Yarmouth gets sweet revenge, ousts Freeport to reach regional final
FREEPORT—For nearly a whole calendar year, the Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team stewed over last season's playoff ouster and longed for another crack at the Freeport Falcons.
Friday afternoon, amid a steady rainfall in a Eastern Class B semifinal round showdown, the third-ranked Clippers got their opportunity and while it took a full 50 minutes, they served up their dish of revenge.
While host No. 2 Freeport had the better of the play early, as senior standout Jocelyn Davee led the Falcons to leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 5-4, eventually, Yarmouth settled down and closed the first half strong with an 8-6 advantage.
When Clippers senior Alex Lucas scored unassisted in the second minute of the second half, Yarmouth led by three, but Freeport awakened from a nearly 15-minute slumber and rattled off four straight goals, capped by an unassisted tally from senior Aubrey Pennell with 15:26 to go, to take a 10-9 lead.
Yarmouth, which let a lead slip away in last year's loss, wasn't about to see history repeat itself and drew even on a goal from junior standout Grace O'Donnell with 11:06 to go.
After both teams had their chances, the Clippers finally went ahead for good when senior Ali Merrill scored on a free position with 3:46 to go. The Falcons had a look to tie, but Yarmouth junior goalie Jordan Brown made a clutch save and the Clippers were able to run almost all of the remaining time off the clock before sophomore Emma Torres clinched it with a goal with 4.6 seconds remaining and Yarmouth had its revenge and a pivotal 12-10 triumph.
O'Donnell had three goals, three other players scored twice and the Clippers improved to 6-7, ended Freeport's season at 6-7, advanced to the regional final for the 10th year in a row and best of all, earned the opportunity to host the Eastern B Final Wednesday against No. 4 Morse.
"We've been waiting so long," said Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt. "I wanted this win so badly for them after last year. We had a lot to prove. The conditions weren't great, but it was even. What showed was the perseverance of this team. We're young, but our upperclassmen stepped up. We won draws. The 50-50 balls went our way a little bit. We started to hold and control the ball a little bit. That's what it took. Freeport's a great team, we just had to pull it out in the end. These guys love to come from behind. They showed their poise. It's just a happy day."
Back and forth
Freeport has only beaten Yarmouth once this century, but that win came last June 14 in the Eastern B Final, when the Falcons rallied for a 12-11 victory, the biggest win in program history.
Freeport lost in the state final, 16-5, to Waynflete, but proved last year was no fluke by virtue of its competitive play this spring.
The Falcons opened with a 13-8 win at North Yarmouth Academy. After a 13-4 setback at Cape Elizabeth, Freeport handled visiting Windham, 9-6. A 10-8 loss at Greely followed, but the Falcons edged visiting York (4-3, in overtime), then handled visiting Fryeburg, 15-6. After falling, 13-7, at Waynflete, Freeport romped at Class A South Portland in a crossover, 15-8. The Falcons then lost at home to NYA, 8-7, at York, 7-6, and after a 14-9 home win over Wells, fell at home to to Greely, 13-6. Despite its struggles down the stretch, Freeport's 6-6 mark gave it the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
The Clippers lost at Falmouth in the opener, 16-7, then fell at home to Waynflete, 17-5, before coming to life with a stirring, come-from-behind 8-7 victory at Scarborough. After losing at home to Falmouth (11-8), Yarmouth romped over visiting rival North Yarmouth Academy (16-4), handled host Wells (17-10) and shocked host Cape Elizabeth, 8-7. A 12-8 home loss to Gorham followed. After dominating host Fryeburg, 21-3, the Clippers fell at home to York, 12-9, then lost at Waynflete, 16-10, and closed with a 14-12 home loss to Cape Elizabeth to wind up 5-7 and third in the region.
Entering Friday, the teams had met five times in the postseason, with Yarmouth winning four of them.
As was the case a year ago, this encounter was a close as close can be, but this time, the Clippers refused to leave their neighboring town on the short side of the scoreboard.
While rain fell throughout, it didn't really affect play.
