Battle of defending champs goes to Cheverus, with no time to spare
PORTLAND—All 3,000 seconds count.
Every, single, solitary second.
Especially the last one.
That was the point hammered home to everyone on hand Wednesday afternoon at Boulos Stadium for the palpitating showdown of defending state champion girls' lacrosse teams as Cheverus and Waynflete did battle right with absolutely nothing resolved until the final horn.
There was no separation throughout, as neither team took a lead of more than one goal.
In the first half, the game featured two lead changes was tied six different times, including 6-6, when Flyers senior Ella Millard converted a free position with 2:08 remaining.
Waynflete, behind the brilliant play of Millard and senior wizard Cat Johnson, then took second half leads of 7-6, 8-7 and 9-8, but couldn't put the Stags away and when Flyers expatriate, sophomore Anne Veroneau, converted a dramatic free position shot with 8:58 remaining, the game was deadlocked anew, 9-9.
Cheverus junior goalie Hope Correia then took center stage, stopping a shot by Johnson and with 3:05 to play, a free position from Millard and the Stags got a chance to hold for the winner.
Which they did.
With almost no time to spare.
As time wound down and overtime appeared a certainty, senior Elyse Caiazzo calmly waited for classmate Alex Logan to break open, delivered the pass of her life and Logan one-timed a shot past Waynflete sophomore goalie Charlotte Majerick for the go-ahead goal.
With 0.6 seconds showing.
The clock ran out on the ensuing draw and Cheverus had a statement-making 10-9 victory, its first over the Flyers since 2007 and arguably its biggest regular season triumph to date.
Caiazzo, Logan and senior Meredith Willard all scored thre times and the Stags ended the regular year 9-3, locked up the top seed in Eastern Class A and dropped valiant Waynflete to 7-4 in the process.
"It worked out really well," said Logan, who was one of several seniors honored in a Senior Day ceremony prior to the game. "We came into this game confident. We knew what we needed to do and I think we did it to the best of our ability. We hadn't beaten Waynflete for seven years. Seven is our golden number. We figured this would be the day."
Last June 15, both Cheverus and Waynflete had an opportunity to dance on the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf after capturing state championships. The Stags won for the first time in Class A, while the Flyers won their umpteenth title in Class B.
This season, both teams are back in the championship hunt again, even though the road hasn't always been easy.
Cheverus handled host Deering, 14-3, visiting Bonny Eagle, 19-6, host Windham, 11-7, and visiting Portland, 12-3, to start the year, then lost a state final rematch at Massabesic (12-10). After downing visiting Thornton Academy (9-6), the Stags dropped an 11-10 overtime heartbreaker at Marshwood. After a 17-6 romp at Messalonskee, Cheverus fell again in a close one at Gorham, 9-8, then bounced back by handling visiting McAuley (21-2) and edging visiting Scarborough in an overtime thriller Saturday, 14-12.
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 to beat Kennebunk, 7-6, in triple overtime. Waynflete rallied again Saturday and took visiting Yarmouth to overtime, but this time the Flyers fell a goal short, 7-6, as their six-game win streak came to an end.
Cheverus and Waynflete first squared off in the 2007 regular season, when the Stags shocked the visiting Flyers, 9-8. The teams met again that spring in the Western B semifinals and Cheverus did it again, this time by a 12-6 margin. One of the Stags stars that season was Mallory Pelkey, who took over the program as coach this spring.
Since then, however, Waynflete has dominated the series, winning each of the past six games by a composite 81-23 margin. Last year, the Flyers shot to an 8-1 lead and cruised to an 11-5 victory at Cheverus behind seven goals from Sadie Cole.
Wednesday, on a damp afternoon, both teams played like champions and everyone on hand was treated to a well-played thriller.
While in recent years, the Flyers put the Stags away early, this time, Cheverus announced it had come to play with a gritty first half effort.
Following the pregame ceremony, which included flowers and public acknowledgement for the seniors from both teams and their parents, the Stags got the first good chance, but Willard's shot in close was denied by Majercik.
Willard would get another chance with 21:15 to play in the first half and on a free position, she finished to break the ice.
Waynflete roared right back, as junior Helen Gray-Bauer won the draw, the ball came Millard and in a reversal of Saturday's overtime loss to Yarmouth when she set up almost every goal, Johnson this time finished a feed from Millard to make it 1-1.
Cheverus retook the lead, 2-1, with 19:37 to go, as Willard showed her speed and ankle-snapping moves, getting past three defenders before going one-on-one with a helpless Majercik to finish.
Again, the Flyers drew even, as Johnson set up Millard 55 seconds later.
The Stags went up, 3-2, with 14:37 remaining in the half, as, in a harbinger of dramatic events of come, Caiazzo spotted an open Logan, who finished.
"A good start was huge," Pelkey said. "We have a lot of upperclassmen this year, which is huge, and we have a lot of confidence. We came out thinking it was like any other game. If we hype it up too much, that's when it gets crazy, but I think we were very composed. I feel like we have a similar game to Waynflete. We were patient with the ball. We knew fastbreaks wouldn't be there because they hang back. It came down to our top players really stepping up and letting others take the lead today."
