Yarmouth survives Waynflete in OT epic
PORTLAND—Girls' lacrosse fans can only hope that Yarmouth and Waynflete meet again three weeks from now in the Class B state final.
Not that a potential state game rematch could rival the breathtaking thrills the teams produced Saturday at Fore River Fields.
The seemingly unstoppable, powerhouse Clippers, who were riding an eight-game victory streak, hadn't won at the Flyers in seven seasons and with Waynflete a dramatically different team than the one Yarmouth waxed at home a month ago, a down-to-the-wire thriller was expected.
It isn't often that highly touted contest exceeds the hype, but this one did.
After the Flyers grabbed an early 2-1 lead, thanks in large part to the superior passing of senior Cat Johnson, the Clippers' potent offense awakened and scored four goals in just over five minutes to take a 5-2 lead to the half.
When Yarmouth senior standout Grace O'Donnell scored on a free position with 23:42 to play, the Clippers were on the verge of pulling away, but they wouldn't score again in regulation and Waynflete roared back.
Seniors Leigh Fernandez and Ella Millard both tickled the twine twice in the second half and Millard's score (off another gorgeous feed from Johnson) made the score, 6-6, with 8:22 still to play.
Each team would have good looks to win in regulation, but couldn't do so and it was on to overtime, the Flyers' second such test in a three-day span.
While Waynflete managed to down Kennebunk in OT Thursday, this time, Yarmouth refused to lose.
Fifty-four seconds into the first three-minute extra session, O'Donnell finished a feed from sophomore Lilly Watson and the Clippers were back on top and this time, they didn't relinquish the lead.
Yarmouth wasn't able to add to the lead, but thanks to a huge late save from freshman phenom goalie, Mary Kate Gunville, it kept the Flyers off the board and the Clippers were finally able to run out the clock on their palpitating 7-6 triumph.
O'Donnell had three goals and junior Shannon Fallon two, while Gunville made nine crucial saves and Yarmouth was able to overcome four Fernandez goals and five Johnson assists as it improved to 9-1 and snapped Waynflete's six-game win streak, dropping the Flyers to 7-3 in the process.
"We were able to come through," O'Donnell said. "It was anybody's game. It could have gone our way. It could have gone Waynflete's way. I'd say we're pretty evenly matched. We were really lucky to come out with a win. We're strong and we know how to fight until the end."
Preview of coming events?
Both the Clippers and Flyers have played championship-level lacrosse in recent weeks.
Waynflete eked out a 6-5 win at North Yarmouth Academy in the opener, then lost consecutive games for the first time in a dozen seasons: 11-4 at Yarmouth in a state final rematch and 8-6 to visiting Falmouth. The ship began to be righted with an 11-5 win at Wells, then the Flyers beat a pair of visiting contenders: Scarborough (12-7) and Cape Elizabeth (6-5), downed visiting York, 13-7, won a back-and-forth affair at Greely (11-8), then rallied from a 5-1 halftime deficit Thursday to beat Kennebunk, 7-6, on Fernandez's "sudden victory" goal.
Yarmouth began with a 9-7 loss at Scarborough, then morphed quickly into the state's best team. The win streak began with a stunningly one-sided 11-4 home victory over Waynflete. After roaring back to down visiting Greely, 11-9, Yarmouth rolled at Freeport, 14-3. After an 18-5 win at Gould, the Clippers eked out close victories at Kennebunk (9-6) at Cape Elizabeth (11-10), then rolled past visiting NYA, 17-8, and visiting Falmouth, 17-9.
After snapping a five-game losing streak to Waynflete a month ago, Yarmouth hoped to sweep the Flyers and win at Waynflete for the first time since the 2007 season.
The Clippers did it, but it took 56 minutes of game time and 95 minutes of real time to do so.
Flyers junior Helen Gray-Bauer won the opening draw, but Waynflete couldn't keep possession and Yarmouth got the first good scoring chance when senior Molly Maguire earned a free position 59 seconds in. Maguire's shot was saved by Flyers sophomore goalie Charlotte Majercik, however, and the battle was joined.