What was evident early was that Davee came to play, as she controlled the draw circle in the first half and the Falcons took advantage.
Just 32 seconds in, Davee scored unassisted to break the ice. Nineteen seconds later, junior Meredith Broderick scored an unassisted goal to make it 2-0 Freeport.
Yarmouth awakened and got on the board when junior Molly Maguire took a pass from O'Donnell and beat Falcons junior goalie Molly Lane with 21:56 to go in the first half.
With 20:25 showing, senior Olivia Conrad drew the Clippers even (assisted by Merrill).
Twenty-five seconds later, Freeport retook the lead as Broderick scored unassisted. Davee made it a 4-2 game when she scored on a free position with 17:38 to go in the half, but the visitors gradually seized control.
Goals from Conrad (assisted by Maguire) and sophomore Lane Simsarian, after a draw win, tied the score, 4-4.
The Falcons refused to relinquish the lead, as Davee scored on a free position with 15:14 to go in the half, but Merrill tied the score unassisted 54 seconds later on an unassisted goal and with 12:38 left, Lucas scored unassisted to give Yarmouth its first lead, 6-5.
Freeport junior Bethanie Knighton tied the score 40 seconds later, but the hosts wouldn't score again in the half.
With 10:06 left, O'Donnell gave her team the lead with an unassisted goal and after Lane denied Lucas in front, O'Donnell (from senior Julia Kameisha) scored to give the Clippers an 8-6 advantage at the break.
In the first 25 minutes, Davee won 11 of 15 draws, but Freeport committed 14 turnovers.
After Brown made a key save on a Davee shot to start the second half, Yarmouth took its biggest lead, 9-6, when Lucas scored unassisted with 23:24 left in regulation, but the Falcons roared back to life.
With 22:12 left, Davee scored unassisted, ending a 14 minute, 46 second drought.
Broderick added an unassisted tally and with 19:47 to play, Pennell scored for the first time, unassisted, and just like that, the game was deadlocked, 9-9.
With 15:26 remaining, Pennell ran around the cage and beat Brown to give Freeport a 10-9 lead, but that would prove to be the Falcons' highwater mark.
Off the ensuing draw, Lucas raced in on goal looking to tie the score, but Lane made the save.
With 11:06 left, the Clippers were able to draw even, thanks to a terrific pass from behind the cage by Torres to a cutting O'Donnell, who fired the ball into the net before Lane even knew what had happened, ending a 12:18 drought for Yarmouth.
The Clippers kept the pressure on, as Lucas was again robbed by Lane after a draw win, O'Donnell hit the crossbar with a shot and O'Donnell's free position was turned aside by Lane.
Finally, with 3:46 left on the clock, Merrill earned a free position and she beat Lane with a low shot to put Yarmouth on top for good, 11-10.
"It was a tough free position against a good goalie," Holt said. "(Ali) seems to be our go-to player at the end. She also had the empty net goal (in the win) at Cape."
Freeport won the ensuing draw and had a chance to tie the game again, but Brown, who missed nearly half the season with injury, made her biggest save of the year, denying senior Dayze Gaulin on a free position.
"We realized we needed to step up and not foul and push them off to the side," said Clippers junior defender Abby Belisle-Haley. "It was really a team effort, especially the defense. We had to battle through. We knew we had each other. We came together as one unit in the second half. We're such a strong team. We can overcome."
Yarmouth got possession, but turned the ball over with 1:30 remaining. The Falcons weren't able to take advantage, however, giving it back with a minute to go and the Clippers then exhibited a superb stall, running the clock down under 10 seconds before Torres saw a seam on the left side, raced in and beat Lane to clinch it.
"(Stalling is) extremely difficult," O'Donnell said. "We practice it against our defense, which helped us."
"I'm not going to stall for 10 minutes, but we work on it," Holt said. "You have to work on that and it paid off today."
"We've been practicing (against the stall), but it's like a giant game of monkey-in-the-middle," lamented Freeport coach Karin Kurry. "Unless you're fast, it's hard to do. My kids have great heart, but very fast we're not."