After Waynflete junior Hannah Thompson-Greaves had a shot saved by Correia and Johnson shot high, Millard won a ground ball and fed Johnson for a goal which made it 3-3 with 12:39 to go before halftime.
Just 66 seconds later, the Flyers took their first lead, as Johnson fed freshman Isabel Canning for a goal.
Undaunted, back came the Stags, who tied it, 4-4, on a Willard goal (from Caiazzo) with 10:35 left.
With Caiazzo on the sidelines after receiving a yellow card two minutes later, Waynflete took advantage and with a player advantage, took a 5-4 lead, as senior Sofia Canning set up Thompson-Greaves for a goal in transition.
Again, the advantage didn't last, as Logan (from senior Sadie Lyons) tied the score with 6:19 left.
After Correia denied Millard on a free position, with 4:46 to go, Cheverus went back on top, 6-5, as junior Abby Biegel passed to Caiazzo, who finished.
Correia momentarily preserved the advantage when she denied Flyers sophomore Christian Rowe, but with 2:08 left, Millard's free position forged a 6-6 halftime tie.
In the first 25 minutes, Gray-Bauer beat Logan on nine of 13 draws (something which was about to change dramatically), Waynflete enjoyed a 15-9 ground balls advantage and held a 10-9 edge in shots, but four Correia saves kept the game deadlocked.
Little changed in the second half, other than the tension and drama being ratcheted up by the minute.
With 22:45 to play, Johnson's free position gave the Flyers a 7-6 lead, but a little over two minutes later, Caiazzo scored on a free position to tie the game once more.
After Millard hit the top of the crossbar with a shot with 19:12 remaining, Waynflete retained possession and was rewarded as Johnson scored unassisted, after a great individual effort, and the Flyers clung to an 8-7 advantage with 17:45 left.
"Cat has been amazing," said Waynflete coach Cathie Connors. "She goes from being completely unselfish and setting up goals to taking control and scoring them."
Majercik made a big save on a Willard bid with 16:45 to go to keep her team ahead, but 32 seconds later, Lyons set up Caiazzo for a goal and the score was 8-8.
Millard's unassisted strike with 10:39 remaining put Waynflete up, 9-8, but would prove to be the Flyers' final tally.
Logan won the ensuing draw and the ball came to Veroneau, who was hit hard on a drive to the goal and was rewarded with a free position. Despite the myriad emotions running through her head and heart, Veroneau had one mission and she raced to the goal with authority before firing past Majerick to tie the game for the ninth and final time, 9-9, with 8:58 still to play.
"I've been looking forward to (this game) all season," Veroneau said. "I have so many friends on their team and they're such a good team. It means so much to be able to play them. We practice free positions before every game and I've taken a couple before. I was just trying to find the right placement. I didn't look at the clock, but I knew we needed it. I buried it."
"I told her that her job today was to set picks, get other people open and get ground balls on the ride and that's exactly what she did," Pelkey said. "She came through with that goal and I was happy for her personally."
"Good for Anne," Connors said. "I'm happy for her."
At that point, it already felt like "sudden victory" overtime, but only 50 minutes would ultimately be needed.
After Connors called timeout, Logan won another draw and Cheverus had a chance to retake the lead, but Majerick robbed Logan on a shot.
Waynflete then got its chance and with 4:47 to go, Johnson got free for a shot and what most expected to be a certain goal, but Correia stood tall and made the stop.
The Stags weren't able to clear their defensive zone, however, and turned the ball over.
With 3:39 showing, Johnson shot just wide.
Then, 34 seconds later, Millard lined up for a pivotal free position.
And Correia saved it.
"I saw the ball well today and sometimes, I just happened to be there," Correia said. "I was trying to cut off the angle, but I wasn't thinking about anything but the shot. I looked at it like any other shot. I just knew I had to save it. It felt really good."
This time, Cheverus transitioned into the offensive zone and wisely milked the clock for the last shot, not wanting to give the potent Flyers another chance.
When a Caiazzo shot was saved by Majercik with 15 seconds to play, overtime appeared likely, but Caiazzo got the ball back and instead of panicking, she waited to pounce.
With the clock racing toward 0.0, Caiazzo delivered a strike to a reigning All-American who will be in a Bowdoin Polar Bears uniform next year.
And Logan made the most of her date with destiny and fired past Majerick.
"We were trying to run out the clock, but we didn't mean to wait so long," Logan said. "It just worked out that way. I just had to quick-stick it in. I knew there was only one second on the clock. You always have a picture of where you want the ball to go and you have to trust your instinct. I've never been more excited. I've never been more pumped than I was at that moment."
"I wasn't even sure what I was looking for," said Caiazzo. "I wasn't sure if we were running a play. Mostly, I was looking for people cutting in any direction. Alex popped at the right moment. I had to make a wish and I threw the ball and she got it, thank God. I have total confidence in Alex. I was very proud."