The Clippers took a 1-0 lead 3:17 into the game when Fallon, as only she can do, weaved her way through a pair of defenders, went one-on-one with Majercik and finished.
The lead lasted all of a minute, as Waynflete drew even when Johnson fed Fernandez for a one-timer which Gunville had no chance to stop.
The Flyers appeared to take a 2-1 lead with 18:43 remaining in the half, when Johnson passed to junior Hannah Thompson-Greaves for a goal, but Thompson-Greaves was ruled to be in the crease and the tally was waved off.
After Yarmouth junior Lane Simsarian stumbled on a free position before missing the target, the hosts went ahead when Johnson again set up Fernandez with 15:23 to go.
Johnson almost made it 3-1 three minutes later, but her shot the post.
Then, the Clippers turned the tide.
Gunville preserved the one-goal deficit when she denied both Fernandez and Millard on free positions.
With 8 minutes left before halftime, O'Donnell set up Simsarian for a goal to tie the score.
Fifteen seconds later, after O'Donnell won the draw, she finished a feed from Torres and Yarmouth was back on top, 3-2.
Waynflete coach Cathie Connors called timeout, but it didn't stem the tide.
With 5:50 to play before the break, O'Donnell passed to freshman star-of-the-future Eliza Lunt, who bounced a shot past Majercik for a 4-2 lead.
"The underclassmen are great," O'Donnell said. "They push us every day in practice. They're the future. They'll keep Yarmouth lacrosse what it is. We're so glad to have them on the team. It's rare to have underclassmen start or get a lot of playing time, but they're doing more than we could have ever asked for."
After Gunville robbed Fernandez at one end, the Clippers settled in for a long possession which culminated with Fallon earning a free position. She buried it and Yarmouth had a three-goal lead.
Down the stretch, Gunville came up huge twice more, denying Fernandez, then Millard, and the Clippers took a 5-2 advantage to the half.
"I think I was a little more ready for this game," Gunville said. "I knew I really had to push myself. On the bus, I kept envisioning what would happen and I thought about how I had to get in front of the ball."
Waynflete held a 10-8 shots advantage in the first 25 minutes, but Gunville's six saves and Yarmouth's strong shot selection kept it in front.
When O'Donnell found the net on a free position shot 78 seconds into the second half, the Clippers were on the brink of breaking the game open, but the Flyers, as they did in their comeback against Kennebunk, turned up their defense to a smothering level and the offense came to life.
Gray-Bauer won the draw following O'Donnell's goal and the ball came to Johnson behind the goal again and once more, Johnson spotted a cutting Fernandez, who beat Gunville to snap a 17 minute, 7 second drought and Yarmouth's 5-0 run, cutting the deficit to 6-3.
"It's hard because I don't have eyes in the back of my head," said Gunville, about Johnson's passing. "Cat is amazing at feeding. She worked our defenders so hard. They were really good at cutting. They're a good team."
"It was really hard for our help to get there because they spread out so far," Simsarian said. "We just hoped the help was there. We had trouble with the double slide and that's what got us."
When Fernandez scored again (this time unassisted, after a nice move around a defender), Waynflete was within two with 21:38 still to play.
Clippers coach Dorothy Holt called timeout, but the Flyers kept up the pressure.
After Gunville robbed Waynflete senior Sofia Canning, Johnson again set up Fernandez for a goal and with 17:46 remaining, the Flyers were only down by a goal.
Majercik then came up huge to keep her team in it.
With 11:11 to play, Torres was denied on a free position. A minute later, Fallon earned a free position and passed to Simsarian, who appeared to have an empty net at which to shoot, but Majercik got to the shot and made the save.
Majercik then denied a bid from Lunt and Waynflete went back on the attack.
With 8:22 to go, seconds after Yarmouth junior Mary Coyne received a yellow card, Johnson threaded yet another pass to Fernandez for one final goal and the Flyers had come all the way back to tie, 6-6.
"Cat is unbelievable from behind the net," Fernandez said. "She's an amazing feeder. It's hard to see with their sticks high, but she does well with that.
"Cat was unbelievable today," Connors said. "She's so unselfish. She works so hard. She's grown so much. Her passes are spot-on."
