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PORTLAND—The Kennebunk Rams are as good as advertised and the Waynflete Flyers have much to look forward to.
Thursday afternoon at Fore River Field, in the latest chapter of one of the state’s most intriguing girls’ lacrosse rivalries, the preseason favorite Rams built a 6-2 halftime lead, but knew full well that the game was far from over.
That’s because a year ago, at the same location, Kennebunk squandered a four-goal halftime advantage and dropped an agonizing triple-overtime decision.
This time around, the Rams kept the pressure on, never let the up-and-coming Flyers go on a run and captured an 8-4 victory.
Kennebunk, which got three goals from junior standout Jenny Bush, was steady on offense, terrific on defense and got seven clutch saves from junior goalie Bella Kudas, as it improved to 2-0 on the young season and handed Waynflete its first loss in three outings.
“It does feel good,” said Rams coach Annie Barker. “We still have things to work on, but it was a good start for us. It was our first test.”
“This is why I coach,” said longtime Flyers coach Cathie Connors. “When we lose, but it feels to me like we won because of how we’ve improved and never gave up. I’m so proud of the girls.”
Waynflete and Kennebunk play in only a few sports and only in girls’ lacrosse is there anything approaching a rivalry, but the two teams always get fired up for each other and often produce memorable contests.
While the Flyers entered Thursday’s contest having won 12 of 13 meetings dating to the 2004 West Region Final (see sidebar, below), the Rams usually make things interesting and the games often go down to the wire.
Never was that more evident than last May 29, in Portland, where Kennebunk shot to a 5-1 halftime lead, but Waynflete roared back to force overtime and finally won it, 7-6, on Leigh Fernandez’s goal in a third, “sudden victory” OT, after the Flyers got away with entering the draw circle early and won possession.
This spring, the Rams are the preseason favorite, but Waynflete figures to be right there challenging them come June.
Kennebunk, which dropped a gutwrenching overtime decision to Cape Elizabeth in last year’s Western B Final, opened with a 16-7 victory at Gould Academy two weeks ago, but hadn’t played a countable game since.
Thursday, the Rams finally solved their nemesis, even though Waynflete played hard throughout.
The Flyers started fast when junior Christian Rowe, who missed the Cheverus game, scored unassisted just 74 seconds in for a 1-0 lead.
“Christian was great,” Connors said. “She works really hard. Having her back made a difference on offense.”
With 22:39 to go in the first half, Kennebunk tied the score, courtesy junior standout Kyra Schwartzman, who finished a feed from classmate Carly Sandler.
After four scoreless minutes, Rowe scored again, taking a feed from junior Nina Moore, to make it 2-1 Waynflete with 18:27 left before halftime, but the Flyers would never have it so good again.
With 15:58 to go, the Rams drew even when Sandler beat Waynflete junior goalie Charlotte Majercik on a free position.
With 14:54 left, Bush scored her first goal, assisted by freshman Hallie Schwartzman, and Kennebunk was ahead for good, 3-2.
Forty-three seconds later, Kudas made her presence felt for the first time, robbing Rowe of a sure goal right in front.
With 9:22 remaining in the half, the Rams extended their lead when Kyra Schwartzman scored unassisted.
A Connors timeout didn’t turn the tide and with 5:33 to go, Bush scored unassisted to make it 5-2.
After Kudas again denied Rowe on the doorstep with 47 seconds to play, Kennebunk transitioned to the offensive end and Barker called timeout.
It paid huge dividends, as junior Liv Sandford earned a free position with four seconds remaining. Sandford then beat Majercik with just one second left and the Rams took a 6-2 advantage and all the momentum to the half.
“I wanted to use the clock because if they got the ball back, they could have scored,” Barker said. “I just wanted to be patient.”
In the first half, Bush won six of nine draws, Kennebunk had a 22-11 advantage on ground balls and a 9-5 edge in shots, but 11 turnovers prevented the visitors from putting the win on ice.
Despite the lead, the Rams knew they still had work to do.
“I noticed we were up four (like last year) and I didn’t want to think about it,” Bush said. “We knew we had to keep pushing on offense.”
“We weren’t comfortable,” Barker said. “You can’t ever be comfortable here.”
Bush had a chance to extend the lead 35 seconds into the second half, but Majercik made a save.
The Flyers then ended a 19 minute, 55 second drought when sophomore Beata Vest scored (on a feed from freshman Izzy Burdick) with 23:32 to play.
When senior Helen Gray-Bauer won the ensuing draw and raced in, Waynflete looked to really seize momentum, but Gray-Bauer was denied by Kudas. Burdick then had a look, but Kudas saved that as well.
“When we needed Bella, she was there,” said senior captain and defender Hannah Pepin. “She’s always there. She had our backs the whole game.”
Sandler then set up Sandford for a goal with 20:22 to go, restoring Kennebunk’s four-goal lead.
Less than two minutes later, with 18:30 left, Bush scored unassisted and the Rams were up, 8-3.
While Kennebunk wouldn’t score again, it didn’t need to.
The Flyers got their final goal with 6:09 to play, when Rowe set up Moore to end a 17:23 drought, but Kudas denied bids by Gray-Bauer and Moore and the Rams slammed the door on their 8-4 triumph.
“It’s probably the best feeling and it will give us momentum,” Bush said. “We wanted to come out hard and beat them because of the past few years. I was nervous coming in. I knew their team is good and Cathie is a great coach. I knew we had to be mentally focused. We just went out and played our game.”
