Waynflete escapes Yarmouth's upset bid, repeats as Class B champs
PORTLAND—The Waynflete girls' lacrosse team did a little of everything this spring.
The Flyers scored an abundance of goals, rarely trailed, rose to every occasion and made history, but until Saturday evening, they hadn't been pushed for 50 minutes.
Until upstart Yarmouth gave Waynflete everything it could hope for and more in the Class B state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium, putting the Flyers on their heels to start, handing Waynflete its lone two-goal deficit of the season and even after the favored Flyers caught up and went ahead, the Clippers were very much within striking distance in the second half.
But this accomplished Waynflete group wasn't about to be denied.
On a night when senior standouts Sadie Cole and Martha Veroneau combined for just two goals, unheralded senior Isabel Agnew and junior Cat Johnson both scored twice.
While the offense was sluggish, the Flyers' defense was smothering, giving up three goals in the game's first 14 minutes, then surrendering only one the final 36.
Waynflete senior goalie Katherine Torrey cemented her big-game legend as well with eight saves, four coming in a critical stretch of the second half.
It all added up to a 7-4 victory over the plucky Clippers, as the Flyers finished the season 15-0, extended their win streak to 19 games and ended Yarmouth's campaign at a misleading 7-8, as they won their second straight Class B championship, fourth since 2006, 10th overall title since 1998 and 12th crown since legendary coach Cathie Connors took over the program two decades ago.
"(The championships are) all unique and they're always different girls," said Connors, moments after her 251st career victory. "For them, it's always special. For me, it's special. It's such a great team. They're way up there (among our all-time best). I'm so thankful for how wonderful they are. They're wonderful people. I love them."
Waynflete is the state's most storied girls' lacrosse program and Yarmouth is second.
End of story.
Since the state went to two classes for the tournament in 2006, each team had won three state titles. Since the Maine Principals' Association started sanctioning the sport in 1998, the Flyers had nine crowns, while the Clippers had captured four.
Considering the teams' pedigree, it's not a surprise to learn they've done battle multiple times in state finals (please see sidebar).
Yarmouth won the two most recent encounters, 12-5, in the inaugural Class B Final in 2006 and 9-8, in a thriller, two years ago, when Danielle Torres' late tally on a free position proved to be the difference.
Waynflete bounced back to handle Freeport in last year's finale and has simply dazzled since the start of this season.
The Flyers dominated visiting Wells, 14-2, host Yarmouth, 17-5, visiting Kennebunk, 15-1, and host Fryeburg, 15-3, to start the year, then made a major statement with a 10-8 win at Cape Elizabeth. After surviving a close call at Falmouth, 10-8, they won, 13-7, over visiting Freeport in a state game rematch. Waynflete went to Greely and jumped to a quick 3-1 lead, but 12 minutes in, the game was suspended by inclement weather. The Flyers then beat visiting Cape Elizabeth for the 21st straight time, 8-4, before handling Falmouth from start-to-finish in a stunning-in-its-decisiveness 16-3 home triumph and downing visiting Yarmouth on Senior Day, 16-10. After handling eventual Class A champion Cheverus on its field, 11-5, Waynflete finished the Greely game and prevailed, 10-6, to wind up 12-0 and first in Western B with the fifth undefeated season in program history (1998, 2005, 2006 and 2009 were the others).
Last Saturday, in a semifinal round game the Flyers "hosted" at Yarmouth High, due to poor field conditions in Portland, Waynflete had no trouble with No. 4 York, 18-8.
Thursday, the Flyers got 10 goals from Veroneau to handle Cape Elizabeth in the regional final, 16-9.
As for Yarmouth, which lost to Freeport in overtime of last year's regional final and used that agonizing setback as fuel to get to the final Saturday this spring, the season has been up and down, but a young core truly came of age and saved its best for last.
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.
Yarmouth got a chance to avenge last year and did so with a thrilling 12-10 semifinal round win at Freeport.
The Clippers then got a break as No. 4 Morse upset top-ranked Gardiner, allowing the Clippers to "host" the Shipbuilders in the regional final Wednesday, in a game played at NYA (Yarmouth's turf is undergoing renovation). There, Yarmouth broke open a close game with a second half explosion and behind eight goals from junior standout Grace O'Donnell, prevailed, 22-9.
