NYA boys' lacrosse off to strong start
Panthers improve to 2-0 with 13-5 win at Cheverus
A year ago, a young North Yarmouth Academy boys' lacrosse team started 0-6 before finally hitting its stride.
This spring, while still inexperienced, the Panthers, under new coach Chris Carpentier, have won gone in the other direction, improving to 2-0 Saturday afternoon with an impressive 13-5 victory at Cheverus.
NYA had a decided edge in faceoffs, ground balls and shots. It also forced an abundance of turnovers as it took a 6-0 halftime lead and was never seriously tested in the second half.
"We played hard," Carpentier said. "That's the biggest thing I'm pushing this season. I can't ask for more than that."
Saturday afternoon special
Cheverus and NYA had playoff success a year ago and hope to contend in 2009. The Panthers wound up 5-10 last spring and fell to Yarmouth in the Eastern B Final. The Stags finished 8-6 after losing to Kennebunk in the Western B semifinals.
Both teams were hit hard by graduation and figure to take awhile to come together this season, but the Panthers opened with a 12-2 home victory over Freeport (Carpentier's former team) last Tuesday behind three goals apiece from juniors Cam Smith and Gus Wellin. Meanwhile, the Stags held off host Deering 11-7 in their first game.
The last meeting between the perennial contenders was two years ago, a 9-5 NYA win at Cheverus.
Saturday, the Panthers triumphed again, although it took them awhile to get it going.
In the first period, NYA won both draws, had an 17-11 edge in ground balls, and outshot the Stags 14-3, but it took 8 minutes, 4 seconds until the Panthers broke the scoring ice.
The first goal set a trend as junior Tom Gildersleeve set up Wellin for a shot which eluded Justin Sheehan and tickled the twine.
In the second quarter, NYA seized control.
Just 2:17 in, the Panthers went up 2-0 on an unassisted goal from Gildersleeve. A mere 18 seconds later, NYA grabbed a 3-0 advantage when Smith set up junior Phil Champoux for a goal. With 9:06 to play in the half, Wellin fed Gildersleeve for a man-up tally, the Panthers' third goal in 37 seconds. Finn Hadlock (from Wellin) and Smith (from Shane O'Hearn) also scored before the half for a commanding 6-0 advantage.
NYA won all eight faceoffs, grabbed 36 ground balls, outshot Cheverus 24-6 and forced 16 turnovers in the initial 24 minutes.
"Against a team as skilled as that, 6-0 is pretty tough to come back from," said Cheverus coach Deke Andrew.
The Stags made some noise at the start of the second half. They won the first faceoff and 57 seconds in, finally got on the board when Ryan McQuaid scored on a rebound. With 8:54 to go in the third, Ian Schwarz set up Stefano Caiazzo and it was 6-2.
Cheverus had chances to draw even closer, but with 5:07 left in the third, the Panthers pushed their advantage to five when Champoux set up sophomore Tim Millett for a score. Just 22 seconds later, McQuaid (from Haydon Peterson) answered for the Stags, but NYA made it 8-3 when Wellin set up Gildersleeve with 2:43 left. Schwarz (from Trevor Greene) scored in the final minute of the quarter for the hosts, but they still trailed, 8-4 with 12 minutes to go.
Cheverus got a gift prior to the fourth when Gildersleeve was sent to the penalty box for three minutes for using an illegal stick, but the Stags promptly turned the ball over and didn't register a shot with the advantage.
With 8:42 to go, Gildersleeve quickly made his presence felt again, taking a pass from Wellin, and finishing to make it 9-4.
With 7:41 remaining, senior Peter Foley scored an unassisted goal for the Stags, but that would be Cheverus' last hurrah.
Sophomore Dylan Seely, Wellin, Gildersleeve and Smith all scored unassisted in the waning moments and NYA put the finishing touches on its 13-5 triumph.
"Passing and catching definitely got better in the second half," said Gildersleeve, who led all scorers with five goals and an assist. "We're starting to click. We have a pretty young team, but we're coming along great. I think we had more talent last year, but we're closer as a team this year."
Wellin added two goals with four assists and Smith had two goals and one assist. Senior goalie Matt Ward stopped 11 shots.
"We're playing well at the beginning of the season," Carpentier said. "We played well, that's all I'm asking. The new faces have bought into it. We're really tight, everyone's on the same page all the time. That's what I like. I'm very surprised what I walked into."
NYA had a 14-6 edge on faceoffs, grabbed 54 ground balls to 44 for the Stags, forced 30 turnovers and had a 39-24 advantage in shots.
The Panthers got their first stern test of the season Tuesday when they went to defending Class A state champion Scarborough, a team which beat them 9-6 in Yarmouth last year. That game was played after this edition went to press. Saturday, NYA hosts Kennebunk.
"Scarborough will be a good test for us," Carpentier said. "I'm really happy with our schedule."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com