Holt again called timeout, but she couldn't inspire a goal.
After O'Donnell won the draw, the Clippers turned the ball over. Waynflete gave it right back, however, and Yarmouth set up with a chance to retake the lead.
With 1:54 to play, Lunt earned a free position, but Majercik denied her shot.
The Flyers then had a great chance to win it late when Millard earned a free position with 18 seconds left, but Millard started before the whistle blew and the Clippers had dodged a bullet and it was on to overtime.
In high school lacrosse, teams play two three-minute overtimes to completion and if the game is still tied, it's on to "sudden victory."
That wouldn't be necessary this time.
O'Donnell won the draw to start OT and Yarmouth went on the attack.
After not scoring for 24 minutes, 36 seconds, the Clippers rediscovered their scoring tough, as Watson hit a cutting O'Donnell and the state's best player wouldn't be denied, beating Majercik for a 7-6 advantage.
"We wanted to get the momentum," O'Donnell said. "They had it going into overtime. We wanted to go out and set the tone, get the ball in the back of the net and feel a little bit of relief. Lilly had a great feed. We'd been struggling with feeds. Their zone in really good. They're big and they put their sticks up. She threaded it through perfectly and I was able to finish."
"(Going into overtime) I just told them to play like they knew how to play," Holt said. "We were being lulled into a slow game. We don't practice like that. Once we went back to what we knew, we got confidence."
Waynflete then got its chance when Gray-Bauer won the draw in the air, but just as it appeared Johnson was setting up another goal, Torres came from nowhere to break up the pass and cause a turnover. That ran out the clock on the first overtime.
The Flyers had chances in the second session as well.
After Gray-Bauer won the draw, Waynflete set up and Johnson delivered another perfect pass to Fernandez, but this time, with 1:43 showing, her shot was just off target.
Johnson managed to win a ground ball to keep possession and again set up Fernandez with 1:25 to go, but Gunville made the biggest save of her young life to preserve the lead.
"I try to keep my heart rate low and keep my head in the game," Gunville said. "I know I have to stop the ball when it comes to me. It was exhilarating."
"I just couldn't finish it," Fernandez said. "I don't think I was focused enough. I really regret that shot. I'll think about that a lot tonight. We had a great opportunity there. I feel badly for not finishing for the team."
Yarmouth not only dodged that bullet, but kept possession and the Clippers, who transition more beautifully than anyone, got the ball up the field and into the Flyers' zone where they milked the remaining time off the clock.
With the clock reading 12:43 p.m., Yarmouth at last got to celebrate a memorable 7-6 triumph, its first at Waynflete since April 23, 2007.
"We had to step up and play our game," Gunville said. "It was a relief to see us take care of the ball at the end."
"It was so exciting," said Simsarian. "It was right down to the wire. We were just hoping we'd pull through. It was really stressful, but I'm really glad we did it. Their defense is very good. We're not used to their zone. We didn't run our plays as well as we should have. We didn't move the ball as well as we should have, but we found a way. Dorothy told us to play our game and not let them get our heads. Her main motive was for us to play our game, to play strong and we pulled through."
"Holy smokes, (Waynflete's) so good," Holt added. "We got a little panicked. We haven't felt that yet. We get a little anxious because we respect their team so much. I think we come here almost like we're down 5-0. Cathie is an amazing coach. I have the utmost respect for her. They were coming off a huge win and were coming in with a ton of confidence."
While the Clippers had their lowest offensive production since the loss at Scarborough in the opener, they did just enough to survive.
O'Donnell had three goals, Fallon two and Lunt and Simsarian one apiece. O'Donnell added two assists, while Torres and Watson each had one.
Yarmouth was the better team on ground balls, collecting 38 to just 28 for the Flyers. O'Donnell led all players with nine and Torres grabbed eight.
Gunville had nine enormous saves.
"Mary Kate is amazing," O'Donnell said. "Jordan (Brown) was really, really strong last year, so we knew goalie would make or break our team this year. Goalie is the most important position on the field by far. She's just stepped up tremendously. She's a freshman, which means she can go pro in a couple years!"
