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The 25th time's the charm! Cape stuns Waynflete in semifinals

Sports

The 25th time's the charm! Cape stuns Waynflete in semifinals

PORTLAND—It ended memorably, fittingly and gloriously.

And now that a 24-ton gorilla has been shed at last from its shoulders, the Cape Elizabeth girls' lacrosse team has an opportunity to make even more history.

Saturday afternoon at Fore River Fields, in a Western Class B semifinal round showdown that would have been deemed an instant classic even if its relevance didn't echo back to the early days of the century, the Capers and two-time defending state champion Waynflete produced a 50-minute passion play the left all on hand emotionally spent.

Just eight days removed from a five-goal home loss to the Flyers, Cape Elizabeth was given little chance Saturday and there were plenty of reasons why.

Twenty-four to be exact.

Twenty-four as in the number of times the Capers had lost to the Flyers in succession dating back to 2003.

And in a year where it appeared Cape Elizabeth had little hope to end its hex and slay the Waynflete dragon, it happened at a most unexpected time and venue and in absolutely scintillating fashion.

The third-seeded Capers needed to get off to a fast start and thanks to senior standout Abby McInerney, did exactly that, as she scored three times to produce an early 4-1 advantage.

But the second-ranked Flyers always, always come back and after pulling within a goal at halftime, strikes from senior standout Cat Johnson and junior Hannah Thompson-Greaves made the score 5-5.

Cape Elizabeth retook the lead, 6-5, on McInerney's goal with 20 minutes to go, but Waynflete senior star Leigh Fernandez tied the game, then gave her team it's first lead, 7-6, with 15:02 remaining.

The Capers were pushed further against the ropes and were about to be administered a standing-eight count when Johnson set up Sofia Canning for a goal and an 8-6 lead with 14:26 to play, but where so many previous Cape Elizabeth editions would have buckled, this group roared back and shocked the world.

McInerney stemmed the tide by taking a feed from senior Liz Robinson and finishing with 13:26 left.

Then, seven minutes later, freshman Mariah Deschino, untainted by the sting of prior playoff losses to the Flyers, pulled her team even with a free position goal.

The Capers then got the ball back with four minutes to go and after killing time, coming out of a timeout, set up for the biggest goal in program history.

After milking the clock under 20 seconds, Robinson delivered a pinpoint pass to McInerney, who one-timed a shot past Waynflete sophomore goalie Charlotte Majercik and Cape Elizabeth led, 9-8, with 16 seconds to go.

Which was way too much time to get comfortable.

Everyone on hand knew the Flyers could win the draw, score and force overtime, then deliver another acrid dose of heartache, but this time, the script read otherwise.

Waynflete did manage to get the ball, but the Capers forced a turnover, sophomore Sophie Hewitt scooped it up and at last, Cape Elizabeth had done it.

McInerney had the game of her life, scoring six times, and the Capers improved to 10-4, ended the Flyers' never-dull, up-and-down campaign at 8-5 and advanced to another Western B Final, this time at top-ranked Kennebunk (10-3) Wednesday at 4 p.m.

"It's just unbelievable," said McInerney. "I'm just speechless. There are no words to describe it. Three years we've lost to them in Western Maine Finals. To finally beat them is phenomenal. It could have easily been my last high school game, but it's the best feeling in the world to be able to finally beat them."

24

On May 4, 2002, Cape Elizabeth eked out a 10-9 win at Waynflete en route to an undefeated regular season.

That was a long, long time ago.

To wit:

The day before, the first "Spiderman" movie (which would eventually make over 800 million dollars worldwide) had been released.

"Friends" was still the top-rated television show.

Pink's "Don't Let Me Get Me" topped the music charts.

"War Emblem" won the Kentucky Derby.

Gas was $1.34 a gallon.

George W. Bush was in his second year in the White House, the War On Terror dominated the news, the New England Patriots were three months removed from an improbable first Super Bowl championship and the Boston Red Sox were in year 84 of 85 without a World Series title.

In 2003, the Flyers beat the host Capers in the regular season, 8-6, in a rather innocous game that would be the start of something unthinkable (see sidebar, below).

Whether Cape Elizabeth was the favorite or the underdog, whether it had an anonymous collection of players or boasted All-Americans who would go on to play in college, it simply couldn't solve Waynflete.

Twice, the Capers lost to the Flyers in overtime (including a regional final for the ages two years ago) and on two other occasions, they only fell by a goal, but most of the meetings were lopsided in Waynflete's favor, as the Flyers went on to win the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013 state championships, beating Cape Elizabeth en route to the hardware in five of those seasons.