Saturday, the Clippers showed moments of greatness, but there was no way the Flyers were going to settle for anything shy of the championship.
After Waynflete senior Jo Moore did a great job with the national anthem, Cole won the opening draw, but Yarmouth got the first good look as senior Ali Merrill earned a free position.
Torrey gobbles up free positions for breakfast, however, and made the saves to keep the game scoreless.
At the other end, Cole earned a free position, but Clippers junior goalie Jordan Brown made a save.
Agnew then had a great look in front, but again Brown made the save to keep it 0-0.
Yarmouth broke through with 20:16 to play in the first half, when senior Alex Lucas figured out a way to beat Torrey on a free position for a 1-0 lead.
With 16:47 left, Clippers senior Julia Kameisha scored an unassisted goal and just like that, the Flyers were staggered.
Connors called timeout to settle her charges.
"I told them to be patient and not to force it," Connors said. "We needed to get ground balls. We don't play on turf. It's not an excuse. It's a fact. We weren't used to it, which showed. We had to get possession and do something."
No coach in the state gets more out of her players coming out of a timeout and that rung true again, as Connors inserted sophomore Helen Gray-Bauer to take the draw and she won it, but Waynflete gave the ball away.
With 14:01 to play in the half, Yarmouth had a great look at a three-goal lead, but senior Olivia Conrad was denied by Torrey.
"I wasn't surprised (Yarmouth) came out so strong," Torrey said. "It's states. Anything can happen. It shook us up, but we pulled through."
The Flyers, who trailed in only one game all season, at Freeport, and were never down by more than a goal, finally got on the board with 12:53 left, on kind of a fluky tally.
Unheralded junior sparkplug Leigh Fernandez sent a lollipop pass in front of the goal intended for Cole, but it was high.
Luckily for the Flyers, junior Ella Millard managed to direct the ball into the net and the deficit was only 2-1.
The Clippers bounced right back and retook a two-goal lead when Conrad took a pretty pass from Merrill and fired a shot Torrey couldn't stop to make it 3-1 with 11:13 to go before the break.
Yarmouth's offense had been productive to that point, but would be frustrated almost the rest of the game.
As Waynflete's defense stiffened, its offense finally got a spark from its most dynamic member.
With 8:08 left in the half, Veroneau raced almost the entire length of the field before beating Brown to cut the deficit to 3-2.
"I saw space," Veroneau said. "That was a huge momentum shift. (Yarmouth's) goalie was incredible. She denied me on a couple point blank opportunities. It was a different feeling (this game). We didn't really know how to react. Cathie called timeout and with her great skills, told us what we needed to do to get back in it. She's so great at knowing what kind of coaching we need. Today, it was calming us down and pumping us up at the same time. We haven't felt the pressure of being down, but she told us we had to capitalize on the moment."
A little over a minute later, Veroneau set up Cole for her only goal of the game, which tied the score, 3-3.
Cole had a free position with 4:46 to play in the first half, but Brown made the save.
Cole then had back-to-back looks a minute later, but again Brown was unbeatable, turning both aside.
Finally, with 40.3 seconds to go in the half, Veroneau found an open Agnew, who tickled the twine to make it 4-3 Flyers.
"We weren't connecting like we usually do," Agnew said. "We didn't have our transition down. We weren't used to being down. We just kind of looked at each other and had to pull through. (Cathie) told us we can't get in our heads. She's really good at motivating us. She got us pumped up. That's all it took."
Waynflete almost went up by two when Johnson had a great look with 7 seconds to play, but Brown made the save.
In the first 25 minutes, O'Donnell won five of eight draws, the Clippers had a 17-13 edge in ground balls and got six saves from Brown, but in spite of all that, they were behind.
"We weren't talking at first," Moore said. "We came out flat. They came out with energy. After Cathie called timeout, we realized we like each other and had to talk to each other. Once we did, we knew where they were."
Torrey then preserved the lead to start the second half, with a series of great saves.
Just 12 seconds in, after O'Donnell won the draw, Torrey cut off the angle of Yarmouth sophomore Emma Torres and Torres' shot hit the post.
The ball then came in front to Merrill, but Torrey again made the save.
Conrad then had a good look, but again Torrey made the stop.
