Falmouth boys' lax fends off NYA's upset bid, 12-9
YARMOUTH—The Falmouth boys' lacrosse team has risen to prominence so quickly that we occasionally forget that the Yachtsmen are still learning their way.
A perfect example came Wednesday afternoon when Falmouth, coming off a close home loss to two-time defending Class B champion Yarmouth, went to perennial contender North Yarmouth Academy expecting to get back on track with relative ease.
Instead, Falmouth found itself in a 48-minute battle.
The Yachtsmen were able to overcome a slow start and a sloppy performance, getting four goals from senior standout Dan Hanley and a superb effort from sophomore faceoff man Abyn Reaby-Gerwig to win 12-9, improving to 3-1, while dropping the Panthers (who are far better than their record indicates) to 1-3.
"I expect a lot from this team," said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. "In the past, when we were young, we had that excuse, that we were young. This is a veteran team. They should play better than this and respond better than this. I won't accept an effort like this. I think they felt they'd come in here and walk right through it. We did enough to win the game, but I'm not pleased in the least bit."
Falmouth made the move to serious contender status in 2009, reaching the Western B Final before losing to Cape Elizabeth. The Yachtsmen took their first step up the ladder the previous year, when they won, 6-3, at home over NYA. Last year, Falmouth drubbed the visiting Panthers, 12-4.
NYA went on to play for the Eastern B title a year ago, but lost to Yarmouth. This spring, the Panthers opened with an 11-5 loss at Yarmouth, bounced back to down host Greely, 10-7, then laid an egg at Cape Elizabeth Friday, falling 12-2.
The Yachtsmen got off to an ideal start with an 11-4 win at Cape Elizabeth. They then cruised, 18-9, at Waynflete. Friday, Falmouth fell 7-4 at home to Yarmouth, but the Yachtsmen expected to make NYA pay for that loss Wednesday.
Instead, Falmouth had to fight for its life.
It was clear early on that the Panthers weren't about to lie down and that the Yachtsmen didn't bring their 'A' game, as they turned the ball over nine times in the first 12 minutes.
Falmouth did grab a quick 2-0 lead behind a pair of unassisted tallies from junior Nick Bachman, but the hosts rose up and scored three straight.
With 6:09 to go in the opening quarter, NYA cut its deficit in half when junior Matthew Kibler fed sophomore Forrest Milburn for a goal. Just 35 seconds later, junior Tim Millett scored to tie the score. Then, 27 seconds after that, junior Finn Hadlock set up senior Phillip Champoux for a shot that Yachtsmen sophomore goalie Cam Bell slowed, but couldn't stop.
Just like that, in a 62-second span, the Panthers had a 3-2 advantage and had made a statement.
Falmouth regained the lead by quarter's end, thanks to an unassisted goal from Hanley and a tally from senior Chris Janelle (from senior Mike Kane).
One minute, 34 seconds into the second period, Hadlock set up Milburn for a goal to tie the score, but 31 seconds later, Hanley (from Kane, with the Yachtsmen playing two-men up) answered for a 5-4 lead. NYA forced the final tie of the game with 9 minutes left in the second on a transition goal (senior goalie Taylor Norton threw a long pass to Hadlock, who set up Kibler), but the visitors responded with three in a row to gain a little separation.
With 2:26 to go before halftime, Hanley set up Janelle for a fastbreak goal, putting Falmouth ahead to stay, 6-5. At the 1:39 mark, freshman Will Sipperly assisted sophomore Mitch Tapley's goal and 21 seconds later, Tapley scored unassisted to make it 8-5.
The Panthers regained a little momentum when they got a goal with just 1.6 seconds to go (Hadlock unassisted), making it an 8-6 game at the break.
The Yachtsmen had an edge in faceoffs and ground balls, but too many turnovers and strong play from Norton prevented them from pulling away.
Not much changed in the third as both teams had nine turnovers.
Falmouth made it a three-goal game when Hanley scored unassisted 2 minutes, 23 seconds in, but Hadlock answered with an unassisted goal and with 1:45 to go in the quarter, junior Dylan Seely stole a clearing pass, turned and one-timed a shot past Bell to pull NYA within one, 9-8. In the waning seconds, Champoux almost tied the score, but his shot hit the post.
"(The Panthers) were pushing hard for the tying goal and that motivated us even more to match their intensity," Hanley said.
In the fourth, the Yachtsmen finally put it away, but not without a few scares.
