YARMOUTH—Facing its biggest test of the young 2012 season, the two-time defending Class C state champion North Yarmouth Academy field hockey team had high hopes when reigning Western B champion York paid a visit Wednesday afternoon.
Despite a solid first half effort, the Panthers couldn’t dent the scoreboard.
The Wildcats then took the lead early in the second half on Taylor Simpson’s goal. Simpson set up teammate Tori Stocks for a goal on a penalty corner later in the half and NYA couldn’t respond.
York went on to a 2-0 victory, improving to 5-1 in the process, while handling the Panthers their first setback in four outings.
“I knew it would be a tough game coming in,” said NYA coach Tracy Quimby. “(York’s) a great team. They’re in it every season.”
While NYA has won three of the past four Class C state championships, York has regularly reached the Class B Final, only to fall short. The Wildcats have been in the final contest seven of the past eight years, but prevailed only once, in 2008. Last fall, York lost to Belfast, 2-1, in the state game.
So far this season, the Wildcats are up to their usual tricks, downing Wells, Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth by 1-0 scores and Greely, 2-1. York did drop a 1-0 decision at Fryeburg.
The Panthers passed their first three tests, handling visiting Freeport (3-0), visiting Greely (3-0) and host Old Orchard Beach (7-1).
The teams had met just twice previously, with the Wildcats winning 2-1 in Yarmouth two years ago and 3-0 at York last season.
This time around, the Wildcats had the last laugh again.
In the second minute, Simpson had her first good chance, but NYA sophomore goalie Elizabeth Coughlin denied her long shot.
The Panthers’ first scoring chance came a minute later when junior Olivia Madore sent a backhanded shot from the side on cage, but York goalie Amanda Kasbohm turned it aside.
Madore had another chance with 20:47 to go in the first half, but Kasbohm again made the save.
York’s Sarah Pantaleos got free for a shot in front two minutes later, but Coughlin stood tall.
With 16:30 left before halftime, senior captain Jen Brown got a good look on an NYA corner, but the shot was saved.
With 12:38 to go, off a penalty corner, Madore’s shot was saved, leading to another corner where the Panthers weren’t able to generate a shot.
Late in the half, a cross from NYA junior Kayla Rose was broken up by a York defender, a Simpson shot in close was saved by Coughlin and with 5:21 showing, Simpson got past Coughlin, but her sure goal was swatted away at the last second by Panthers junior defender Abby McKelvy.
NYA had a 5-4 edge in penalty corner opportunities at the half, but the second half would belong to the visitors.
In the second minute of the second half, the Panthers’ last good scoring chance skittered just wide of the goal on a long shot off the stick of Madore.
Then, with 24:42 remaining in regulation, Simpson broke the ice, scoring a pretty goal, backhanding a shot while falling to the turf that Coughlin couldn’t prevent from rattling the cage.
Two minutes later, Simpson almost made it 2-0, but for the second time, McKelvy came to the rescue with a defensive save.
“Abby and Elizabeth have been working on that, talking and being there for each other,” said Quimby.
With 12:36 to go, the Wildcats put it away.
On a penalty corner, the ball came to Simpson, who passed to Stocks, who dribbled to the right of the cage before shooting past Coughlin to make it 2-0.
York slammed the door from there and NYA’s undefeated run had ended.
“The first half was great,” Quimby said. “We came out second half and the pace changed. We lost track of players we couldn’t lose track of. Part of that was substitution. You can’t let (Simpson) or (Stocks) go for a second.
“The kids will learn from their mistakes and move on. We learned not to let players go and to get faster. To not let up after someone scores a goal. You can’t do that.”
York returns to action Saturday at Wells.
NYA hopes to bounce back from this loss when it goes to Traip Thursday. The Panthers visit Waynflete Friday and host Sacopee Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s Western C Final.
“We have tough games ahead of us,” said Quimby. “Five games in seven days. There are no easy games this year. We still have some health issues we’re working through. The kids that are injured are playing half-time, but I need them on the field full-time. It hampers what we can do. Hopefully we can clear that up. Senior captain Carly Lappas has been out with a torn ACL. We hope to see her back on the field next week or the following. The kids are up for the challenge.”