PORTLAND— A year ago, a young North Yarmouth Academy boys’ lacrosse team started 0-6 before finally hitting its stride.
This spring, while still inexperienced, the Panthers, under new coach Chris Carpentier, have won gone in the other direction and improved to 2-0 Saturday afternoon with an impressive 13-5 victory at Cheverus.
NYA had a decided edge in faceoffs won, ground balls and shots and forced an abundance of turnovers as it took a 6-0 halftime lead and was never seriously tested in the second half.
“We played hard,” Carpentier said. “That’s the biggest thing I’m pushing this season. I can’t ask for more than that.”
Saturday afternoon special
Cheverus and NYA had playoff success a year ago and hope to contend in 2009. The Panthers wound up 5-10 last spring and fell to Yarmouth in the Eastern B Final. The Stags finished 8-6 after losing to Kennebunk in the Western B semifinals.
Both teams were hit hard by graduation and figure to take awhile to hit their stride this season, but the Panthers opened with a 12-2 home victory over Freeport (Carpentier’s former team) last Tuesday, while the Stags held off host Deering 11-7 in their first game.
The last meeting between the perennial contenders was two years ago, a 9-5 NYA win at Cheverus.
Saturday, the Panthers would triumph again although it took them awhile to get it going.
In the first period, NYA won both draws, had an 17-11 edge in ground balls, and outshot the Stags 14-3, but it took 8 minutes, 4 seconds until the Panthers broke the scoring ice.
The first goal set a trend as junior Tom Gildersleeve set up classmate Gus Wellin for a shot which eluded Justin Sheehan and tickled the twine.
In the second quarter, NYA seized control.
Just 2 minutes, 17 seconds in, the Panthers went up 2-0 on an unassisted goal from Gildersleeve. A mere 18 seconds later, NYA grabbed a 3-0 advantage when Cam Smith set up junior Phil Champoux for a goal. With 9:06 to play in the half, Wellin fed Gildersleeve for a man-up tally, the Panthers’ third goal in 37 seconds. Finn Hadlock (from Wellin) and Smith (from Shane O’Hearn) also scored before the half for a commanding 6-0 advantage.
NYA won all eight faceoffs, grabbed 36 ground balls, outshot Cheverus 24-6 and forced 16 turnovers in the initial 24 minutes.
“Against a team as skilled as that, 6-0 is pretty tough to come back from,” said Cheverus coach Deke Andrew.
The Stags made some noise at the start of the second half. They won the first faceoff and 57 seconds in, finally got on the board when Ryan McQuaid scored on a rebound. With 8:54 to go in the third, Ian Schwarz set up Stefano Caiazzo and it was 6-2.
Cheverus had chances to draw even closer, but with 5:07 left in the third, the Panthers pushed their advantage to five when Champoux set up sophomore Tim Millett for a score. Just 22 seconds later, McQuaid (from Haydon Peterson) answered for the Stags, but NYA made it 8-3 when Wellin set up Gildersleeve with 2:43 left. Schwarz (from Trevor Greene) scored in the final minute of the quarter for the hosts, but they still trailed, 8-4 with 12 minutes to go.
“Today, that third quarter was our best quarter of the season so far,” Andrew said. “I was happy with that. We’ll focus on that.”
Cheverus got a gift prior to the fourth when Gildersleeve was sent to the penalty box for three minutes for using an illegal stick, but the Stags promptly turned the ball over and didn’t register a shot with the advantage.
With 8:42 to go, Gildersleeve quickly made his presence felt again, taking a pass from Wellin, and finishing to make it 9-4.
With 7:41 remaining, senior Peter Foley scored an unassisted goal for the Stags, but that would be Cheverus’ last hurrah.
Sophomore Dylan Seely, Wellin, Gildersleeve and Smith all scored unassisted in the waning moments and NYA put the finishing touches on its 13-5 triumph.
“Passing and catching definitely got better in the second half,” said Gildersleeve, who led all scorers with five goals and an assist. “We’re starting to click. We have a pretty young team, but we’re coming along great. I think we had more talent last year, but we’re closer as a team this year.”
Wellin added two goals with four assists and Smith had two goals and one assist. Ward stopped 11 shots.
“We’re playing well at the beginning of the season,” Carpentier said. “We played well, that’s all I’m asking. The new faces have bought into it. We’re really tight, everyone’s on the same page all the time. That’s what I like. I’m very surprised what I walked into.”
NYA had a 14-6 edge on faceoffs, grabbed 54 ground balls to 44 for the Stags, forced 30 turnovers and had a 39-24 advantage in shots.
The Panthers get their first stern test of the season Tuesday when they go to defending Class A state champion Scarborough, a team which beat them 9-6 in Yarmouth last year. Saturday, NYA hosts Kennebunk.
“Scarborough will be a good test for us,” Carpentier said. “I’m really happy with our schedule.”
Cheverus was paced by two goals from McQuaid. Sheehan stopped 10 shots.
“(The Panthers) were pretty composed for three of four quarters and we were only composed for one,” said Andrew. “We’re very inexperienced in a number of places. Even the older guys don’t have a lot of varsity experience.”
The Stags are at red-hot Portland Tuesday and host defending Class B champion Yarmouth Saturday of next week.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheverus’ Matt Roy sent NYA’s Phil Champoux flying during the teams’ battle Saturday afternoon. (Jason Veilleux photo)
NYA junior Phil Champoux bounced a shot past Cheverus goalie Justin Sheehan during the Panthers’ 13-5 victory. (Jason Veilleux photo)
Cheverus’ Ryan McQuaid looked to pass while hounded by NYA junior Brandon Barett. Barrett and his teammates held the Stags scoreless in the first half. (Jason Veilleux photo)