Capers strut midseason form in dominant win at Falmouth
FALMOUTH—If the Cape Elizabeth girls' lacrosse team remains as phenomenal as it was in its first game (with nearly two months left to get even better), you may as well go ahead and hand the Capers the championship trophy right now.
In one of the most memorable season-opening showings of brilliance and dominance you'll ever want to see in any sport at any level, Cape Elizabeth went to a very good Falmouth team Tuesday evening and proceeded to control every phase of the game for 50 jawdropping minutes.
The Capers went ahead to stay on a goal from senior Talley Perkins 1 minute, 29 seconds in and raced to a 7-0 advantage before the Yachtsmen knew what hit them.
While Falmouth got back within six goals early in the second half, it never truly had a chance and Cape Elizabeth closed the game on an 8-1 run to cruise to a stunningly easy 18-5 triumph.
The Boston University-bound Perkins led all scorers with six goals, junior Abby McInerney had a breakout performance with five goals, senior standout Lauren Steidl did a superb job setting up her teammates and along with junior Hannah Newhall, dominated in the draw circle, and sophomore goalie Kate Bosworth burst on to the scene with 10 timely saves as the Capers started 1-0 and dropped Falmouth to 1-1 in the process.
"Riding over on the bus today, trying to get into the zone with the music on, I didn't expect it to be like this at all," said Cape Elizabeth coach Jeff Perkins, The Forecaster's Coach of the Year last spring. "I think we played one of the best games I've seen in my six or seven years I've been a part of the program. Everything seemed to be working. We've been itching to play. It was great to get out and play and see if it would work. Tonight, it did."
The three powers
As was the case a year ago, the three best teams in Class B (and arguably in the entire state) reside in the West Region, meaning that any showdown between Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and reigning state champion Waynflete will be closely monitored.
Last year, the Capers were an unstoppable juggernaut for 13 games, winning them all behind a potent offensive attack, but dreams of a first championship in the Maine Principals' Association-sanctioned era were dashed by the Flyers, 11-10, in "sudden victory" overtime, in the regional final.
The Yachtsmen also had their 2012 season ruined by Waynflete and like Cape Elizabeth, it was their best year to date. Falmouth went 10-2 in the regular season and beat the Flyers for the first time in program history, but in the rematch, in an epic semifinal, the Yachtsmen couldn't hold a late lead and lost, 10-9.
Falmouth opened the 2013 campaign with an impressive 16-7 home victory over Yarmouth (senior University of Vermont-bound standout Alex Bernier had eight goals), while the Capers' first scheduled game, at home against Waynflete, was postponed by bad weather to May 1, making Tuesday Cape Elizabeth's first countable test.
The Capers beat the Yachtsmen in nine of 10 meetings between 2002 and 2009, but since then, the teams have been almost dead-even and the games have been palpitating.
Falmouth beat Cape Elizabeth in overtime in the 2010 regular season, then eked out an 11-10 win in the semifinals. Two years ago, the Yachtsmen prevailed in the regular season again, 11-9, but the Capers came to Falmouth and won a semifinal, 14-12. Last year, the Capers shot to a six-goal lead in the second half, only to see a furious, late Yachtsmen rally cut the deficit to one. Falmouth never could quite catch up, however, and lost, 15-14, forcing it to play Waynflete in the semifinals.
Tuesday, amid the cold and the drizzle, Cape Elizabeth had the last laugh again.
With shocking ease.
Newhall set the tone by winning the opening draw and the Capers went ahead for good when Perkins took a pass from Steidl and beat Yachtsmen freshman goalie Sarah Hutcheon 89 seconds in.
Falmouth had some early possessions with a chance to answer, but couldn't solve Bosworth, who was admittedly nervous, but didn't play that way, turning aside Bernier, among others.
"It was my first varsity game, so yes, I was nervous, thinking about it all last night and today," Bosworth said. "I got my confidence when I made those first couple saves. Saving some of Alex's shots made it better for my confidence."
Bosworth's teammates soon opened it up.
With 18:23 remaining in the first half, Steidl scored unassisted.
Thirty-eight seconds later, McInerney got on the board, scoring an unassisted goal.
With 17:32 left in the half, after Newhall won the draw, Newhall fed Perkins for a goal and a 4-0 advantage, capping a three-goal surge in a 51-second span.
"We try to place (the draws) to our taller players so we can reach up," said Newhall. "We have good one-handed snags. We practice that a lot. That's our strongest point. We also draw to ourselves, since Lauren and I are the tallest on the team."
