YARMOUTH— Following Saturday’s surprisingly easy 12-3 home victory over the North Yarmouth Academy Panthers, Cathie Connors, the longtime coach of the Waynflete girls’ lacrosse team, had one simple wish.
“I want a closer game,” said Connors. “I’m hoping Monday is a good, close game. We need it.”
Monday evening, Connors and her team got everything they hoped for.
Not only did the Flyers finally get a test which took 12 games in coming, but they passed it, making key plays down the stretch to finish the regular season undefeated (12-0) for the third time in five years and the fourth time in program history.
After Yarmouth tied the game 6-6 with 8:31 to go, Waynflete took timeout and quickly responded. First, sophomore Liv Chap scored to put the Flyers ahead to stay, then, 50 seconds later, junior Amy Allen added a score for a two-goal cushion. Waynflete’s defense and stalling offense did the rest and the Flyers escaped with an 8-6 victory.
“Yarmouth played beautifully,” Connors said. “They played a great game. I’m really glad the girls felt a challenge and were tested. They needed that. It could have gone either way.”
Since 2001, either Waynflete (five times) or Yarmouth (three times) has won the state championship. The Flyers had decimated the opposition to date this spring (their closest game was a 10-4 home win over Kennebunk) and the NYA victory suggested that Waynflete might just be head and shoulders above everyone.
Yarmouth, meanwhile, lost by a goal at home to Kennebunk on May 12, but had downed everyone else and was on an emotional high after last Wednesday’s stirring 12-11 (sudden-victory overtime) home win over an NYA team which eliminated them from the playoffs a year ago.
Monday, the Flyers suggested early that they were on their way to another romp, but the Clippers promptly responded and set the tone for a contest that was close throughout.
Just 21 seconds in, Waynflete went up 1-0 when sophomore Mica Thompson took a pass from Allen and beat Yarmouth senior Kelley Kasper. Fifty-two seconds later, senior Anna Libby (from junior Morgan Woodhouse) scored and it was 2-0. The Flyers won the ensuing draw control and looked to score again, but this time Kasper made a save and the Clippers were finally able to transition to offense.
With 21:51 left in the first half, the hosts got on the board when sophomore Natalie Salmon (from senior Hannah Coleman) beat Waynflete junior goalie Sasha Timpson. Fifty-six seconds later, Yarmouth was even, thanks to a goal from promising sophomore Becca Bell (who took a pass from junior Nalini Robbins and scored).
With 16:52 to go, the Clippers took a 3-2 lead on another Bell goal (this one from sophomore Danielle Torres).
The deficit was the first the Flyers had faced all season.
Waynflete would trail for nine minutes and 20 seconds before tying things up on a unassisted goal from Woodhouse, ending a 16 minute, 15 second drought.
With 3:51 left in the half, senior Ellie Cole (from Libby) scored to put the Flyers back on top, 4-3, at the break.
Waynflete had a 6-2 edge in draws, an 11-7 advantage in shots and forced 16 turnovers in the first half, but Yarmouth hung tough, thanks in part to four saves from Kasper.
The Clippers also benefited from a shrewd coaching move from Dorothy Holt, who left arguably her biggest scoring threat, senior Lanier Bolmer (who had the game-winner versus NYA), back to focus on defense.
“I switched things up at the beginning of the game and moved some positions around to try and get them off-guard,” Holt said. “We had to try something. I did what I could with one of my best players. I needed her defensively since they’ve blown teams out of the water.”
The visitors took a 5-3 lead with 21:08 to play in regulation when Libby scored on a free position, but again Yarmouth rallied.
With 15:24 to go, moments after Robbins hit the post, Bolmer rejoined the offense and promptly scored an unassisted goal. That strike ended a 26 minute, 28 second drought and proved to be the first of Bolmer’s two goals in 39 seconds as she next took a pass from Coleman at the 14:45 mark and tied the score with a shot Timpson deflected, but couldn’t stop.
Waynflete retook the lead, 6-5, on an unassisted Woodhouse goal with 13:12 remaining, but again the Clippers got off the deck, tying it at 6-6 when Robbins scored unassisted with 8:31 to go.
