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Yarmouth rallies past Oak Hill for first quarterfinal round win since 2000

Sports

Yarmouth rallies past Oak Hill for first quarterfinal round win since 2000

YARMOUTH—It if didn't already exist, the Legend of Kallie Hutchinson became undeniable Tuesday evening.

With her team desperately needing a spark in a game 13 years in the making, Hutchinson, a junior captain, cemented her status as one of the state's elite players in the second half of a Western Class C quarterfinal versus Oak Hill.

The third-ranked Clippers surrendered a goal to the sixth-seeded Raiders just before halftime and with just under 23 minutes to play, their goal column was stuck on zero and time was running out on their championship dreams.

But then, after an Oak Hill defender stopped a sure goal with her foot, giving Yarmouth a penalty stroke, with all eyes on her, Hutchinson stepped to line and calmly fired a shot into the cage to tie the score, 1-1.

If that wasn't enough, Hutchinson struck again with 18:23 to play, in perhaps even more impressive fashion, when she somehow lifted a shot over the defense and goalie into the goal for a 2-1 lead.

Yarmouth's superb midfield and defense did the rest, holding the Raiders at bay and the Clippers went on to a 2-1 win, their first quarterfinal round triumph since October of 2000.

Yarmouth improved to 10-4-1, ended Oak Hill's season at 7-7-1 and advanced to a highly coveted semifinal round showdown at crosstown rival North Yarmouth Academy Saturday at a time to be announced.

"Last year, winning a prelim was big for us, but winning in the quarterfinals, Wow!" said Hutchinson. "It's been forever since we've done it. It's been forever since it's been at our field. I can't explain how much it means to these girls and to our program. We've come a long way. This year, I said the first day of preseason that this was the team. We all knew this was our time to shine."

The history girls

This group of Clippers made a name for themselves long before they took the field Tuesday. Yarmouth produced its best regular season record (9-4-1) and highest seed since 2000, a year which saw the Clippers reach the regional final. They last hosted a playoff game in 2001.

Expectations were high this fall and Yarmouth has lived up to them. The Clippers only lost by one goal to NYA (twice, including once in double overtime), Cape Elizabeth and Freeport (they also tied Traip).

Oak Hill, meanwhile, went 7-6-1 during an up-and-down regular season.

The teams hadn't met in the postseason in 30 years, when the Clippers lost in the Western C quarterfinals, 1-0, in (this isn't a misprint) 14 overtimes.

Tuesday's contest was decided in regulation, thankfully, and when the dust settled, Yarmouth made history.

While the second half proved dramatic, almost nothing happened in the first half until the very end.

In the eighth minute, Hutchinson sent a shot just wide.

In the 19th minute, Yarmouth senior Katie Overhaug did the same.

That's all the Clippers' offense consisted of in the first 30 minutes.

Oak Hill started pressuring late in the half and with 4:11 to go before halftime, junior Heather Hannigan fired a shot into the cage, but it came from outside the circle and didn't count.

The next foray led to a goal for the Raiders, as junior captain Hayley Marshall eluded a couple defenders, carried the ball into the circle, then shot it past Yarmouth sophomore goalie Tori Messina for a 1-0 lead.

Oak Hill almost doubled its lead on a penalty corner after time expired, but Messina made a timely save to keep her team in it.

At halftime, the Clippers regrouped.

"We knew we came out flat," Hutchinson said. "We've had issues with that this season. We gave them opportunities. We let them take the ball. It was completely our fault. We knew at halftime we had to pick it up. We knew it was time and we knew we were better than how we were playing. I think we knew we had the skill in us. We're a turf team and we're confident playing here."

"The message at halftime was that we weren't putting the little pieces together," said Yarmouth coach Mandy Lewis. "We were playing like individuals and we weren't connecting. Part of that was communication, part of it was transition. The goal was frustrating, but what's important is to come back and not hang our heads. This is a mentally strong team. Mental toughness is something we've worked on all season. (Hosting) was pretty exciting, so I think we felt a little bit of added pressure. We composed ourselves and homefield worked in our favor. We talked about playing like we knew how to play hockey and we came out and did that."

The Clippers immediately set up shop in the Raiders' end and earned their first corner 95 seconds into the second half, which didn't result in anything, other than serving as a tone-setter.

A minute later, senior captain Emma Peterson broke in, but Oak Hill sophomore Brooke Surette knocked the ball away. The ball came to Hutchinson, who attempted a shot, but it was blocked by a defender.

Then, with 22:45 to play, a Hutchinson shot led to a flurry and eventually a signal to stop the clock from an official as an Oak Hill defender intentionally kept the ball out of the cage with her foot, giving Yarmouth a penalty stroke.

To no one's shock, Hutchinson stepped to the line and not surprisingly, Hutchinson swept a low blast past Raiders sophomore goalie Abigail Fuller into the cage to tie the score.