After Merrill shot wide on a free position, junior Molly Maguire earned a free position with 21 minutes to go in regulation, but once again, Torrey stood tall.
"I really like it when it gets competittive," Torrey said. "I think I get into a rhythm and pull through. The defense does an amazing job. Every game, every practice. I couldn't be more proud."
Brown kept the deficit at one when she stopped a Veroneau free position with 17:29 showing.
A minute later, at the other end, O'Donnell scooped up a ground ball in front, but her backhanded flip was just wide.
The Clippers never would get the equalizer.
With 14:36 to play, Johnson scored unassisted and for the first time, Waynflete had a two-goal lead, 5-3.
Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt called timeout and it paid dividends as O'Donnell earned a free position. With 13:32 to go in regulation, O'Donnell beat Torrey, ending a 22 minute, 41 second drought, pulling Yarmouth back within one, 5-4.
But the Clippers wouldn't score again.
They did get a great opportunity when Fernandez was given a yellow card for a check to the head with 12:15 showing, but Yarmouth turned the ball over and never got a shot off with a player advantage.
Then, with 9:58 left, Agnew took a pass from the recently returned Fernandez and beat Brown for a little breathing room and a 6-4 lead.
"Leigh's amazing at her assists," Agnew said. "Most of my goals this season, she's set me up. She knew I'd be there."
Holt called her final timeout, but this time, it didn't inspire a goal.
First, Torrey came up big again, robbing Maguire.
Brown then returned the favor, doing the seemingly unthinkable considering what happened Thursday, robbing Veroneau twice in just over a minute.
Torrey made a save on a Merrill shot with 6:10 to go and after transitioning to offense, Johnson scored unassisted with 5:53 showing and the Flyers had a three-goal lead, 7-4.
Down the stretch, Lucas shot wide on a free position and Yarmouth committed three turnovers.
At 7 p.m., the final horn sounded and Waynflete was able to celebrate another championship.
"Yarmouth came out with so much intensity," Veroneau said. "They peaked at the right time. They're such a great team. Their defense was incredible. We struggled in the first half, but we came out in the second half knowing that we had to put in that much more effort. Everybody fought so hard today.
"Lacrosse has been such a great ride. It's definitely bittersweet knowing today is my last day of lacrosse and high school sports. It's a nice way to go out. This team and Cathie and (athletic director) Ross (Burdick), everyone's been so great for four years. I couldn't have asked for a better experience."
"It was really exciting," Agnew said. "We weren't expecting such great skills (from Yarmouth). It was hectic and chaotic, but we pulled through in the second half. I like to be challenged. This is a game I'll remember. I didn't remember last year's state game. I did remember the semifinals and regional final. Years from now, I'll look back and think about this game as one of the toughest. It's been quite a season."
"I knew (Yarmouth would) put up a good fight," Moore said. "I didn't think it would be this good of a fight. They do have a history of being a really strong team. I was worried about everybody. Grace's interception skills were what I was most worried about.It was so special to be with this team. The chemistry was incredible. After last year, we decided we had to do it again."
"I knew Yarmouth would be tough," Connors added. "They came out strong on us man-to-man. Dorothy did her homework. She did a fantastic job. They were all over us. We had to dig so deep and I'm so proud of that. Both teams were awesome. This was a state championship game like it should be. I feel it was a full team effort. I love that. That's what we're all about."
The Flyers went about things offensively in a non-traditional sense, getting two goals each from Agnew (the oft-overshadowed senior) and Johnson (who saved her best for last).
"The beauty of this team is that we're so well balanced," said Johnson, who spent her freshman and sophomore years at Mt. Ararat High School. "Offensively and midfield too. We're the true definition of a team. I was here a year ago and I was deciding if I wanted to go to Waynflete. When I saw them play, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. To be here and play and to score, it was a dream come true. I couldn't have been here without Cathie and the support of my teammates. We didn't underestimate (Yarmouth) for a second. I know for the seniors, the (2011 game) still pained their mind. I had to rise to the occasion. I wanted to take advantage of any opportunity. My first couple games were shaky. I'm glad today went as it did."
"Cat was talking about being in the stands last year," said Veroneau. "We're so happy to have her on the field this year. She was a major reason of why we won today."
"Cat saved her best for last," Connors added. "She knew she had to be patient and take the time. She made good choices and that made the difference."
