Cape girls down Falmouth again to advance to semis
CAPE ELIZABETH—Five days after yet another frustrating loss to its biggest nemesis brought a challenging regular season to a close, Cape Elizabeth's girls' lacrosse team came out and made a powerful statement in its first postseason test Wednesday against Falmouth at Hannaford Field.
That it expects to be playing all the way through June 21.
Senior captain Abby McInerney scored off a free position shot just 52 seconds in, added a second goal 23 seconds later, then set up junior Sophie Hewitt for a goal as the third-ranked Capers staggered the sixth-seeded Yachtsmen early in their Western Class B quarterfinal tilt.
Cape Elizabeth's defense and junior goalie Kate Bosworth then took over, holding Falmouth scoreless for nearly the entire first half, by which time the lead had been extended to seven.
The Yachtsmen got their offense going in the second half, but it was far too little, too late and the Capers went on to an impressive 13-6 victory.
McInerney led the way with four goals, four other players tickled the twine twice and Bosworth made 13 key saves as Cape Elizabeth improved to 9-4, ended Falmouth's season at 4-9 and advanced to earn yet another shot at two-time defending state champion Waynflete (8-4), a team the Capers haven't beaten in a dozen years and 24 tries, in the semifinals Saturday at 4 p.m., at Fore River Fields in Portland.
"It was fun to watch," said Cape Elizabeth coach Jeff Perkins. "The things we didn't execute against Waynflete, we talked about in practice and it showed. We had a fast start and controlled the ball. It's always nice to play from ahead."
Waynflete and top-ranked Kennebunk are rightly viewed as the favorites in Western Class B, but rest assured that the Flyers weren't thrilled about the prospect of playing the Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth winner.
That's because both turned heads at times this spring.
The Yachtsmen started with a 12-5 loss at Cape Elizabeth, then shocked host Waynflete, 8-6. After falling at home to Freeport, 8-7, Falmouth won at Thornton Academy (8-6), then lost at home to Greely (15-10), Gorham (11-9) and Kennebunk (9-8) before getting back in the win column at Gould, 17-11. A 17-9 loss at Yarmouth, a 10-7 home setback to Cape Elizabeth and a 12-7 loss at Greely ensued before the Yachtsmen closed with an inspirational 9-8, triple overtime home victory over York.
The Capers opened with a 21-2 demolition of visiting Fryeburg, then knocked off visiting Falmouth, 12-5. After falling at Kennebunk, 14-11, Cape Elizabeth held off visiting York, 12-9, then won at Gorham, 14-12. A frustrating 6-5 loss at Waynflete was followed by an 11-10 home loss to Yarmouth, a game in which senior standout Hannah Newhall suffered a broken collarbone and was lost for the rest of the season. The Capers then came alive by beating host Wells (17-13), Greely (9-6) and Falmouth (10-7), as well as visiting Marshwood (11-8), before falling at home to Waynflete in Friday's regular season finale, 10-5.
The Capers and Yachtsmen had met four previous times in the playoffs with Cape Elizabeth prevailing three times (see sidebar, below). The most recent encounter was a 14-12 Capers' victory in the 2011 semifinals.
Wednesday, Cape Elizabeth shook off its rough recent loss and put immediate separation between it and Falmouth.
McInerney won the opening draw of the game, the Capers settled their offense and McInerney earned a free position, which she fired past Yachtsmen freshman goalie Mary Budri to put her team on top to stay.
McInerney won the next draw and this time finished in the regular run of play unassisted to make it 2-0 with 23:45 still to play in the first half.
"We wanted to show everyone in the conference that we were ready to go," McInerney said. "For us seniors, it was really important to send a message to other teams and to ourselves and get our confidence back."
"Abby was a little upset she didn't get draws in the Waynflete game," Perkins said. "She's worked on them in practice and she did a good job putting it where she wanted. It worked like a charm today."
After scoring twice, McInerney assisted on goal number three, passing to Hewitt, who beat Budri with 22:47 showing.
Falmouth sophomore Marcy Kittredge then won her team possession for the first time and the Yachtsmen had some great chances to get on the board, but Bosworth slammed the door.
