Flyers are fabulous once more, beat NYA 9-5 for Class B girls' lacrosse title
PORTLAND— In the end, there was just one word to describe the 2009 Waynflete girls' lacrosse team:
The Flyers capped a 15-0 season, the third unblemished campaign in program history, with a hard-fought 9-5 victory over North Yarmouth Academy in the Class B state game Saturday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Waynflete pummeled the Panthers by nine goals during the regular season, but as expected, the rematch was much, much closer.
The teams were deadlocked at the half, but the Flyers parlayed one of their two draw control wins into a goal from junior standout Morgan Woodhouse just 14 seconds into the second half and they led the rest of the way.
While NYA remained close throughout, the final 10 minutes would be all Waynflete, as the Flyers, who run the stall better than anyone, bled time off the clock and scored three more times to win their second straight title and the 10th in the illustrious reign of coach Cathie Connors.
"This one feels great," said Connors. "Being undefeated is really hard. I don't think anyone expected us to be undefeated. We had to work on a lot of things. It's amazing they pulled it together. I'm in awe of them. I feel very lucky. They really did it."
The first 11 games of Waynflete's regular season were a breeze. The Flyers, who some (most notably their coach) thought would come back to the pack this spring, instead were transcendent from the get-go.
Waynflete opened with a 14-6 home win over York, routed visiting Falmouth, 16-7, rolled 18-5 at Massabesic and 13-2 at Marshwood, then had little trouble with visiting longtime rival Greely, 14-2.
The Flyers were expected to get a test from Western A contender Scarborough May 12, but cruised to an 18-6 triumph. Two days later, Waynflete turned back eventual Western A champion Kennebunk's best efforts, 10-4, to improve to 7-0.
Three straight road victories, 14-3 at Deering, 11-2 at Cape Elizabeth and 15-2 at Cheverus made it 10 straight.
When the Flyers hosted NYA May 30, they expected to get a close game, but instead, Waynflete romped again, 12-3.
Finally, in the regular season finale at Yarmouth June 1, the Flyers found themselves in a battle, but they broke a second half tie and went on to an 8-6 victory to finish undefeated for just the fourth time.
Road gets tougher
Waynflete earned the top seed for the Western B playoffs and was expected to stroll into the state game, but instead, got a pair of unexpected tests.
In the semifinals, the Flyers hosted No. 5 Falmouth and struggled early in both halves, but ultimately had enough to pull away to win 12-4.
The regional final was even tougher. Third-ranked Cape Elizabeth scrapped for almost 50 minutes, thanks to its athleticism, but down the stretch (and in a sign of things to come), Waynflete milked the clock and scored three times to win, 9-5, and capture its sixth regional crown in seven seasons.
The final step
The Flyers and Panthers (who went 10-2 in the regular season before downing Morse, 15-3, and Yarmouth, 10-7, in the regional playoffs) are no strangers in June.
Saturday's contest was the fifth time in nine years that the rivals met with a state title at stake.
Waynflete won the first four meetings: 9-5 in 2001, 9-6 in 2004, 5-4 (in overtime) in 2005 and 12-8 last year.
In the last one, the Panthers led at halftime, thanks to six goals from standout Courtney Dumont (now a junior), but the Flyers held Dumont in check in the second half and pulled away for the title.
Saturday's contest would also be tight most of the way.
Dumont set the tone when she won the opening draw, raced in and shot, but Waynflete junior goalie Sasha Timpson (who never played the position prior to March) stood tall and made the save.
"It can be intimidating facing Courtney, but I trust my defense so much," Timpson said. "You can't have that mentality that she'll score on you. I just had to keep my head up. We went out there knowing playoffs is a different story. The first time we played Cape it wasn't competitive, then they were much closer the second time. We all knew in the back of our heads that (NYA) would play well."
The Flyers then got the game's first goal when Woodhouse scored unassisted with 23:37 to go in the first half.
NYA won the ensuing draw and Dumont was denied by Timpson again, but at the 22:32 mark, senior Bugsy Clemetson (who missed the regular season game) converted a free position to tie the score.