"I woke up one day and just thought, 'Why not put my four best sticks on the circle?'" said coach Perkins. "Lauren's one of those players and you lose that on the draw. A draw is a 50-50 ball, so I want my best stickhandlers on the circle. It paid off today."
After Falmouth's frustrations continued when a Bernier shot hit the post, Capers freshman Maisie Perkins, Talley's little sister, scored her first varsity goal, taking a pass from Steidl before beating Hutcheon.
Yachtsmen coach Robin Haley called a timeout, but it didn't stem the tide.
With 12:40 to go, McInerney took a pass from Talley Perkins and finished. A little less than three minutes later, McInerney scored again, this time on a free position, and the lead was up to 7-0.
"We just passed really well and got down the field really fast," said McInerney. "We pushed our fastbreak as much as we could. That's one of the strengths of our team. Sometimes we get flustered when we settle, but we did well getting good shots."
Falmouth finally broke through with 8:52 to go when senior Angela Mallis scored on a free position. Bernier got her lone goal of the game at the 7 minute mark, finishing a pass from senior Molly Ryan, making it 7-2, but Cape Elizabeth responded.
With 5:29 left before halftime, in transition, the speedy Newhall, who leaves everyone else on the field in her wake, fed McInerney for her fourth goal of the half.
With 24 seconds remaining, Newhall was the beneficiary of a nice pass, this time from Maisie Perkins, and she finished to give the Capers a commanding 9-2 lead.
In the first 25 minutes, not only had Cape Elizabeth demonstrated transcendent offense, but Bosworth made eight saves to allow her team to enjoy some breathing room.
"(Their goalie) did a super job," Haley said. "She played great. In many ways that was the difference. We have players who are used to scoring quickly and easily and that just wasn't happening because she was stopping them. We didn't adjust."
When Talley Perkins scored unassisted just 18 seconds into the second half, it looked like the Capers were going to quickly force a "mercy rule" running clock (which goes into effect when a team leads by 10 goals), but the Yachtsmen responded with an unassisted goal from sophomore Leigh Bernardy and another tally from Mallis (set up by Ryan) in a 40-second span to cut the deficit to 10-4.
The hosts would draw no closer.
With 19:07 left in the game, McInerney (set up by Talley Perkins) scored her final goal.
Junior Liz Robinson got in on the fun a little over a minute later, finishing a pass from Maisie Perkins.
Newhall (from senior Jane Coffrin) scored with 16:21 remaining and 35 seconds later, Talley Perkins scored on a free position to make it 14-4 and force running time.
It didn't last as Ryan scored unassisted for Falmouth with 14:17 to go, but the Yachtsmen wouldn't score again and the visitors delivered their finishing flourish.
With 13:35 left on the clock, Talley Perkins scored unassisted. Steidl scored on a free position at the 9:20 mark, Perkins scored her sixth and final goal unassisted just over a minute later and with 3:02 to play, sophomore Kirsten Rudberg scored unassisted to account for the 18-5 final score.
It was quite a show.
"In the past, it's always been back-and-forth, so I don't think anyone expected this," McInerney said. "It's a pleasant surprise. We were really bummed to miss the Waynflete game, so we wanted to come out and make a statement."
"That's definitely not what I was expecting," Bosworth said. "Last year, we only won by a goal in a back-and-forth game. That's what I was expecting. We've been waiting for this for so long. We've been waiting for a game. This is the best thing I think that could've happened."
"Falmouth is an amazing team and they've always been a challenge, so it was good to come out and beat them," said Newhall. "I think it's good we had more time to come together as a team. We had a little team bonding over vacation, which I think really helped."
In all, seven different Capers tickled the twine, as Talley Perkins had a half dozen goals, McInerney scored five, Newhall and Steidl two apiece and Maisie Perkins, Robinson and Rudberg each added one.
"We try to incorporate everyone into our plays," McInerney said. "If Talley or Lauren are marked up, five others can go out and score."
"We moved the ball around and that's what I think is great," coach Perkins said. "We're trying to be unselfish. We have great players, but we have to share the ball. The indoctrination of our juniors this year was a big part of this. Having Liz playing down below and coming around the net and having Abby and Hannah there take the pressure off."
Perkins singled out the Princeton University-bound Steidl, whose play often reflects unrivaled elegance, for praise.
