Yarmouth girls roll at Freeport, give Holt 100th victory
FREEPORT—Over the past decade, the Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team has been one of the finest in the state.
While standout players have come and gone, the one constant has been coach Dorothy Holt, who has won an abundance of big games.
Monday afternoon, Holt reached a milestone.
Courtesy a very special group of girls who are only getting better.
The Clippers played on grass for the first time this spring when they took on a Freeport squad eager to avenge a playoff loss from last year, but the Clippers weren't about to allow anything to spoil Holt's party.
Three days after struggling out of the gate in a come-from-behind win over Greely, Yarmouth sizzled in the first half, thanks in large part to senior standout Grace O'Donnell, who scored four first half goals, and the Clippers raced to a 7-1 lead at halftime.
Yarmouth was pretty impressive in the second half too, as its defense eventually held the Falcons scoreless for nearly 30 minutes. O'Donnell scored twice more and the Clippers went on to a 14-3 victory.
Yarmouth made it three wins in a row, improved to 3-1, dropped Freeport to 3-1 and most importantly, gave Holt her 100th career victory.
"It's a day for me, but it's not about me, it's all about my girls," Holt said. "We didn't know what to expect. Freeport's a good team and it's not easy here. It's a mental thing playing on grass."
Both teams have seen a lot of excitement in the early going this spring.
Freeport opened with a 16-2 romp over Fryeburg, beat host North Yarmouth Academy with surprising ease, 12-3, then eked out a 10-9 overtime win at Morse Saturday.
The Clippers suffered a season-opening 9-7 loss at Scarborough, but didn't panic.
"We all had our worries and concerns, but we've worked on them in practice," said senior defender and captain Abby Belisle-Haley.
"We came together as a team and said we really want this, that this is our year," O'Donnell said. "So far, we've been able to prove that."
"We had to put the Scarborough game behind us," Holt added. "That was a tough game for us. We knew we had to pull together and stay together as a team."
Yarmouth has dominated Freeport over the years (please see sidebar, below), winning 10 straight meetings between 2003 and 2011 by an average margin of 16-4. That included victories in the 2003 East Region quarterfinals (17-5), 2007 East Region semifinals (17-2) and 2009 semifinals (16-3).
Then, two years ago, the Falcons stunned the Clippers in the regional final, 12-11, in overtime, marking their first-ever victory over their neighbor. The teams met again last year in the semifinals and Freeport held a 10-9 second half lead, but Yarmouth scored the final three goals to prevail, 12-10.
Monday, the Clippers, who a week ago at this time were 0-1 and uncertain just how good they could be, capped a dizzying six-day stretch with an awesome, historic performance.
After the teams traded early turnovers, Yarmouth went on top when O'Donnell scored unassisted 3 minutes, 7 seconds in.
While O'Donnell would score many more times, she wouldn't do so again without help.
The Falcons drew even with 20:10 remaining in the first half, when sophomore Courtney Broderick set up senior Julie Fosburg, but Freeport wouldn't score again until the second half.
With 18:36 to go, senior Molly Maguire scored on a free position and the Clippers went ahead to stay.
A little over a minute later, O'Donnell took a pass from junior Lane Simsarian in transition and beat Freeport senior goalie Molly Lane to make it 3-1.
With 13:18 showing, junior Shannon Fallon got in on the fun, finishing a feed from Eliza Lunt and Falcons coach Karin Kurry called timeout to try and restore order.
It didn't help.
While the Falcons had a good look at the goal, a free position attempt from sophomore Lily Johnston was turned aside by Yarmouth freshman goalie Mary Kate Gunville, who stood tall for the second consecutive contest.
"I'm personally very proud of (Mary Kate)," Belisle-Haley said. "I love her to death. She's so good. She's risen to the challenge. She stepped up against Greely and did it again today. We haven't even seen the best of her yet."
Lane momentarily kept the Clippers off the board, when she denied junior Emma Torres, but with 10:47 left in the half, O'Donnell threaded a pass through two defenders and Maguire made a terrific catch before finishing for a 5-1 lead.
Freeport earned another free position two minutes later, but Gunville saved sophomore Lindsay Cartmell's shot.
O'Donnell then essentially salted away the win.
With 5:41 to go, she took a pass from Maguire and finished and after Gunville stopped a free position from senior Meredith Broderick, O'Donnell again finished a Maguire feed and Yarmouth had a commanding 7-1 lead at halftime.
"We talked about coming out strong," O'Donnell said. "We've struggled with that."