The Capers gave Waynflete a scare in the 2011 Western B Final, but couldn't hold an early lead and lost, 8-7. The next year, Cape Elizabeth led throughout and enjoyed an 8-4 advantage in the second half, but the Flyers some how, some way found a way to rally and force overtime, then win in a "sudden victory" third OT, 11-10.

Last year, despite the presence of Division I-bound players Talley Perkins (Boston University) and Lauren Steidl (Princeton), the Capers were thrice frustrated by Waynflete, the most disappointing loss coming in the regional final, a 16-9 setback which saw Flyers standout Martha Veroneau score a record 10 goals.

Cape Elizabeth had two chances earlier this spring to get off the schneid, but fell at Waynflete, 6-5, May 13, then lost more decisively at home on June 6, 10-5.

25

After trying everything else, the Capers turned to numerology heading into Saturday's contest.

"Coach gave us a talk last night about how 25 was his number and the number his daughters wear," said Cape Elizabeth junior defender Brette Lennon. "We were really stoked it was the 25th time. We really had nothing to lose because we lost all those other times."

"I wore 25 in high school and college," Perkins said. "When I saw it was 24 times we hadn't won, I was like, "OK guys. This has to be it. Twenty-five is my number.'"

Take away the Waynflete losses and the Capers had a strong regular season, especially when viewed through the prism of playing the second half of the year without arguably their best player, speedy and dynamic senior Hannah Newhall.

Cape Elizabeth 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. The frustrating one-goal loss at Waynflete was followed by an 11-10 home loss to Yarmouth, a game in which Newhall was sidelined. 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), then closed by falling by five to visiting Waynflete.

As disappointing as that loss was, Cape Elizabeth still believed it could beat the Flyers in the playoffs.

"Last week, it came down to us not finishing shots," said McInerney. "We had opportunities. We could have made it closer, or even won, but we didn't make or shots or make crisp passes."

The Capers earned the No. 3 seed for the playoffs and had little trouble with No. 6 Falmouth in Wednesday's quarterfinal round, winning, 13-6.

As for Waynflete, one year after running roughshod over everyone en route to a perfect record and repeat championship, the 2014 campaign produced nailbiters nearly every time out.

The Flyers eked out a 6-5 win at North Yarmouth Academy on a late Johnson goal 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, 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 visiting Kennebunk, 7-6, in triple overtime, on Fernandez's game-winner. Waynflete's six-game win streak then came to a halt with a thrilling 7-6 overtime loss to visiting Yarmouth and next came another agonizing late loss, as the Flyers were beaten by a goal inside of the final second, 10-9, at Cheverus. Waynflete regrouped and closed with the win at Cape Elizabeth, earned the No. 2 seed for the playoffs and a bye into Saturday's semifinals.

The Flyers entered the semifinal having beaten the Capers in all eight prior postseason meetings, but all good things must come to an end and all the streaks/hexes Waynflete had in its corner went into the dustbin of history.

In the most thrilling way possible.

McInerney set the tone by winning the opening draw and after a few minutes of back-and-forth, Cape Elizabeth took a 1-0 lead when McInerney set up Landes with 21:35 to play in the first half.

The Flyers came right back to tie the score five minutes in, as Johnson, who has emerged as the state's finest table-setter in recent weeks, set up Fernandez for a goal.

The deadlock didn't even last two minutes, however, as McInerney scored for the first time with 18:07 to go, finishing a feed from Robinson, foreshadowing the game's biggest play in the process.

McInerney added an unassisted goal with 17:20 left and with 15:32 showing, she scored on a free position, which hit the post, then went in for a 4-1 lead.

Even though Cape Elizabeth was up three, it hardly felt comfortable.

"I had butterflies because I knew they could come back," McInerney said. "I was obviously happy to be up, 4-1, but I didn't feel safe."

Waynflete coach Cathie Connors called timeout and while it didn't pay immediate dividends, the Flyers began to turn play in their favor.

Out of the timeout, Waynflete senior Ella Millard had a good look, but shot high. Moments later, Capers junior goalie Kate Bosworth robbed Thompson-Greaves in front.

At the other end, McInerney had a chance to extend the lead, but missed an open net and Majercik came up with a huge save on a bid off the stick of Robinson.

With 5:45 left in the first half, Flyers sophomore Christian Rowe, a budding star, scored on a free position to snap a 14 minute, 15 second drought.