First, senior Julia Spugnardi, hero of the overtime win in the regular season finale against York, earned a free position, but Bosworth made the save.
Bosworth then denied Spugnardi again.
Finally, with 18:17 to go in the half, Spugnardi had another free position opportunity, but Bosworth knocked it down.
Cape Elizabeth then went back on offense and with 15:44 to play before halftime, went up, 4-0, as senior Liz Robinson fed junior Emma Landes for a goal, forcing Yachtsmen coach Kait Johnson to call timeout.
Falmouth responded out of the break, getting an offensive possession, but a scoring chance from senior Sabrina Smithwick was denied by Bosworth.
With 11:03 left in the half, Hewitt scored her second goal, unassisted, to make it 5-0.
After Bosworth denied a free position shot from Falmouth junior Elle Fitzgerald, Capers junior Taylor Herrera hit the post, but the hosts kept possession and with 3:24 to go before halftime, Landes scored on a free position to push the lead to 6-0.
Cape Elizabeth wasn't done and after an apparent initial Yachtsmen goal (by Smithwick) was waved off due to a crease violation, McInerney fed Robinson for a score with 1:03 left for a 7-0 advantage.
Falmouth's persistence finally paid off just seconds shy of halftime, when senior Leigh Bernardy scored on a free position with 2.5 seconds showing, but all in all, it was an impressive 25-minute stretch for the opportunistic Capers, who only had an 11-9 shots edge, but managed to lead by six goals.
Not surprisingly, the Yachtsmen hung tough the rest of the way, in a second half which culminated not only with a Cape Elizabeth victory, but also a mosquito infestation that made everyone happy to get off the field at game's end.
Just 2:08 into the second half, Falmouth freshman sensation Sydney Bell scored unassisted to cut the deficit to five, but the visitors would draw no closer.
Sixty-three seconds later, McInerney set up Robinson, who countered with a goal.
With 19:48 to play, Cape Elizabeth junior Kirsten Rudberg drove in for a shot that Budri couldn't stop.
After Bosworth made a save on sophomore London Bernier's shot at one end, the Capers went on top, 10-2, when freshman Mariah Deschino scooped up a ground ball and finished with 18:21 to play.
The speedy Deschino has played a bigger role with Newhall out of the lineup and has risen to the occasion.
"It's been incredible to be on the field, make a difference and help the team," Deschino said. "The team has made it so much easier than I thought it would be. They calm me down. Scoring was awesome. I was settled and took chances. I was confident."
"Everyone has stepped up, especially Mariah coming in as a freshman," McInerney said. "She hadn't started, but she's come out and has made a name for herself. The whole team has rallied around Hannah. She's been nothing but supportive. She cheers us on and coaches us. We couldn't ask for a better teammate."
Bernardy (from freshman Devin Sarazin) answered 40 seconds later and after Robinson was denied by the post, the Yachtsmen pulled within 10-4 with 16:04 remaining, when Bell fed Smithwick for a score.
Falmouth had two chances to draw even closer, but a free position shot from freshman Olivia Stucker was saved by Bosworth and Bosworth robbed Bell.
With 9:09 to play, Cape Elizabeth got a little breathing room.
After stalling for a couple minutes, McInerney saw daylight, took it and ran in and finished to make the score 11-4.
Smithwick (from Bernardy) answered with 7:23 to play, but at the 5:58 mark, McInerney scored unassisted again to restore a seven-goal advantage.
With 3:49 showing, Spugnardi scored on a free position, but that proved to be the Yachtsmen's final goal of the season and despite being down a player, the Capers delivered the coup de grace when Deschino scored unassisted with 1:04 to play, bringing the curtain down on a very impressive 13-6 victory.
"We played all game like it was 0-0 and that's what we have to do," McInerney said.
“I said at halftime, 'Look, these guys will play like caged animals because they have nothing to lose,'" Capers coach Jeff Perkins said. "We had to finish the game and we did. When they got momentum, the girls were able to battle back, take the counter-punch and handle it. I'm proud of them. The defense worked hard. They absorbed what we've changed up. This group keeps surprising me because we're throwing a lot at them and they come out and do it. They're a smart group of kids. They're excited to still be playing."
Cape Elizabeth's offensive balance was the key.