Cole, Millard and Veroneau all added one goal.
Fernandez and Veroneau both had two assists.
Then, there was Torrey, who once stood on the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf as a scared freshman as the Flyers lost to NYA, but graduated as a two-time champion after stopping eight shots.
"It feels unreal," Torrey said. "I love this team more than I've ever loved a team. To do it with them is such a great feeling. Hats off to Yarmouth. I thought they were incredible. They played so well. We put up a fight and pulled through. It wasn't easy. We meshed so well. First as people, then as athletes. They're some of my best friends. I can't even put into words how I feel about the past four years. I learned how hard I could push myself as an athlete. I'm so grateful for this team."
"Katherine's a big-game goalie," Veroneau said. "She saved her best for last. I think she's the best goalie in the state. The country, the world. She made some crucial saves today. She's the anchor on the defense."
"Katherine was phenomenal," Connors added. "She had point blank saves which would have changed the game. That's what she does in big games."
Moore helped pace the defense with eight ground balls.
"I was in the right place at the right time," Moore said. "I just wanted to take it."
Waynflete only turned the ball over 17 times and outshot the Clippers, 18-17 (17-12 on cage).
Turning heads in defeat
Yarmouth had four different scorers, Conrad, Kameisha, Lucas and O'Donnell. Merrill had the Clippers' lone assist. Brown made 10 saves. O'Donnell went 8 of 13 on draws and had a team-high seven ground balls. Lucas collected six and Merrill had five. Yarmouth turned the ball over 20 times and just couldn't quite complete what would have been a storied upset.
Regardless, the Clippers earned an abundance of adulation.
"It took everybody to get us here and we showed we deserved to be here," Holt said. "This team worked really hard, (Waynflete) just got the ball in the back of the cage when they needed to. That's what this game came down to. Katherine Torrey made some big saves, but Jordy matched her. She made key saves.
"I'm so proud of these girls. I couldn't be a happier coach. I told them our schedule was really tough. They wrote on their shoulder, 'Start From The Bottom.' They believed they deserved to be here and it showed. Waynflete has blown everyone out all year and we held them to seven goals. It's been a great ride. It's a tribute to the team. Our motto has been, 'All In!'
While Yarmouth will face its share of graduation losses, the Clippers return a great deal, including this year's core that got such great experience.
Perhaps 2014 is the year Yarmouth finishes the job.
"We won't predict," Holt said. "We build our program from kindergarten up. It's a great group of girls."
In 2006, Waynflete graduated a group of seniors (Betsy Critchfield, Maggie DeFanti, Glennie Hill, Lily Hoffman, Gretchen Koch, Carrie Schnell and Karla Stockmeyer) known then and now as the "Magnificent Seven."
Agnew, Cole, Moore, Torrey, Veroneau, defensive standout Rhiannan Jackson (who, with Fernandez, has won state titles in four straight seasons: lacrosse, soccer, basketball and lacrosse again) and defender Catherine Veroneau, able to play a full season this spring after missing her sophomore and junior years with knee injuries, have joined that group in program lore.
"It's hard to see the seven seniors go," Connors said. "They were another Magnificent Seven. Absolutely."
While the seniors' absence will be felt, don't think for a second the Flyers won't be right back in the title hunt in 2014.
Fernandez, Johnson and Millard will pace next year's offense. Gray-Bauer and juniors Sofia Canning and Amelia Deady project to play bigger roles and there figure to be some new faces who will help the cause.
"Every year's a new year," Johnson said. "We're not the only ones losing a lot. It will be a challenge just like any year."
"We're looking forward to what's coming up," Connors said.
For now Waynflete can revel in the present and enjoy that championship feeling.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous state games
Waynflete 7 Brunswick 5
Waynflete 9 NYA 5
Waynflete 5 Yarmouth 3
Waynflete 13 Yarmouth 8
Waynflete 7 Greely 5
Yarmouth 5 Waynflete 4
Waynflete 6 Yarmouth 5
Waynflete 7 Yarmouth 6
Yarmouth 13 Kennebunk 8
Waynflete 5 Yarmouth 3
Waynflete 13 Yarmouth 8
Yarmouth 5 Waynflete 4
Waynflete 6 Yarmouth 5
Waynflete 7 Yarmouth 6
Gould 11 Yarmouth 8