After Johnson hit the post and Thompson-Greaves was again robbed by Bosworth, Thompson-Greaves had to sit two minutes for receiving a yellow card, but Cape Elizabeth couldn't produce a shot and Waynflete went back on the attack.

After Fernandez was just wide on a shot and Canning was denied by Bosworth, Johnson broke through unassisted with 1:13 showing, cutting the deficit to 4-3.

The Flyers almost tied the game with 39 seconds left, but Millard's free position hit the pipe.

Waynflete had an edge in every statistical category except draws in the first half, but the Capers weren't only in the game, they were ahead and gaining more confidence by the minute.

That set the stage for an epic second half.

Cape Elizabeth began the second stanza aggressively, as it did in the first, and was rewarded 46 seconds in, when Deschino set up Robinson for a goal, ending a 16:18 drought and making the score, 5-3.

The lead wouldn't last.

With 22:45 to play, Johnson ran around the cage before going one-on-one with Bosworth and finishing to make it a one-goal game again.

"(Cat) was definitely our focal point (on defense)," Lennon said. "We rearranged some things so we could potentially double her, or make it so she couldn't stand behind the goal and feed, which is what she does so well every game. She has great feeds or can go one-on-one."

A mere 12 seconds later, the Flyers were even.

Junior Helen Gray-Bauer won the ensuing draw, ran into the offensive zone, drew the defense and passed to Thompson-Greaves, who tickled the twine to tie the game, 5-5.

While many expected the Capers to crack, they refused to fold, going back on top with 20:01 remaining, when Robinson set up McInerney for a score, but again, Waynflete answered.

After Bosworth saved a Fernandez shot, Fernandez got the ball back from Millard and this time, beat the goalie to make it 6-6 with 16:45 still to play.

The Flyers got the ball again and with 15:02 to go, for the first time all afternoon, they went ahead, 7-6, when Fernandez used her unrivaled athleticism to get a good look and finish.

With Cape Elizabeth on the verge of teetering, Perkins called timeout.

And it didn't work.

With 14:26 left, Johnson set up Canning for a one-timer and Waynflete was on the verge of pulling away.

Except the Flyers wouldn't score again and on this day, the Capers weren't prepared to give in.

McInerney's biggest goal of the game arguably wasn't the winner, but one which came a minute after Canning's score.

McInerney took a pass from Robinson and beat Majercik and with 13:26 still to play, suddenly Cape Elizabeth was right back within one.

"I was thinking, 'Here we go again,' but as soon I thought that, I thought that I couldn't think that way and that we had to go out and beat them," McInerney said.

"We had a timeout and Coach really picked us up," Robinson said. "He told us to finish. That's what we needed to do. We stepped up."

"About halfway through the season, we'd get down one or two goals and let go, so we talked about pride and getting back in there even when we think we've lost it," Lennon said. "Our captains and coaches have been helpful motivating us even when we're down."

McInerney won the ensuing draw, but the Capers turned the ball over.

Johnson then earned a free position and eschewed the shot, passing to Millard, who had a great look, but Bosworth stopped her cold, keeping her team alive.

Waynflete retained possession and ran several minutes off the clock before Fernandez's shot was saved by Bosworth.

Cape Elizabeth then set up on offense and Deschino earned a free position.

The unflappable freshman, who has already collected a state championship in soccer this school year, was poised and confident and beat Majercik with her shot to tie the game anew, 8-8, with 6:27 showing.

"We needed to bounce right back at them," Deschino said. "They had their momentum, we had ours. We had to have more than they did. I looked at the goal and placed the ball."

At that point, it felt as if "sudden victory" overtime had already begun, even though there was still a lot of lacrosse left to play.

McInerney won possession for the Capers and had a look at a go-ahead goal with 5:45 remaining, but Majercik made a clutch save.

Waynflete then had one final offensive possession, which produced two great looks.

First, with 4:19 to go, Fernandez sent a free position just wide.

Thirteen seconds later, Fernandez appeared primed for an easy goal, but out of nowhere, Bosworth got her net on the ball to make the save.

Cape Elizabeth junior Melissa Rudberg made a nice run up the field to help Cape Elizabeth set up on offense and after his team stalled for three minutes, Perkins called timeout with 54 seconds to go.

The Capers then came out and executed a play perfectly.

After running 30 seconds off the clock, the ball came in behind to Robinson and everyone knew where it was going.