“We knew what to expect and we practiced really hard,” said Pepin. “Our zone is getting a lot stronger. It’s great getting new girls in. We’re working together really well. It was a real team effort.”
“We realized they had limited people who would shoot,” Barker added. “We recognized that and told the defense that.”
Bush led Kennebunk with three goals. Sandford and Kyra Schwartzman both scored twice, while Sandler tickled the twine once. Sandler had two assists and Hallie Schwartzman added one.
Kudas made seven key saves.
“Bella came up huge,” said Barker. “She’s worked hard all offseason and preseason.
Bush dominated in the draw circle, beating some combination of Gray-Bauer, Moore and sophomore Isabel Canning 10 of 14 times.
“I just go to myself,” said Bush, of her draw strategy. “I guess I’ve gotten good at getting it in the air.”
The Rams won the ground ball battle, 34-22 (Bush had a game-high 11, while Sandford collected five), outshot the Flyers, 15-11 and overcame 19 turnovers.
For Waynflete, Rowe scored twice and had an assist, while Moore had a goal and an assist. Vest also scored. Burdick added an assist. Moore had a team-high seven ground balls, while Gray-Bauer collected four. Majercik made three saves. The Flyers committed 16 turnovers.
“I feel like Kennebunk is one of the best teams that we’ll see,” Connors said. “I was afraid they were going to take it and run, but we hung tough. It was back and forth. We played with them. We had plenty of opportunities. We didn’t finish, but that’s youth. Their goalie is phenomenal. Their team is phenomenal. (Bush) is phenomenal. We’re not yet in a position to shut them down.”
If the teams play again, it will be in June in the playoffs, but both squads have plenty of heavy lifting in their more immediate future.
The Rams are back in action Saturday at home versus Wells, then go to defending Class B champion Yarmouth Tuesday, host defending Class A champion Massabesic Friday of next week and play host to reigning Western B champion Cape Elizabeth May 13 in a rematch of last year’s heartbreaking loss in the regional final.
“Our coaches told us we need to prove who we are and that we’ll be a threat,” Bush said. “Yarmouth and Massabesic will be tough games, but I’m excited.”
“This definitely pumps us up a lot,” said Pepin. “We have big games coming up. This will boost our confidence and get us going.”
“We talk every day about wearing a target,” Barker added. “We’re very skilled and we know that. There also has to be a mental thing for us to stay focused. That’s going to be our biggest thing, staying composed.”
The Flyers go to Greely Saturday and Fryeburg Academy Monday, then return home Wednesday to face Gould. An interclass showdown at Scarborough May 9, is followed by tests against Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth.
“We’ll keep getting better every game,” Connors said. “I’m encouraged.”
Waynflete freshman Izzy Burdick is defended by Kennebunk freshman Hallie Schwartzman.
Waynflete senior Helen Gray-Bauer tries to shoot past Kennebunk junior Molly Parent as junior goalie Bella Kudas prepares to make a save.
Waynflete sophomore Isabel Canning looks to pass as she’s hounded by Kennebunk freshman Hallie Schwartzman.
Waynflete senior Haley Johnson looks to pass as Kennebunk senior Kristen Wiewel defends.
Waynflete sophomore Beata Vest scores a goal early in the second half.
Waynflete 11 @ Kennebunk 6
Waynflete 16 @ Kennebunk 5
@ Waynflete 5 Kennebunk 4
Waynflete 13 @ Kennebunk 5
Western B Final
@ Waynflete 14 Kennebunk 8
Waynflete 14 @ Kennebunk 3
Western Maine Final
@ Waynflete 11 Kennebunk 6
Western Maine Final
Waynflete 8 Kennebunk 7 (3 OT)
Waynflete junior Christian Rowe goes one-on-one against Kennebunk junior goalie Bella Kudas during Thursday’s contest. Rowe scored twice, but Kudas made seven clutch saves to help the Rams to an 8-4 victory.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
K- 6 2- 8
W- 2 2- 4
23:46 W Rowe (unassisted)
22:39 K K. Schwartzman (Sandler)
18:27 W Rowe (Moore)
15:58 K Sandler (free position)
14:54 K Bush (H. Schwartzman)
9:22 K K. Schwartzman (unassisted)
5:33 K Bush (unassisted)
:01 K Sandford (free position)
23:32 W Vest (Burdick)
20:22 Sandford (Sandler)
18:30 K Bush (unassisted)
6:09 W Moore (Rowe)
K- Bush 3, Sandford, K. Schwartzman 2 Sandler 1
W- Rowe 2, Moore, Vest 1
K- Sandler 2, H. Schwartzman 1
W- Burdick, Moore, Rowe 1
Draws (Kennebunk, 10-4)
K- Bush 10 of 14
W- Gray-Bauer 3 of 9 Moore 1 of 3, Canning 0 of 2
Ground balls (Kennebunk, 34-22)
K- Bush 11, Sandford 5, Kudas 4, Ferrick 3, Pepin, H. Schwartzman 2, Beaudette, Fogg, Parent, Robinson, Ross, K. Schwartzman, Weeks 1
W- Moore 7, Gray-Bauer 4, Pope, Rowe 2, Burdick, Giguere, Johnson, Majercik, Peirce, Smith, Vest 1
Shots on cage:
K (Kudas) 7
W (Majercik) 3