NYA, Yarmouth girls' lax gear up for another playoff showdown; Falmouth ranked second in Western B
Even though the Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team beat rival North Yarmouth Academy in both regular season meetings this spring, the Clippers will have to do it one more time – on the road no less – to achieve their goal of playing for the Class B state championship.
Due to the Panthers' two victories over Heals Points-rich, two-time champion Waynflete, NYA edged Yarmouth for the top spot in the Eastern B standings. Both teams are prohibitive favorites in their semifinal round contests Saturday (the Panthers host No. 4 Morse, while the Clippers welcome No. 3 Gardiner), making it a near-certainty that local fans will be treated to a seventh consecutive regional final showdown between the schools.
In Western B, Falmouth, coming off arguably its finest regular season, earned the No. 2 seed behind Waynflete and will welcome No. 3 Cape Elizabeth in a semifinal round game Saturday.
Freeport finished 4-8 and did not qualify, nor did Greely (1-11), which missed the playoffs for the first time in the MPA-sanctioned era.
Here we go again
The NYA-Yarmouth rivalry has produced delicious matchups and scintillating drama, both in the regular and postseasons this decade.
The first two chapters this spring had a happy ending for the Clippers. In the first meeting, April 28 in Yarmouth, the hosts enjoyed a 12-8 win, as Panthers standouts Courtney Dumont and Lily Wellenbach had to miss much of the second half after each received a second yellow card.
In the rematch, May 19 at NYA, the Clippers won again, 11-6, as the Panthers had to contend with the absence of coach Julia Sterling, who missed several games with illness, but hopes to return for the playoffs.
NYA rebounded nicely from the second Yarmouth loss, however, winning its final three outings, including a rare victory on the grass at Waynflete, to wind up 9-3 (the other loss came to two-time defending Class A champ Brunswick), good for the top spot.
"My assistants (Mike Gengras, Jenna McCabe and Lynn Sullivan) have done a great job," Sterling said. "If we win it, it will be because of everything we've been through. We're good and tough and we've been through a lot of tribulations. The girls can do it."
The Panthers did not face Morse (7-5 in the regular season). NYA beat the Shipbuilders in the 2001 quarterfinals (15-8) and the 2006 (14-2), 2007 (17-3) and last year's (15-3) semifinals.
Yarmouth also went 9-3 in the regular season (falling twice to Waynflete and once to Scarborough) and is second in the region.
"I'm so proud of this team," said Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. "We have 13 juniors and two sophomores and just five seniors. We're really young. We had to go back to the basics. We had the 'dropsies' early in the season, but we've worked on that."
Yarmouth did not see Gardiner (8-4) this year. The teams have no playoff history.
"All I know is that they went back-and-forth with Morse and they have some strong players," said Holt, about the Tigers. "We won't count them out. You never know. We'll go in like it's our last game. The key will be winning draws and being conditioned to play in the heat."
Barring a seismic upset, NYA and Yarmouth will square off for the eighth time in the postseason next Wednesday. The Clippers earned victories in the 2000 quarterfinals (10-6) and the 2006 (10-6) and 2007 (10-7) regional finals, while the Panthers were triumphant in the 2004 (13-7), 2005 (9-8, in overtime), 2008 (10-9) and last year's (10-7) regional championship games.
"Beating Yarmouth will be very tough," said Sterling. "We have to beat their fast attack. We have to be in top shape. We'll see what happens. Having homefield advantage is so huge for us."
"It's going to be tough," said Holt. "We have a hard road. We just have to play our game. I hope our seniors take the lead and help the others get through the jitters. We match up really well. If we can maintain the ball, do well in transition and have good shots, I think we have a good chance. It will come down to who shows up that day. This group is up to it. We're playing well. Hopefully we can keep momentum on our side."
In Western B, Falmouth tied the 2008 team for wins in a regular season, but considering this year's schedule and an upset win at Brunswick on May 14, it's fair to suggest that this is the best Yachtsmen squad to date. Falmouth's 9-3 record gave it the No. 2 seed in Western B.
"It's been a good season," said coach Robin Haley. "We're getting better. We've continued to improve. Our talent has catapulted us forward."
The Yachtsmen have a very difficult semifinal round game Saturday at 2 p.m., when they host No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (8-4). Back on April 29, Falmouth had to rally to force overtime, then held off the Capers, 11-8. The last playoff meeting between the rivals came in the 2004 preliminary round (a 16-6 Cape Elizabeth win). The Capers also eliminated the Yachtsmen in the 2002 preliminary round (14-2).
"We're both probably very different teams from the first time we played," Haley said. "I think it will be competitive. They're a really good, athletic and aggressive team. We need to play a clean game. We know it will be tough."
If Falmouth survives, it will almost certainly go to No. 1 Waynflete (10-2) in next week's regional final. The Yachtsmen lost the regular season meeting, 15-5, at home, back on May 12. Last spring, Falmouth was eliminated in the semifinal round by the championship-bound Flyers, 12-4.
"For the program, it would be really significant to get to the regional final," Haley said. "It would be a great confident builder. We have the potential. If there's a group that deserves it, it's this one."
Looking ahead to the state games, they'll be played Saturday, June 19 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. The Class B Final starts at 10 a.m.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org