The Flyers, who were victimized by late goals against both Falmouth and Cheverus, tried to hound Robinson and deny McInerney, but McInerney got just enough daylight to get open and Robinson threw the pass of her life. McInerney caught the ball and Majercik never had a chance.

Goal.

9-8 Cape Elizabeth.

"We ran down the clock because we wanted the last shot," McInerney said. "In the past, we would have just gone for it. We wanted to make sure we were in the driver's seat. Liz brought it behind. We've done double cuts off the top. I was able to wiggle to have a quarter-step off (the defender). I knew I'd be faster than her in the first two steps. It's such a short cut. I was able to get separation. I was surprised and happy."

"Coach made us go out and do a play," Robinson said. "We ran the time down, then I passed it to Abby and when she scored, my heart literally stopped. I couldn't believe it happened. We work so well together. We connect so well. We know each other. She's played so well."

"We were all really nervous," Lennon said. We knew it was now or never. We've crumbled so many times under that pressure, especially against Waynflete, but it was time for us to come out and get that last goal."

"They ran the play exactly how I wanted them to do," Perkins added. "I was afraid they'd be nervous and make a mistake, but they executed it to absolute perfection."

Sixteen seconds was still an eternity, however, and with players like Fernandez, Johnson and Millard on the field, Waynflete was quite capable of answering.

McInerney and Johnson met in the draw circle and while the ball didn't come off cleanly, necessitating a re-draw, two vital seconds came off the clock.

"I wanted the ball to go up in the air as much as possible and take time off the clock," McInerney said. "That re-draw was a blessing. It took two seconds off the clock. Even if we didn't get the draw, as long as we took time off the clock, it was worth it."

Johnson then managed to win the draw and Canning came up with the ball, but with the seconds dwindling, she was mobbed by the Capers defense, the ball came loose and Hewitt came up with the biggest ground ball of her life.

At 5:28 p.m. on Saturday, June 14, 2014, Cape Elizabeth had done what for 4,421 days had been impossible, win a game against the state's gold standard, 9-8.

And what a win it was.

"It feels great," Lennon said. "I'm very happy we were able to pull this off."

"I'm just so excited," Robinson said. "We were trying to get the ball back and just hold it. Thank God, Sophie picked it up. I thought they'd grab it. The horn sounded and we ran to Kate and just covered her."

"It was just incredible to be part of the team at that moment," Deschino said. "It was so exciting. Having this win has brought us together even more."

"It's been a long time since I've been brought to tears, but I'm kind of misty," Perkins added. "When (the girls) came off, they were all saying, '25!, 25!' It's surreal. Not until Sophie had the ball with two seconds left did I believe we were going to win. It's great. It's been a long time. It was awesome. The girls made the decision when Hannah went down to go out swinging. They bought in. It was really fun.

"We've never been to able to stem that tide against Waynflete. We were never able to fight back and today we did it. We came back from two goals down and held the ball and executed perfectly. I think it was a perfect game by both teams. We were just 16 seconds luckier than they were. It was a fabulous game to watch. It was a little better because we won for once. It was one of the best games I've ever been associated with."

McInerney played the game of which every senior dreams, scoring six times, including arguably the biggest goal in program history, adding an assist, winning 11 of 19 draws and collecting a game-high six ground balls.

"Today, we made passes and shot," McInerney said. "We always struggle against (Waynflete). They have fantastic sticks and knock down passes. We were able to fake them out just enough today and that was the difference."

Deschino, Landes and Robinson also had goals. Robinson had four assists, while Deschino  finished with one.

Bosworth made 12 huge saves.

"Kate made a lot of big saves," Perkins said. "She always does."

"Kate's an amazing goalie," Fernandez went out of her way to stress, following the game.

The final team stats suggested Cape Elizabeth should have lost, as it was outshot, 22-12 (20-11 on frame), and committed 15 turnovers, but they finally figured out a way to get it done.

While this rivalry has turned into one of the fiercest in girls' lacrosse, both teams had nothing but kind things to say about the other in the aftermath.

"They were on," Connors said. "We had a slow start, pulled it back together and got ahead, but they did what they had to do to win. There was still time for us, but it just didn't happen. It just wasn't our day, but that's not taking away from them because they played great. I wish them luck."

"What Cathie brings every single game, every single year, we all want to be like that," Perkins said. "At least I do. I want my program to be as consistent and work as hard as they do. It's about who works the hardest and who plays the best as a team and that's what Waynflete always does."