"This is the first stroke we've had all season," said Hutchinson. "I usually take them in general. We practice them, but it's always the last thing and not serious. Today it was the difference in the game. If we didn't get it, I'm not sure what might have happened and I don't want to know. I try to look as confident as I can to get in the goalie's head to let them think I know what I'm doing. Once you take it, you just have to be smart. I try to make it different every time. I thought I had it."

"We practice strokes regularly," Lewis said. "We knew it could be a turning point and it absolutely was."

Just like that, the Clippers had new life.

"Once we tied it up, I looked at (senior captain) Lily (Daggett) and I said, 'This is it. It's time," Hutchinson said. "Once the stroke happened, we knew we could do it. Before that, we thought we could do it. It was a whole new game."

With 19:32 to play, Daggett almost put Yarmouth on top, but her shot off a corner was saved by Fuller, leading to another corner, which would prove fateful.

Generally, when the Clippers score off a corner, the ball gets fed to Hutchinson, who one-times a blast past a helpless goalie, but Oak Hill had done a good job flying to ball and preventing good looks, so Hutchinson took the ball to her left and with a defender closing in, she somehow backhand chipped the ball into the air on goal.

It sailed over the defender and over Fuller and went into the cage under the crossbar for an improbable goal and a 2-1 lead.

"We didn't know what they did on defensive corners," said Hutchinson. "They had a fantastic flier who was quick and smart. Katie and I had some troubles at first. Once we figured it out, we tried the passes a couple time. They weren't perfect, so I didn't have my normal shot. Being back on the turf, it was time to use those sweeps, so I went with the backhand. I got lucky. I'm pretty sure it was clean off of me. I didn't mean to make it a chip, but my stick was angled. It might have hit someone's stick, but I don't care. I was happy."

Just like that, the Clippers had the lead, but they still had 18:23 to kill to secure it.

Out of a timeout, Oak Hill appeared to have a tying tally, but a shot from the side was ruled to have come from outside the circle and play resumed.

The Raiders then had a great chance with 8:30 to go, as Marshall fed junior captain Sadie Goulet in transition, but with Messina out of the cage, Goulet shot just wide as Yarmouth dodged a bullet.

From there, the Clippers' midfield and defense collapsed on every Oak Hill player who got near the ball and the visitors weren't able to muster an attack.

At 6:14 p.m., for the first time since downing Greely, 2-1, in overtime, in 2000, Yarmouth was able to celebrate a quarterfinal round win and celebrate it did.

I couldn't have asked for anything more from this team," said Hutchinson. "(Oak Hill) depended on Hayley, She's quick and knows what she's doing. She's smart, but Katie's smart as a defender and knows how to break it up. She gave us time to get back. We couldn't have done anything better to waste time and still be sportsmanlike."

"It was a great game," Lewis said. "It's very exciting. (Winning in this round) was a goal. These seniors have earned it. They've seen the program grow. We're here because of them. I'm incredibly proud of this group of girls."

Yarmouth had an 8-3 edge in shots and took seven penalty corners to none for the Raiders. The Clippers lamented not scoring more.

"We had opportunities we didn't capitalize on," Hutchinson said. "We need to work on our scoring opportunities in the circle."

Messina made just one save, while Fuller stopped two shots.

Showdown Saturday

Saturday, NYA and Yarmouth will square off in the postseason for the first time since 1995 and based on two palpitating regular season meetings, it's bound to be a doozy.

On Sept. 13, the Panthers rallied to beat the Clippers, 2-1, on Madore's goal in double overtime. The teams met again Oct. 7, on Yarmouth's turf field, and an early Madore goal held up for a 1-0 triumph.

The teams have met four previous times in the playoffs with NYA winning on three occasions. The first meeting was in the 1985 semifinals, when the teams first played to a 1-1 tie in six overtimes, then started from scratch where the Panthers prevailed, 1-0. Eight years later, NYA eked out a 1-0 win in the semifinals. In 1994, the Panthers, en route to their first championship, beat the Clippers,  1-0, in the regional final. Yarmouth finally got a measure of revenge the next year, en route to its lone championship, with a 1-0 overtime win in the quarterfinals.

"I'm confident," Hutchinson said. "It's extremely hard to beat someone three times. We know their team, we know their corners, we know as much as we can about them. There's no one I'd rather play. I think we'll be strong and we have the knowledge we need.  The first game, we had so many corners in a row in overtime, but we couldn't string it together. Both of us know it will be a tough game, we just have to come out strong. We have a lot to be proud of. We've come so far and we still have far to go. I don't know how far we'll go, but I'm hoping it will be all the way."

"We're ready for it," said Lewis. "Knowing how well we match up with them and knowing it's hard for them to beat a good team a third time is in our favor. We'll prepare for them and come out and play our game. We're enjoying the ride. The girls enjoy each other's company and you can see that on the field."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.