"Dorothy was pulling from her swim roots to get us going," said Belisle-Haley. "During visualization, she had us feel the tingles in our feet and all the way up our body until we were consumed with the energy we need, that fire in our body, to get us going. It made a big difference."
"I motivated them as much as I could to start out strong and they did exactly what I asked," Holt added.
In the first 25 minutes, the Falcons had a 5-4 edge in draws and ground balls were even, 16-16, but Freeport was hindered by a dozen turnovers, which helped the Clippers enjoy a 15-5 advantage in shots.
The Falcons hoped to come out strong in the second half and make things interesting, but 1:35 in, Torres set up Maguire for a goal and with 21:50 to play, Fallon was credited for a goal when her pass from behind the goal was intercepted by Lane, but she couldn't hold on to the ball and it rolled into the net to make the score 9-1.
Finally, with 15:40 remaining, after 29 minutes, 30 seconds of frustration, Freeport ended Yarmouth's 8-0 run as Meredith Broderick scored unassisted.
When junior Emily Johnson added an unassisted goal 21 seconds later, the Falcons were within 9-3 and Holt called timeout.
The Clippers responded, as O'Donnell (from Torres, in transition) and Torres (on a free position) scored in a 44-second span.
O'Donnell scored her final goal with 9:28 remaining (from Fallon) and O'Donnell set up Torres with 6:34 to play to induce a running clock.
With 5:08 to play, sophomore Lilly Watson scored on a free position to account for the 14-3 final.
When the clock hit zero, Holt was mobbed by her players, who celebrated by dumping a bucket of water over her head.
"Our assistant coach (Angela Nasveschuk) emailed us to remind us (win number 100) was coming," said Belisle-Haley. "We thought about dumping water, but we didn't think it would really happen."
Yarmouth produced a tremendous team performance.
"Our offense is really coming together well and our defense is really, really solid," said Belisle-Haley. "We're missing key people from last year, but we have so many really great people coming up from JV and people who didn't get that much playing time last year, like (junior twins Caitlin and Ellie Teare). They've been huge assets."
"We worked as a team," Holt said. "We passed really well today. We did well on ground ball pickups and draw controls. We showed poise."
The Clippers were led by the close-to-unstoppable O'Donnell, who had six goals and two assists, but she got plenty of help from a diverse and dynamic attack.
Maguire scored three times, Fallon and Torres each had two goals and Watson also tickled the twine. Maguire added two assists, while Fallon, Lunt, Simsarian and Torres all had one.
"Molly does a great job down low," O'Donnell said. "Shannon, Emma, Lane, Lilly, everyone on our attack, finding the open person and getting them the ball. We just found the openings and got it in the net."
Gunville made seven saves and an unheralded Clippers defense held an opponent scoreless for over a half's worth of action for the third game in a row (37 minutes, 36 seconds against Waynflete, 27:17 against Greely and 29:30 versus Freeport), a truly staggering statistic.
"It means a lot to have the defense recognized because there aren't really a lot of stats you can collect as a defense," Belisle-Haley said. "The fact that we all play so strong individually and also together is great. There are still things we can work on, but we trust each other so completely on ball crashes and slides and that makes us so successful."
"Abby and (senior) Julia (Primeau) are our rocks on defense," said O'Donnell. "(Junior) Mary (Coyne) and (junior) Sarah (Myers) work so hard. Mary Kate's incredible. She's stepped up and made saves."
"The defense is communicating so well back there," Holt added. "That's key. The defense is reading things better. The teamwork is working."
While Freeport won the draws battle, 11-8, the rest of the statistics favored Yarmouth.
The Clippers had a 32-28 edge in ground balls (O'Donnell had a game-high nine and Simsarian collected five).
"Today, I think we proved we can play a game straight through," O'Donnell said. "Freeport's a strong team. A good grass team. We did a great job getting low on ground balls."
Yarmouth forced 24 turnovers, while only committing 19, and enjoyed a 25-12 shots advantage (22-10 on frame).
The Falcons got one goal apiece from Meredith Broderick, Fosburg and Johnson and an assist from Courtney Broderick. Johnson led the team with seven ground balls, while junior Lizzy Martin collected six. Lane had eight saves.
"It wasn't what we were looking for at all," Kurry said. "We didn't play as well as we did (against NYA). We didn't connect. Our shot selection wasn't the best. We talked about keeping possession of the ball and we didn't do that. Yarmouth came out really more intense than we were. Their passing was beautiful.
"I'm thrilled they came to watch us play NYA. They dumped water on their coach after they beat us. We're finally getting to that level (of respect)."
Holt's first win came April 26, 2005, a 13-2 home victory over Falmouth. Number 50 was a 16-5 home romp over Massabesic May 1, 2009.