When the final horn sounded, Yarmouth celebrated its 12-10 triumph.
"The redemption is outstanding," Belisle-Haley said. "I got pulled up last year and that was my first playoff experience. I remember the sheer sadness. It was awful. To share this experience is amazing."
"Winning in general is great, but coming back here after losing last year and getting revenge was really great," said O'Donnell. "Our team fights until the end. We knew Freeport would be a test. We've been waiting for this game for awhile and we played our hearts out. We've come back from so much this year. We've grown so much together. We've hung in with tough teams like Cape and Waynflete. With our experience, we pulled it out."
Seven different Clippers tickled the twine, as O'Donnell had three goals, Conrad, Lucas and Merrill two apiece and Maguire, Simsarian and Torres one each.
"Grace is a special player, but she has a lot of support around her," Holt said. "Olivia, Alex, Ali, Molly and Julia, who really support her. They work as a group. Grace doesn't demand attention. None of them do, but they know how to work together and that showed today."
Kameisha, Maguire, Morrill, O'Donnell and Torres all had assists.
Brown only made four saves, but they were crucial. Lucas led her team with eight ground balls. Conrad and O'Donnell both had six.
Yarmouth outshot Freeport, 23-16 (18-14 on cage) and most impressively, only turned the ball over 16 times in challenging conditions, while forcing the Falcons to give it away on 23 occasions.
Freeport saw Davee cap her career with four goals. Broderick added three, Pennell had two and Knighton one. Lane made six saves.
"Molly played a great second half," said Kurry. "We put tape on her stick because her hands were sliding in the rain. It was driving her nuts. In the second half, we took the tape off and she was fine."
Davee won 15 of 24 draws. Sophomore Emily Johnson had a game-high 10 ground balls, as the Falcons held a 44-42 advantage in that category.
"I felt like we played the whole game," Kurry said. "I'm pretty excited about that. Four years ago, we'd get killed by Yarmouth. To have two years in a row where we're within a goal either way, I'm happy. The girls played with heart. It's nice to see at the end of the season. We've learned a lot. We learned to work together and learned to work the ball. I'm very pleased with how we developed. I'm proud of the girls. They became athletes."
Freeport will miss its seniors, but has shown it's a legitimate contender and looks to remain near the top of the standings in 2014.
"Jocelyn and Aubrey are a great combination," Kurry said. "They had some great goals. They're beautiful to watch on the field. Dayze really blossomed this year. She made the defense be honest and created space for other people. We're young still. We only have three seniors. We thought we had holes to fill after last year. Hopefully we respond as well next year as we did this year."
"Hosting" the regional final
Yarmouth's turf field is about to undergo an overhaul and as a result, the Clippers won't be able to play there in Wednesday's regional final. At press time, Yarmouth was pursuing the opportunity of playing at North Yarmouth Academy, Deering or Falmouth, but regardless of where it plays, Yarmouth will be the "home" team and will be the favorite against a Morse squad which went 7-5 in the regular season before ousting No. 5 Camden Hills (17-10) and top-ranked Gardiner (9-8, in triple overtime).
The teams don't play in the regular season. The Clippers beat the Shipbuilders in all three previous playoff meetings, with a 17-4 romp in last year's semifinals the most recent encounter.
Yarmouth fell agonizingly shy of the state game a year ago. After exorcising that demon Friday, the Clippers are primed to get back to the Class B Final and make a run at another shiny piece of hardware.
"It's exciting," Belisle-Haley said. "It will be a little funky to not be on our turf, but I think we can pull through. We want to get to states. We can do it."
"We won't be on our turf, but it will be a great game," O'Donnell said. "We're excited to carry on in the tournament. We just have to work hard and play together. We go by our slogan, 'All In!' That showed today."
"We're going to have to play like we did today," Holt added. "We have to keep our head up high and work hard. This team is special. We had state champions, but every team has its special nugget and this team's special nugget is that they're a great group of young women who are incredibly intelligent at school and incredibly intelligent on the field."