Tears and pride

Waynflete got three goals from Fernandez, two goals and two assists from Johnson and one goal apiece from Canning, Rowe and Thompson-Greaves. Gray-Bauer and Millard each had one assist. Gray-Bauer had a team-high six ground balls (the Flyers enjoyed a 31-19 advantage), Canning and Fernandez each grabbed five. Majercik made two saves. The Flyers only turned the ball over eight times in 50 tense minutes, but still fell painstakingly short.

Waynflete isn't used to losing period and certainly isn't accustomed to going out in the semifinal round.

Prior to Saturday, the Flyers' lone semifinal round losses in the Maine Principals' Association-sanctioned era (since 1998) came in 2000, 2002 and 2007.

Understandably, there was a lot of emotion on the Waynflete sideline in the aftermath of the loss and Connors spent a long time talking to her girls before the team split up with hugs all around.

"I just reminded them of where we started and where they are at the end of the season and reminded them that we're a family," Connors said. "When we win, we celebrate and when we lose, we still celebrate the good things we did. I'm just sad it's over because I love spending time with the girls. I'm so proud of how far they have come. That's why it's painful. It's not as much about losing as it is about not being together. We wanted to play together some more."

The loss of players like Canning, Fernandez, Johnson and Millard (along with talented but lesser heralded defenders Amelia Deady and Ellen Silk) will be hard to overcome, but this program reloads and after Saturday's heartache will be more determined than ever to make 2015 a championship year.

"We've got some good young players," Connors said. "That will help."

Not done

As exhilarating as Saturday's win was, Cape Elizabeth still has unfinished business when it goes to Kennebunk for the regional final.

"We're calling this the redemption tour, because we've lost to the three teams we can play (Yarmouth is a potential state final foe)," Lennon said. "We're going in with the mentality that fate's on our side."

"We work better as a team now," said Robinson. "We're more united. We know we can beat Kennebunk and whoever's next if we can beat Waynflete."

"We have the opportunity to beat all the teams who beat us," said McInerney. "We have to get pumped for Kennebunk. We played an atrocious first half last time. Hopefully we put two halves together, then go on to Yarmouth. We'll give it our all."

"We've talked before the playoffs that for us to do what we want to do, we have a chance to beat the teams who beat us," Perkins added. "We weren't really out of any of those losses. After the game, while I was blubbering, (assistant coach) Kurt (Chapin) said, "Remember guys, we have two more games we want to play in.' and that's a great point. We're giving ourselves a few hours to enjoy this, then we'll try to figure out what we have to do to beat Kennebunk, because they're a phenomenal team too."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Previous Waynflete-Cape Elizabeth playoff results

2013
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 16 Cape Elizabeth 9

2012
Western B Final
Waynflete 11 @ Cape Elizabeth 10 (triple OT)

2011
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 8 Cape Elizabeth 7

2009
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 9 Cape Elizabeth 5

2008
Western B semifinals
@ Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 1

2007
Western B quarterfinals
@ Waynflete 13 Cape Elizabeth 3

2003
West Region semifinals
@ Waynflete 16 Cape Elizabeth 7

1999
State quarterfinals
@ Waynflete 10 Cape Elizabeth 4

Waynflete's 24 straight wins over Cape Elizabeth

2014
Waynflete 10 @ Cape Elizabeth 5
@ Waynflete 6 Cape Elizabeth 5

2013
Waynflete 10 @ Cape Elizabeth 8
@ Waynflete 8 Cape Elizabeth 4

Western B Final
@ Waynflete 16 Cape Elizabeth 9

2012
Western B Final
Waynflete 11 @ Cape Elizabeth 10 (3 OT)

2011
Waynflete 13 @ Cape Elizabeth 6
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 8 Cape Elizabeth 7

2010
Waynflete 11 @ Cape Elizabeth 7

2009
Waynflete 11 @ Cape Elizabeth 2
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 9 Cape Elizabeth 5

2008
@ Waynflete 15 Cape Elizabeth 5
Waynflete 16 @ Cape Elizabeth 1
Western B semifinals
@ Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 1

2007
Waynflete 18 @ Cape Elizabeth 7
@ Waynflete 15 Cape Elizabeth 7
Western B quarterfinals
@ Waynflete 13 Cape Elizabeth 3

2006
@ Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 6
Waynflete 7 @ Cape Elizabeth 1

2005
@ Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 6
@ Waynflete 11 Cape Elizabeth 5

2004
Waynflete 9 @ Cape Elizabeth 8 (OT)

2003
Waynflete 8 @ Cape Elizabeth 6
West Region semifinals
@ Waynflete 16 Cape Elizabeth 7