All wins are not created equal and it's quite likely that Holt cherishes three above the others, Class B state game victories in 2006 (12-5 over Waynflete), 2007 (7-5 over Kennebunk) and 2011 (9-8 over Waynflete).
Twenty-nine victories came in succession between April 29, 2006 and May 3, 2008, a streak that is second in state annals only to Waynflete's 36 in succession between 2004 and 2006, a run which Yarmouth snapped in the 2006 state final.
While Holt has coached an abundance of stars, from Laurie Baker, Molly Dilworth, Emily Johnson and Abby Saucier in the early years to Becca Bell, Natalie Salmon, Devin Simsarian and Danielle Torres on the last championship team to O'Donnell today, she's influenced and been influenced by all of the girls who have passed through the program.
"I do this for the love of the sport and the love of these girls who work so hard," Holt said. "Every group has its special attributes and each group brings its own momentum and enthusiasm. That's what I feed off of. My challenge is to make them perform to the best of their ability and to the best of their academic ability. That's what I thrive on. I love to see them grow as players and more importantly, as people. It's interesting to see them come back after they graduate. It's not just a four-year thing."
Holt joins select company in the century club. Among active coaches, only Waynflete's Cathie Connors (253 and counting), Scarborough's Marcia Wood (107 and counting) and Kennebunk's Annie Barker have eclipsed 100 victories.
Prior to retiring, Julia Littlefield Sterling, Holt's mentor at Yarmouth, who won state titles with the Clippers and rival NYA, Greely's Peter Wiles and Brunswick's Beth Caputi also reached the milestone.
Reaction to Holt's 100th victory was swift and overwhelming.
"It's so exciting," O'Donnell said. "Dorothy's such a special coach. She means so much to every player. She's helped with our confidence. We didn't want to make it too big of a deal, because we're superstitious, but we wanted it for Dorothy. She totally deserves it. We're so happy to get it for her."
"It means a lot to everybody," Belisle-Haley said. "To people who graduated and to current players as well. She gives so much to the program. She jokes about spending more time with us than her own kids. That kind of dedication is what we admire so much and really, really cherish. The reason we're so good is because of Dorothy."
"Dorothy is a brilliant coach," added Greely coach Becca Koelker, who served as an assistant to Holt for two seasons at Yarmouth. "No matter how much 'talent' she has, she knows how to get the best out of each player. She inspires her players to work hard, holding them to high expectations. She can diagnose play on the field and make adjustments to help her team succeed. She pours her heart in to that program and in return has earned much well-deserved success."
Back to normalcy
Freeport seeks to bounce back from its first loss when it goes to Falmouth Wednesday evening.
"We hadn't played a team like (Yarmouth)," said Kurry. "They're at another level. We don't practice at that intensity. It shows what we need to do. We have things to work on. We need to stay positive and not dwell on mistakes. The mental aspect of it. It doesn't get any easier."
Yarmouth is in the midst of a four-game road trip which continues Wednesday at Gould. The Clippers then have a week off before going to Kennebunk in a possible state game preview. A game at Cape Elizabeth May 20 could also be a look ahead to June 21.
But before Yarmouth can think about Fitzpatrick Stadium and the big stage, even in the wake of an emotional, decisive victory, it knows its work is far from done.
"We're ready to take Gould on Wednesday," O'Donnell said. "That will be a good game. We don't know what to expect. We'll play hard. Kennebunk's definitely one of the top teams. We look forward to it. We like a challenge. We still need more communication through the midfield and on attack. We can always improve our talking."
"For our team, we really need to mind the gap on defense," said Belisle-Haley. "We're working on that. For attack, we're trying to utilize plays that will be helpful. We'll try to do that moving ahead."
"We have a tough couple weeks coming up on the road," Holt added. "We still have some things to work on. It's still a long road."
Let the quest for 200 begin.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Yarmouth-Freeport results
East Region semifinals
Yarmouth 12 @ Freeport 10
East Region Final
@ Freeport 12 Yarmouth 11 (OT)
@ Yarmouth 17 Freeport 7
Yarmouth 13 @ Freeport 6
East Region semifinals
@ Yarmouth 16 Freeport 3
@ Yarmouth 14 Freeport 1
East Region semifinals
@ Yarmouth 17 Freeport 2
Yarmouth 17 @ Freeport 2
@ Yarmouth 17 Freeport 3
Yarmouth 14 @ Freeport 3
@ Yarmouth 17 Freeport 5
East Region quarterfinals
@ Yarmouth 17 Freeport 5