McInerney had four goals and two assists, but five other girls scored as well.
Deschino, Hewitt, Landes and Robinson (who added two assists) each had two goals and Rudberg added one.
“We seem to try to make everyone have a chance to go at goal and show their strengths and have fun," Deschino said.
McInerney won 11 of 21 draws and collected a game-high eight ground balls, as the Capers had a 27-24 advantage in that all-important category.
"Everyone was hustling for ground balls, which we struggled with against Waynflete," said McInerney. "The difference in this game was getting low, running through them and hustling to them."
Cape Elizabeth only turned the ball over 12 times and while it was outshot, 24-19 (19-18 on cage), it got 13 saves from Bosworth and a strong defensive effort to spell the difference.
“Our defense has really improved," Rudberg said. "It's the teamwork and how we work together. We make sure we have support. Kate gives us so much confidence. I know I get beat all the time, but I know I have five people crashing in and Kate's there. She's an unbelievable goalie. I know I can always trust her."
“Our defense makes sure to hustle to every crash," McInerney said. "Kate was phenomenal tonight. She gives the whole team confidence. She'll have a huge save and our offense and midfield would be ready to go."
Falmouth got two goals apiece from Bernardy and Smithwick in their respective swan songs. Spugnardi scored once in her final game, while Bell scored once as well.
Bell, Bernardy and Sarazin each had an assist.
Bernardy had a team-high four ground balls and Budri made five saves.
The Yachtsmen only committed 11 turnovers, but couldn't dig out of their early hole.
“We were definitely prepared for this game," Johnson said. "We had time to prepare, but we couldn't really capitalize on things. Things just didn't go our way, bottom line. We're evenly matched, but they finished shots and we beat ourselves today. We're used to playing from behind. We just couldn't find a rhythm. That was a problem all year."
Falmouth's 4-9 record doesn't tell the full story. It had its moments and made life difficult for virtually every foe.
"I'm proud of the girls," Johnson said. "They played hard. I wish they could have pulled out a win tonight. They deserved it. We deserved to win the Waynflete game and no one should have taken us lightly this year."
With an abundance of key young players (including sophomores-to-be Bell, Budri, Sarazin and Stucker) returning in 2015, the Yachtsmen could make a run back to the top of the standings.
"We're young," Johnson said. "We'll learn and we'll get better.”
Slaying the dragon
Cape Elizabeth knows what awaits it Saturday at Fore River Fields.
A team it hasn't beaten since 2002.
A team that's stymied it 24 straight times.
A team the Capers have never defeated in the postseason.
Regardless, Cape Elizabeth appeared unbothered with the prospect of walking into the lion's den and will go into the game knowing it has nothing to lose as it hopes to shock the world.
"We have to talk and come together and play how we play," Deschino said.
"We have a chance to make it as far as last year and maybe even farther," Rudberg said. "We just need to get the name out of our heads. Going into a game knowing it's Waynflete, we get jittery, but if we play like we did today and play our game and don't look at the jersey, I think we'll play our best.”
"We have to make sure we're confident," said McInerney said. "Waynflete has definitely been our Kryptonite. We have to play our game. We have to move the ball fast and hustle and go to every ground ball like it's our last. It helps being the underdog. I think the pressure's on them. They'll come out just as stoked as we are. They'll try their hardest, we'll try our hardest and hopefully we can pull it out.”
"I wish I had the answers," Perkins added. "It seems like everything we've tried hasn't worked. This group doesn't seem to have that mental block. We've just had some bad breaks that takes the wind out of our sails. We have to possess the ball. If we can do that, we've got a chance to go in there and play well. We have to play a perfect game because they will.
"The girls believe they can win. We get another chance. We're excited. We have a great attitude. As long as we go out and give our best, we have a good chance. That's all you can ask for in the playoffs. Maybe the difference is that we know there's no tomorrow and we'll fight to the very end and see what happens.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth playoff results
2011 Western B semifinal
Cape Elizabeth 14 Falmouth 12
2010 Western B semifinal
Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 10
2004 West Region prelim
Cape Elizabeth 16 Falmouth 6
2002 West Region prelim
Cape Elizabeth 14 Falmouth 2