"Mary Kate came up with huge saves," Holt said. "Waynflete brings out the best in her. She had her best game of the season."
The Clippers committed 17 turnovers and had to scratch and claw for 56 minutes to survive.
"We needed more movement on our attack and spreading out," O'Donnell said. "We're used to driving from the top, but with a zone, there are too many people on you and it comes down to off-ball movement."
"We had to work for it," Holt said. "We only have six seniors. We have a freshman in goal. We're not the seasoned team everyone talks about. We showed our anxiety in the second half. The girls weathered through a lot. I'm so impressed with their composure. They could have melted. They didn't. They just knew what to get done. We were lucky to get the win, but the girls worked hard to get it and I'm proud of them."
Waynflete got four goals from Fernandez, two from Millard and five assists from Johnson.
The Flyers had a 9-8 edge in draws, as Gray-Bauer captured eight of 14 opportunities and Johnson was successful once in three tries.
"Helen was awesome on draws and we had trouble," O'Donnell said.
Fernandez, Gray-Bauer and Johnson each had five ground balls, while senior defensive standout Ellen Silk collected four. Majercik made six saves (five in the second half).
Waynflete only turned the ball over 14 times and outshot Yarmouth, 17-15 (15-13 on cage).
It's rare when a loss seems like a win to the state's premier program, but the Flyers had that feeling in the postgame.
"It would have been nice to win, but it was an improvement from last time," Fernandez said. "Last game, they had a definite win. Yarmouth's the real deal. I only have good things to say about them. They have unbelievable players. They have a very difficult offense to defend. Their defense is tough to decipher as well and the best part of their team is their midfield. They're very fast."
"I'm happy," Connors said. "I'm walking off feeling really good. A win would have been wonderful, but they took us to running time a month ago and today, we held on and played with them. I'm really proud. Sometimes, it's not bad to have a loss right before the playoffs to remind us how it feels. It was close. I wish we could get it going a little bit sooner."
The final week
The Flyers (still second to Kennebunk in the Western Class B Heal Points standings but creeping closer to the top spot) have two tough road tests to conclude their season, as they go to defending Class A champion Cheverus Wednesday before closing at Cape Elizabeth Friday.
In the wake of this defeat, Waynflete is confident that it can win a third straight title.
Even if Yarmouth is standing in its way.
"Hopefully, we'll see Yarmouth in the playoffs," Fernandez said. "Hopefully we'll improve through our last two games and we hope to get an opportunity to see them again."
"I'd love to see them again," Connors said.
Yarmouth would welcome that matchup.
"If that's the state game again, then I'll be happy because we lost last year," Simsarian said. "It would be so exciting to see them again and see what we can do."
The Clippers, who will be the top seed in Eastern B, will be tested twice next week. Yarmouth welcomes Brunswick Monday, then plays host to Kennebunk Wednesday on Senior Night.
Yarmouth is flying high, but can still improve and will need to if it hopes to wind up at the top.
"We still need communication on attack," O'Donnell said. "We need to direct our offense better and have more off-ball movement. That and ground balls and draw controls and covering the cutter on defense."
"I try not to look at the brackets until the season's over," Holt said. "We have two tough games coming and I really think we need to put our ducks in a row and fight until the end of the regular season, then we'll re-evaluate. We need to work on our shot selection and have confidence in driving with a purpose. On defense, we just need to talk. It all comes down to putting the ball in the back of the net."
Something the Clippers did one more time than the Flyers on the memorable final day of May.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Waynflete-Yarmouth results
Waynflete 13 @ Yarmouth 7
@ Waynflete 13 Yarmouth 5
Yarmouth 7 @ Waynflete 5
@ Yarmouth 12 Waynflete 5
Waynflete 8 @ Yarmouth 7
Class B State Final
Yarmouth 12 Waynflete 5
Waynflete 11 @ Yarmouth 6
@ Waynflete 9 Yarmouth 8
Waynflete 7 @ Yarmouth 6
@ Waynflete 10 Yarmouth 7
@ Yarmouth 8 Waynflete 6
Yarmouth 8 @ Waynflete 3