With 11:15 to play, Hanley scored unassisted to make it 10-8. Then, at the 7:57 mark, junior Brendan McDonell broke in alone on Norton and scored for an 11-8 lead. With 5:43 to go, Bachman set up Kane for a goal to make it 12-8, but 72 seconds later, Hadlock set up Milburn to cut the deficit to three.
With 2:12 to play, NYA freshman Isaac Lipton broke in alone on Bell, who stopped him point blank. Lipton got the ball back and fired from the outside, but again Bell made the save.
"Cam stepped it up and had some amazing saves in the fourth quarter," said Reaby-Gerwig.
The Panthers would draw no closer and Falmouth earned the 12-9 victory.
"It's always tough with NYA," Hanley said. "They're a perennial power. We knew they'd be strong. Our effort was there, but we made a lot of mental mistakes which were uncharacteristic of us. We threw the ball away, dropped passes and got pushed past the end line, things we normally wouldn't do. We still have things to work on."
"We were pretty pumped up, but it definitely wasn't our best effort," said Reaby-Gerwig. "We should have done much better. Hopefully we'll do much better the next time we face them. Even on the faceoffs, we won possessions, but we didn't get the ball into our offensive end."
"It's a good lesson," added LeBel. "I'd rather learn the lesson and win than learn the lesson and lose. We didn't possess or control the ball well. We didn't circulate the ball and work it around and take our time to get good shots. We were impatient and took bad shots. Our defense continues to be a work in progress. The thing that disturbs me the most is that we can win so many faceoffs and have that many more possessions, but we had no flow to our offense. We threw the ball away."
Hanley led all scorers with four goals (and an assist). Bachman (one assist), Janelle and Tapley all had two goals, while Kane (two assists) and McDonnell each added one. Sipperly also had an assist. Greene made nine saves. The Yachtsmen won 51 ground balls to 44 for the Panthers. Hanley led the way with eight, while sophomore Mike Ryan and Tapley each had seven.
Falmouth's biggest edge came on faceoffs, as it won 16 of 24.
"I had taken faceoffs for my JV team last year," said Reaby-Gerwig. "I was alright at them. I did them in winter leagues a lot and went to a camp in Baltimore and got a lot better."
"We did a great job on the faceoffs," LeBel added. "Abyn went to a faceoff camp and really set his mind to being a faceoff specialist, without our prodding. We didn't encourage it, really. He just went with it and has been great. It's a huge help to have him facing off. Then, you can put a groundball guy like Dan Hanley and a longstick like Mike Ryan on the wing and you have a really good faceoff. In years past, we've been awful at faceoffs."
NYA (which had a 31-30 edge in shots and forced 32 turnovers, while committing 30) was paced on offense by Milburn's three goals. Hadlock added two goals and four assists. Champoux, Kibler (one assist), Millett and Seely had one goal apiece. Kibler and Milburn led the Panthers with seven ground balls each. Norton was superb with 14 saves.
"Falmouth's one of the top teams in the state, in my mind," said NYA coach Chris Carpentier. "(Cape Elizabeth) was an ugly game. We've come leaps and bounds from our last game. We've come a long way very quickly. It's a nice turnaround. We needed to come out and play a team like that a high level. They proved to me that they could do it. A couple goals here or there and it would have been different. Taylor's been playing solid for us all year. He had a couple beautiful saves out there. He's a great goalie."
The Panthers couldn't do anything on the man-advantage and were done in by the Yachtsmen's surge late in the first half.
"That little (first half) lull killed us, but we fought back," Carpentier said. "It wasn't over. We've been focusing on (man-up) a lot the last couple weeks. That has to be a 100 percent stat in my mind. We're still looking for combinations. We're trying different things, new setups."
NYA is back in action Saturday when it hosts Oak Hill. Tuesday of next week, the Panthers welcome Freeport, Carpentier's old team. NYA still has rematches remaining with Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Yarmouth, as well as a game at Scarborough. That type of schedule is daunting, but should make the Panthers stronger in the long run.
"You've got to love the schedule," said Carpentier. "I'd rather do this than go up and play schools we don't need to be playing. This is the level where I want the guys to be at. Even if we go 6-6, I'd be happy."
The Yachtsmen welcome Scarborough Saturday. They envision themselves as the top team in Western B, but realize (especially after Wednesday's game) that they still need to improve before meeting the top teams in the state a second time later this month.
"Scarborough won't be easy," Hanley said. "They're a good team. They always seem to be strong. I don't think we've played a complete game yet. We know we have a lot of talent. We know we'll have battles playing teams like Cape, NYA and Yarmouth twice."
"I feel like we have a good shot at states," added Reaby-Gerwig. "We have to step it up and get better."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org