With 16:55 left in the half, Waynflete went back on top, 2-1, when senior All-American Mariah Monks scored unassisted.
The Panthers then scored twice in 49 seconds to take their lone lead.
First, senior Lucy Gerrity scored after a pretty individual move. Then, Dumont got her first goal of the game to make it 3-2 NYA.
The Flyers drew even with 5:05 left when senior Ellie Cole set up junior Amy Allen for a goal.
Both Timpson and NYA senior Abigail Moss made nice saves in the waning moments and the game went to the half deadlocked.
The Panthers won six of the first half's seven draws, had an 18-11 advantage in ground balls and an 11-10 edge in shots.
Waynflete wasn't too concerned at the break, but knew it needed to seize control quickly in the second half.
"I saw a little lull and we talked at halftime," Connors said. "We had to slow the ball down. We decided to stay back and give up a little bit more of the midfield."
The Flyers couldn't have executed any better to start the second half.
They won their second and last draw and just 14 seconds in, Woodhouse fired a shot that Moss slowed, but couldn't stop and Waynflete was up to stay, 4-3.
"Cathie gave us the most motivating halftime speech you can imagine," Woodhouse said. "Our game is transition and passing up and down the field and that's what we did."
Dumont had a chance to tie it 46 seconds later, but her free position was denied by Timpson, who simply showed no fear at any point this season.
"Sasha was awesome," Connors said. "She was absolutely amazing."
The Flyers got a little breathing room with 23:25 to play when Woodhouse set up Cole for a goal, but just 11 seconds later, Dumont won the draw and raced in to beat Timpson to make it 5-4.
The game remained 5-4 for the next 12 minutes. NYA had its chances to draw even, but Clemetson's free position shot was wide, Dumont was denied again by Timpson on a free position and with 13:57 left, sophomore Lilly Wellenbach shot just high.
With 11:24 to go, Waynflete again went up by two when Woodhouse scored unassisted, but again, Dumont won the draw and scored unassisted to make it a 6-5 game with 11:10 to play.
After yet another Panthers' draw win, Dumont shot just wide and Timpson came up big on a Gerrity free position.
"Sasha's been amazing this year," Woodhouse said. "That save was so motivating."
Then, with 9:20 to play, Woodhouse set up senior Anna Libby for a transition goal and a 7-5 lead.
This time, the Flyers didn't give one back.
NYA turned the ball over with 8:40 to go and Waynflete ran nearly three minutes off the clock before a turnover of its own. The Panthers then kept possession for all of nine seconds before giving it up again. This time, Waynflete ran a minute-and-a-half off the clock before giving it back.
NYA then turned it over once more with 3:59 to play and this time, the Flyers made them pay, as Monks scored with 3:28 to play for an 8-5 advantage.
"Just playing in a state game is incredible, but scoring is pretty cool," Monks said. "I'm lucky to have been here three times and won it twice. I'm one really happy girl."
With 2:43 remaining, Clemetson hit the post on the Panthers' last, best scoring opportunity. Waynflete then ran the clock down and delivered the coup de grace with 7.7 seconds left when Libby (who had just been hit in the jaw) scored on a free position.
"It was back-and-forth," Libby said. "We weren't fully playing our game in the first half. We did in the second half. That's how we got that lead. We practice the stall a lot. We all have the basics of passing and catching down. That's pretty much all it is. That and getting open."
"We're playing teams that are so powerful that can score quickly," Connors added. "We had to slow it down. We work on it in practice. It became a stall because we couldn't find any opportunities. We wanted to put some goals in and slow it down and get fastbreaks if we could and keep it away from Courtney."
When the clock struck 7:01 p.m., the horn sounded and the Flyers were 9-5 victors, destiny's darlings and state champions once more.
"It was the perfect season," Monks said. "We were undefeated and I couldn't have asked for anything else. (NYA) put up a really big fight. They're an incredibly talented team. That's what we wanted for a state game. They have really athletic girls. I'm happy we got to play them in the states."