"They triple-teamed Lauren and she played so unselfishly tonight," he said. "She got the ball and dumped the ball off. That's what I've tried to preach to them. We have to be able to adjust. When Lauren came off with five minutes left, I said, 'You played a perfect game. You didn't score 10 goals, but you played a perfect game.'"
Newhall, both Perkins sisters and Steidl each had two assists, while Coffrin finished with one.
Then, there was Bosworth and her 10 saves.
"Kate has worked so hard in the offseason," said McInerney. "(Former goalie) Elin (Sonesson) was a great goalie for us, so she has big shoes to fill, but she's done that really well."
"We're really pleasantly surprised with Kate," Newhall said. "We were a little worried when Elin left, but (Kate's) played Maineiax (travel lacrosse) all winter and has worked her butt off. She's been amazing."
"Kate grew up today, didn't she?" coach Perkins added. "She was getting peppered in the first half. She said she was nervous, but she didn't look nervous at all. I'm very pleased. She executed tonight. Her confidence is sky-high right now and for a goalie, that's what it takes."
Cape Elizabeth was impressive in the team stats as well, winning 15 of 25 draws (Steidl went 9 of 12, Newhall 5 of 12 and McInerney 1 of 1), 40 ground balls (paced by eight from McInerney and six each from Newhall and Steidl) to 32 for the Yachtsmen and outshooting Falmouth, 26-19 (24-15 on cage, meaning just two shots were off target).
The Capers only turned the ball over 15 times, an impressive number at any stage of the season, especially in an opener.
For Falmouth, Mallis had two goals and Bernardy, Bernier and Ryan one apiece. Ryan also had two assists. Ryan was 9 of 19 on draws and Bernier went 1 for 6. Ryan led the team in ground balls with seven. Mallis had six. Hutcheon made six saves. The Yachtsmen committed 16 turnovers.
"It's always been a competitive game when we play, but (Cape) just started out strong," Haley said. "They're exceptionally fast and aggressive. We played intimidated today. You can't get behind against Cape Elizabeth. They have too many weapons. You can't mark them one-on-one. When you do that, you're vulnerable. We really struggled offensively. Our lack of experience certainly showed today. When you play against Cape Elizabeth with new kids in the game, it makes a difference."
Big games to come
The rivals will meet again May 28, at Cape Elizabeth.
"I don't expect the score to be like that next time," coach Perkins said. "It will be a hard-fought game. We just got lucky tonight."
Both teams have a lot of heavy lifting to do in the interim.
Falmouth plays host to Marshwood Friday, then goes to Yarmouth and hosts Waynflete next week.
The Yachtsmen hope to bounce back quickly from this setback.
"We have a tough one with Marshwood Friday," Haley said. "Maybe psychologically this will help. We'll either have it or not."
The Capers are home with reigning Eastern B champion Freeport Thursday and go to Gorham for a crossover game Saturday. Next Wednesday brings a home showdown with Waynflete.
Coach Perkins feels there is still work to do.
"Defensively, we have to make sure we're not giving up eight-meter shots," he said. "That's not fair to the goalie. We did some good work out there, but we need to do more work on that. I think some of our set plays on offense, we got a little excited. There are always things to work on. Today, the ball fell where it needed to. It doesn't necessarily always happen."
Coaches being coaches notwithstanding, if Cape Elizabeth continues to click like it did Tuesday, it's safe to say that the fun is just beginning.
"This is by far the best team we've ever had," Newhall said. "We have two D1 players as seniors. This is the best it gets."
"We're definitely taking it one game at a time, but our goal is to win a state championship for our seniors who have done so well," McInerney said. "We really want to win it. I think it's the best team we've had in the three years I've been here."
"We don't really talk about last year that much," Perkins added. "They all know. Most of the team is still here. We only graduated three players. They're just playing for this year. They're playing a different style and really enjoying it. What we've been preaching in the preseason, they came out tonight and did. I think they're excited."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth meetings
@ Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 8 (OT)
Western B semifinals
@ Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 10
Cape Elizabeth 16 @ Falmouth 10
Cape Elizabeth 9 @ Falmouth 7
@ Falmouth 8 Cape Elizabeth 6
@ Cape Elizabeth 7 Falmouth 5 (OT)
@ Cape Elizabeth 14 Falmouth 9
Cape Elizabeth 14 @ Falmouth 4
@ Cape Elizabeth 14 Falmouth 5
West Region preliminary round
@ Cape Elizabeth 16 Falmouth 6
Cape Elizabeth 14 @ Falmouth 3
Northwest Division preliminary round
@ Cape Elizabeth 14 Falmouth 2