YARMOUTH—There were plenty of reasons for the North Yarmouth Academy girls’ lacrosse team to be happy Saturday morning.
Not only did the Panthers dominate Morse in a the Eastern B semifinals, 17-2, behind a potent and balanced attack, but they also advanced to a seventh consecutive regional final showdown with rival Yarmouth.
Best of all, NYA had a familiar, beloved face back on the sidelines as coach Julia Sterling returned from illness to help guide the Panthers to victory.
NYA never trailed, scored 10 straight goals to start the game and induced a running clock for the whole second half as it improved to 10-3 on the season, ending the Shipbuilders year at 7-6.
“We did what we had to do,” said Sterling. “We had a nice, balanced attack. The defense has worked really hard and communicated. The kids look good. It’s really fun to see the improvement since I’ve been gone.”
NYA has lost in each of the past two Class B state games to Waynflete and entered 2010 hopeful of finally winning a championship for the first time.
The Panthers lost their second outing, 12-8, at Yarmouth, but bounced back with three wins in a row, including a 7-6 home victory over Waynflete. After falling, 14-13, at home to two-time defending Class A champion Brunswick, NYA won two more, then, after Sterling went out with illness for the balance of the regular season, lost for a second time to the Clippers, 11-6, at home, on May 19. The Panthers were able to win their final three contests, most importantly an 8-7 triumph at Waynflete May 25, to wind up 9-3 and by virtue of the wins over the Flyers, leapfrog Yarmouth for the top spot in Eastern B.
Morse, meanwhile, after being decimated by graduation, won seven of 12 regular season contests and earned the No. 4 seed in the region.
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.
Saturday’s contest was more of the same.
Just 1 minute, 46 seconds in, the Panthers took the lead for good on an unassisted goal from freshman Molly Strabley. Senior Courtney Dumont (unassisted) and Strabley (from junior Lily Wellenbach) scored in a 37-second span for a 3-0 advantage.
Dumont (unassisted), sophomore Kylie Dalbec (unassisted) and Wellenbach (on a free position) followed with goals to make it 6-0 with 15:21 to go in the first half, forcing a timeout by Morse coach Linda Levesque.
It didn’t stem the tide.
With 13:32 to play in the half, Dumont scored unassisted. With 9:59 left, Strabley set up Wellenbach for a goal. Sophomore Katherine Millett and sophomore Katie Cawley followed with tallies to make it 10-0 with 3:45 to go before halftime.
With 1:36 left, the Shipbuilders got on the board when junior Lindsay Watts took a pass from sophomore Ali Miller and beat Panthers senior goalie Ashley Salerno. Just 23 seconds later, however, Cawley (from Dalbec) answered and NYA (which won 12 of 13 first half draws, outshot its foe 17-3 and won 32 ground balls to 11 for Morse) was up 11-1 at the break.
Early in the second half, Strabley scored unassisted to make it 12-1. After Watts (from sophomore Tori Field) answered for Morse, Wellenbach (unassisted), Strabley (unassisted), Cawley (from Dalbec, man-up), Dumont (from Dalbec) and sophomore Moira Lachance (from Dumont) scored to give the Panthers the 17-2 victory.
“We took care of business,” Strabley said. “We had a good week of practice and that helped a lot. We came together as a team. Everything we’ve been through has helped a lot. It’s great to have coach back. We didn’t think about who we were playing and treated it like it was the state final. We were patient and moved the ball around.”
“We pulled our whole team together spiritually and left the woes behind and moved on to a new start in the tournament,” Sterling said. “The first one’s done. It’s on to the big one Wednesday. The girls are doing really well and are working hard together. The coaches have done a great job pulling everyone together. We try to play the best we can and not get lazy. The younger kids were able to play a bit and learn a lot. With so much time between the season and the tournament, we had time to work together.”
Dumont and Strabley both had four goals and one assist.
“I played pretty aggressively today,” Strabley said. “We were all really aggressive to the ground balls. We kept going no matter what the score was.”
Cawley and Wellenbach each scored three times. Dalbec (two assists), Lachance and Millett all had one goal. Salerno stopped three shots.
NYA won 18 of the 21 draws on the day. It outshot the visitors, 23-6, forced 22 turnovers (while committing 20) and had a commanding 51-21 advantage on ground balls. Strabley led the way with 14. Dumont finished with six.
For Morse, Watts had both goals, while Field and Miller added assists. Sophomore goalie Crystal Leavitt made two saves. Miller had a team-high three ground balls.
The Shipbuilders did the best they could with a young roster and promise to be even better in 2011.
“NYA’s a good team,” Levesque said. “They can win states. We’re young. We have 13 sophomores and one freshman. Just two seniors. We got everything out of our season that we could. We played hard today, but you have to have the ball. We lost 16 people from last year’s team, including our goalie. We had a winning record. I hope it showed that we have a lot of heart.”
NYA, meanwhile, will host Yarmouth Wednesday at 3:30 in the Eastern B Final, the game everyone’s been looking forward to. The Panthers and Clippers have played in each of the past six regional finals, with NYA winning four times, including 10-7 a year ago.
If the Panthers knock off Yarmouth, they would face either Falmouth (10-3) or Waynflete (11-2) in the Class B Final Saturday at 10 a.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. NYA held off the visiting Yachtsmen, 13-10, back on May 4. The teams have never met in the postseason. The Panthers have lost five of the past nine state games to the Flyers, including a 9-5 setback a year ago.
“We’re not going to focus on who we’re playing,” Strabley said. “If we play like we did today, we’ll be good.”
“I really look forward to Wednesday,” said Sterling. “I think we’re a new team because of what we’ve all been through. Whoever shows up will win the game. Homefield is huge in our favor. It’ll be mobbed. It’ll be a great show and this was a great dress rehearsal.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Morse junior Hannah Milam doesn’t give an NYA attacker much breathing room during second half action.
Morse sophomore Dori Brillard looks for a teammate while facing pressure. The Shipbuilder weren’t able to generate consistent offense Saturday.
Morse sophomore Tori Field keeps possession while being hounded by NYA sophomore Hannah Twombly.
NYA junior Lily Wellenbach races past Morse sophomore Dori Brillard. Wellenbach scored three times in the win.
NYA senior Courtney Dumont plays keep-away from Morse’s Ali Miller. Dumont had four goals in the Panthers victory.
Morse sophomore Tori Field keeps an eye on NYA freshman Molly Strabley during Saturday morning’s Eastern B semifinal. Strabley scored four times in the Panthers 17-2 win.