"This feels amazing," said Woodhouse. "This was our toughest game. We had to work so much harder the entire game. We knew it wouldn't be easy. The first game meant nothing. We had to stay calm, spread out and keep passing."
"We were pretty nervous," said Allen, who took more physical punishment than any player in the state this year. "We knew we had to come out strong. We pulled together really well. This feels incredible. We worked so hard to get here. We came into our own. We were pumped to be here and to win. We knew it would be a much closer game. We were so glad to pull it off."
"It's incredible," Libby added. "I'm so happy right now. It was an amazing season and it's great to cap it off with a championship."
Woodhouse led the offense with three goals and two assists. She also had a team-high five ground balls. Libby and Monks had two goals apiece. Allen and Cole (one assist) also scored. Timpson stopped nine shots.
The Flyers had a 21-20 edge in shots on goal and forced 20 turnovers (while committing 13), as their defense once again made the plays it had to make and was at its best in the second half.
"I feel the zone played really well," said senior defender Greer Millard. "We only let up five goals. They controlled draws and scored off them. Once the zone got settled, we were fine. We focused on Courtney some. She's such a threat, but they have others we were paying attention to."
NYA won 14 of the 16 draws and had a 27-18 advantage in ground balls. Dumont scored three times for the Panthers and led everyone with nine ground balls. Clemetson and Gerrity had the other goals and Moss had eight saves as NYA's season ended at 12-3.
"It was much different from the first game," said Panthers coach Julia Littlefield. "I thought we played better than we had all season. It's one of the best games I've seen. Waynflete's a tough team. They're very skilled. I couldn't have asked for a better day and a better way to go out. I'm really, really proud of them. We deserved to be here. We gave them a good game. I think their best competition was us today. I think we showed them we're right up there."
NYA plans to keep knocking at the door. The Panthers lose eight seniors, most notably Clemetson, Rachel Darby, Nicole Fuller, Gerrity and Moss, but have plenty of firepower returning.
"It's nice to be here two years in a row," Littlefield said. "We'll see them next year. We still have Courtney and Lilly."
There are no words
Waynflete also went undefeated and won state titles in 1998 and 2005 (its perfect season in 2006 ended with a loss to Yarmouth in the inaugural Class B Final), but this year's squad exceeded expectations and rallied around its closeness and love for the sport to reach the mountaintop.
"It's hard to go into a season with a target on our chest, but I think we owned that pressure collectively as a team," Monks said. "We have great seniors and a group of great girls who connect really well. We were happy to play two hours a day together. We all love lacrosse and that made for a fun, athletic team."
"I think it's our love for lacrosse and each other," Libby said. "We wanted to win so much for Cathie too. It's her 10th championship. We're so dedicated to lacrosse and it led us to this place."
"It's amazing," said Millard. "I had no idea that the season would go as well as it did. It went beautifully. To be this strong we had no idea. I think this is the closest team I've ever been on. We were better friends than any team we've ever had. We support each other and work hard in practice. We've come a long way. We thrive on the pressure, I think. We have a group of really competitive girls who want to win every year. This feeling never gets old. The motivation is always there."
"We worked hard every practice and every game," said Woodhouse. "We lost so many people from last year. All the new kids on the team stepped up so much. We knew we had to work so much harder and we did."
"I had no idea we'd be this good," added Timpson. "I'd never played goalie in any sport before. It went so well. I couldn't be happier. I think we've always had a reputation for being a close-knit team. I think we definitely followed through."
Connors, as usual, was emotional and effusive when describing her team.
"They're really special and they really wanted it," she said. "They have great skill, but they're really special. The seniors had a great run. They were a special group."
Can they do it again in 2010?
Waynflete loses Maddie Berrang, Cole, Libby, Millard and Monks to graduation, but will once again wear the mantle of favorite next spring.
The Flyers who are coming back are ready to make another run.
"We're returning a lot, but we have some big shoes to fill," Connors said.
"We look forward to next season," Woodhouse said. "We'll try our hardest to keep it up."
"I think everyone should watch out for Waynflete next year," Allen added. "We're losing a lot, but we lost a lot last year. Don't ever underestimate us."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.