but either turned the ball over or was denied by Goduti.
With 6:41 to go in the game, Lavallee got free and finished for a 7-5 lead.
Lavallee then iced the game with 1:54 remaining, when again he scored unassisted, giving Cape Elizabeth its biggest advantage, 8-5.
"I could tell they were locking off, so it was me and (Falmouth All-American senior defender) Mike (Ryan)," said Lavallee, who will be a teammate of Ryan's at Providence. "I lowered my shoulder and ran through."
"Mike covered him well, but we didn't really go at him at the beginning," said longtime Capers coach Ben Raymond. "Timmy took it upon himself to go to goal and he did a nice job."
The Yachtsmen still had a glimmer of hope when Fay (from Tapley) scored with 53.1 seconds remaining, but one final possession was thwarted and the Capers ran out the clock on the Heal Points-rich victory.
"It was a good game," said Raymond. "We talked before we came out that we don't get a lot of really good games to play so we had to make the most of it and put our best effort forward. We did a nice job defensively. We played really well. Offensively, we played well at times. We did a nice job on ground balls."
Lavallee led all scorers with three goals. Bornick had a pair, while Bottomley, Hewitt and Thoreck each scored once. Brett and Hewitt each had an assist. Goduti made seven saves, all of them critical.
"(Will's) proven himself," said Haversat. "He's going to be great by the end of the season."
"I think he can be one of the best goalies in the state," Lavallee said. "He was outstanding."
"It was Will's first really big game," Raymond added. "He did an outstanding job. He cleared the ball well. He made stops. That will give him confidence."
Cape Elizabeth had an impressive 43-24 advantage in ground balls. Brett led all players by grabbing 10. Bottomley and senior defender Ned Melanson each had five, Lavallee collected four.
The Capers forced 21 turnovers, while giving the ball up only a dozen times and had a 40-29 shots advantage (20-13 on cage).
The Yachtsmen got two goals from Fay and one apiece from Cooleen, LaFond, Sipperly and Tapley. Falmouth's high powered attack was more or less held in check.
"(Cape's defense was) far better than I expected," Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel said. "They were prepared to be successful in this game. They knew exactly what we had on offense and knew exactly what they had to do and how to cover any of their weaknesses. All the credit goes to them."
Tapley assisted on two goals, while Fay had one helper.
Jordan was very impressive under fire, making 12 saves. He earned praise from both coaches following the contest.
"Their goalie was no slouch," Raymond said. "He did an outstanding job."
"Connor was probably the most consistent player we had tonight," said LeBel. "He did very well. Made some great saves. I'm very pleased with his performance."
Sipperly had a team high six ground balls, while Cooleen and Reabe-Gerwig both grabbed four.
The Yachtsmen finished with an 11-7 edge in faceoffs as Reabe-Gerwig beat Haversat 11 of 17 times and lost his one opportunity against Bottomley.
"Our defense wasn't bad, but we have to work on communication," said LeBel. "I'm not happy with the amount of time (Cape Elizabeth) had the ball. We have to get it clicking on offense. We had bad decisions in the first quarter. We didn't know how to handle that type of pressure and that type of defense. "
Neither team can get too high or too low about a result in April. The rivals will square off again May 16 in Falmouth and will likely meet a third time June 13 for the right to play for a state title.
The Yachtsmen are back in action Monday when they have their home opener versus Greely. Wednesday, Falmouth is home versus Yarmouth.
LeBel is concerned that this loss will put his team at a disadvantage in regards to playoff positioning.
"It really is a devastating loss," LeBel said. "No one's going to beat that team this year. They'll go undefeated unless we can beat them. If it comes down to Heal Points, I think their Heal Points will be higher than ours. It was a very meaningful game. In my eyes, we just lost homefield advantage for the playoffs. They're too good a team to lose. We'll look at this game and try to come up with a way to try and beat them when we play again."
Cape Elizabeth is home with North Yarmouth Academy Wednesday. The Capers can build on this result and will only get better.
"We have to work on catching and throwing and ground balls," Haversat said.
"We have to keep our heads up," Lavallee said. "We come out working as hard as we can every practice. We have to keep pushing and improve as the season goes along."
Raymond knows that that there are many battles left to fight.
"If we win both times (over Falmouth), then we'll have homefield," Raymond said. "If we split, we have a chance. It's what we needed to do. When they get their players back, they'll be stronger."