"I have a great deal of faith in my offense," said Correia. "I was a little worried when the clock was running down, but we pulled through. I was really happy, to say the least, when Alex scored."
"We always try to work the clock down and get the last shot," said Veroneau. "We knew we needed to keep cutting and not get bunched up. The excitement at the end got us bunched up, but we knew Elyse would make a good decision. She's fantastic with feeds. I trust her to do anything. You can trust Alex to score. She's such a good player."
"We wanted to run the clock down all the way, Pelkey added. "I like (the ball in) Elyse's hands, or Meredith's, Alex's or Sadie's."
Waynflete was left in disbelief.
"I didn't even know what happened," Connors said. "Charlotte made a save and we should have gotten the rebound. I won't even say it was a defensive breakdown, it was just a great offensive play. Just a beautiful play. You practice plays like that and hope they work."
As the ball tickled the twine, everyone's eyes turned the clock.
It showed 0.6.
The formality of a final draw still loomed, but not even the brilliant Flyers could score from midfield in just under a second and when the horn sounded, Cheverus exulted a second time and celebrated its memorable 10-9 triumph.
"Waynflete gave us a great game," Caiazzo said.
"Waynflete's always exciting to play because they're a great team," Correia said. "We respect them a lot and we look forward to playing them. It was really tense and exciting. We were confident and knew what we needed to do. We needed to stay composed and relaxed. We pulled through."
"We knew it was our Senior Game and we wanted to do it for the seniors so they could go out with a bang," Veroneau said.
"We haven't lost on our homefield and we played a tough schedule," Pelkey added. "It was one of our goals that we wanted to get done and we did. We pulled it out and I was pretty proud. It was a great way to win."
The Stags used a balanced offensive attack to have success against the best zone defense in the state.
Caiazzo, Logan and Willard, the three superstars, all scored three times, while Veroneau's one goal was enormous. Caiazzo also assisted on three goals, while Lyons set up two and Biegel one.
After losig nine of 13 first half draws, Logan won six of seven in the second half and that category wound up even, 10-10.
Cheverus had a slight 25-22 edge in ground balls, as Caiazzo and Willard both collected a team-high five.
Correia made seven enormous saves.
"Hope has been working really hard all year and has really been improving," Caiazzo said. "We see it every game. This game showed the state of Maine how hard she's been working. She was amazing."
"She was great," Pelkey said. "When there was a timeout, Hope had the other goalie play pass with her to stay in the game mentally and be ready."
The most impressive stat of all was turnovers, as the Stags only committed eight in 50 minutes with absolutely no margin for error against a tenacious and talented foe.
Waynflete got four goals from Johnson, three from Millard and one apiece from Isabel Canning and Thompson-Greaves. Johnson and Millard both had two assists, while Sofia Canning finished with one. Johnson led the Flyers with five ground balls. Millard and senior Leigh Fernandez each had four. Majercik made four saves.
Waynflete outshot Cheverus, 20-16 (16-14 on cage) and only gave the ball way eight times, but still suffered a painful loss, its second in succession.
"It just wasn't our day today," Connors said. "I'd rather it happen now than in the playoffs. It was just two good teams. Cheverus played well. They're a great team with awesome players. Really nice girls. Their defense was much tighter than ours. We left holes open and they took advantage. We depend a lot on our defense. We didn't take advantage of our free positions. I told the girls to hold their heads high. We win as a team and we lose as a team."
On to bigger things
Waynflete (second in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) won't have long to dwell upon this loss, as it still has one regular season test left when it goes to Cape Elizabeth Friday. The Flyers, who thought they had a shot at the top seed in Western B prior to the Cheverus game, now need to win to prevent the Capers from leapfrogging them and dropping them to the No. 3 spot, which would mean no quarterfinal round bye and likely no home semifinal round game.
"We'll flush it and move on," Connors said. "All of this is preparation for the playoffs. We learn more from losses than wins. Cape will be a good tuneup for playoffs. I'd much rather have another game than have to go into the playoffs coming off a loss."
As the top seed in Eastern A, Cheverus will get to enjoy homefield advantage for the playoffs.
The Stags, especially after such an inspirational victory, have to be viewed as the team to beat in the region once more.
"Homefield advantage is important, but it's not everything," Logan said. "We have a level of comfort here, which will be good."
"I think this brings a good amount of confidence for us," Caiazzo said. "We have a good sense of family and we have composure.""
"We don't play many teams like Waynflete in our conference," Correia said. "We'll definitely be confident going into playoffs."
"We'll be ready," Pelkey added. "At the end of the season is when we got our strong games. I think that helps us going into playoffs. We have a lot of leadership. More than just our seniors. We have underclassmen who are leaders. A lot of these girls have been there before and they're still hungry."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Waynflete-Cheverus results
Waynflete 10 @ Cheverus 6
@ Waynflete 14 Cheverus 4
Waynflete 15 @ Cheverus 2
@ Waynflete 15 Cheverus 1
@ Cheverus 9 Waynflete 8
Western B semifinals
@ Cheverus 12 Waynflete 6