If the Flyers wanted a game, they’d gotten more than they’d bargained for, but resembling the champions they are and hope to be again, Waynflete made the plays when they mattered most.
With 7:48 to play, Chap (who, like Thompson, rarely is involved in the goal scoring) found herself in the right place at the right time, taking a pass from Allen and beating Kasper to put the visitors ahead to stay.
“Amy had such a good pass,” Chap said. “I saw a little opening right under (Kasper’s) stick. I was in shock for a couple seconds after. I’m glad it happened that way.”
“Liv had timing and was smart,” Connors added. “She saw the angle and took it. It’s very cool that two people who don’t normally shoot, started and finished the scoring.”
Fifty seconds later, the Flyers got a little breathing room when Woodhouse set up Allen to make it 8-6.
Yarmouth would have its chances down the stretch, but Timpson denied both Bolmer and senior Tess Beem before Waynflete regained possession and calmly ran out the final minute, 40 seconds to clinch the 8-6 triumph.
“We needed to just put in a couple and hold the ball awhile,” Connors said.
“It was so fun,” added Chap. “It was so intense. This was good. We definitely had a challenge. They had such good defense. They made me tired. They did such a good job. It got scary, it definitely did, but Cathie gave us some good pep talks and the team’s energy came out. The last few minutes were really crucial. We had to think about all our passes.”
Waynflete got two goals apiece from Libby and Woodhouse (who also had two assists and a game-high eight ground balls), while Allen (two assists), Chap (five ground balls), Cole and Thompson each had one goal. Timpson made eight saves.
“It feels really good,” said sophomore Scout Haffenreffer, who had four ground balls and was active all over the field. “It was great to get a challenge. It was a lot of fun. It was nice to know how it feels. There was a lot more stress. It really pushed us, but I feel it was good for us. It was a good game.
“Defensively, we had to really concentrate and stay strong. We couldn’t let anyone in. We couldn’t let cutters get the ball. It’s intense playing under stress.”
Yarmouth got two goals each from Bell and Bolmer and one apiece from Robbins and Salmon. Coleman had a pair of assists. Kasper stopped six shots.
“We did have opportunities, but (Waynflete’s) good,” Holt said. “We had turnovers at key times. We still have a lot to work on, but the kids are giving it their all. All the kids played well. Waynflete was just that much better than us. That’s why they’re undefeated.”
The final stats reflected how close the game was. Each team won eight draws, the Clippers had three more turnovers (21-18), outshot the Flyers, 19-16, and had a big edge in ground balls (42-27). Beem and Torres both corralled seven for the hosts. Robbins had six and Bell and senior Lexi Wing both grabbed five.
Yarmouth (9-2 and first in its region) will likely be the top seed for the Eastern Class B playoffs as it seeks to win its third crown in four years. The Clippers (who play at York Wednesday, then have a bye until the semifinals, June 13) are almost certain to meet up again with fierce rival NYA, likely in the regional final.
“We wanted to give (Waynflete) a game and we did,” Holt said. “No one has. That’s a good way to go into the playoffs. Homefield is huge for us. It’ll be a long road, but we’ll take baby steps. We’re young, but we’re having fun along the way.”
Waynflete parlayed its undefeated regular seasons into championships in 1998 and 2005, but lost to Yarmouth in the 2006 state game. This time around, the Flyers surprised themselves and their coach with their unblemished mark.
“It’s unbelievable,” Chap said. “I’m so proud to be on this team. We have such a good time together. I think we’re ready for the playoffs. We have so much potential.”
“We have a really strong team,” Haffenreffer said. “We’re all close. That’s a big part of it. I feel like we’re doing well and I have a lot of confidence in our team. If we stick together and play like we have been, we’ll do great.”
“I had no idea we would do this,” Connors added. “I’m really psyched. We thought we’d rebuild a little bit, but the girls have played their hearts out. They love the sport. They live for it and it shows.”
Waynflete won’t play again until the regional semifinals June 13.
“I feel good we have some time off,” Connors said. “At this point, it’s undefeated or nothing.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/mhoffer