FALMOUTH—Two days after spending 76 minutes in futile pursuit of a goal, Yarmouth’s field hockey team produced one in 70 seconds Saturday evening at Falmouth.
And that led the way to a victory 12 years and two weeks in the making.
The Clippers hadn’t beaten the Yachtsmen since 2003, but junior Molly Wilson’s early strike sent them on their way.
Yarmouth added a second goal just after halftime when junior Ally MacLeod finished and even though Falmouth got on the board with 14:23 to play, when junior Devin Sarazin rattled the cage, the Clippers weren’t about to let it slip away and thanks to a strong defensive effort, keyed by senior Sammy Middleton and juniors Nicole McDowell and Taylor Robison, Yarmouth went on to a 2-1 victory.
The Clippers extended their regular season unbeaten streak to nine games, improved to 8-0-1, dropped the Yachtsmen to 6-4 and enjoyed a win at Falmouth’s expense for the first time since September 12, 2003.
“It feels good,” said Yarmouth coach Mandy Lewis. “It’s the first time in my career that we’ve beaten Falmouth. We knew it would be a big game tonight.”
Falmouth has dominated the series this century. Since Yarmouth prevailed, 3-1, Sept. 12, 2003 in Falmouth, the Yachtsmen won 16 in a row with a 4-0 victory at the Clippers Sept. 4, 2012 the most recent. The teams didn’t meet in 2013 or 2014 as Yarmouth was relegated to Class C.
The Clippers are back in Class B this fall and have continued to win. Yarmouth opened the 2015 campaign with shutout victories over visiting Lake Region (6-0) and Gray-New Gloucester (4-0), then edged host Greely (3-2). After blanking visiting Freeport (2-0), the Clippers rolled at Gray-New Gloucester (4-1), held off visiting Fryeburg Academy (3-2), blanked host Cape Elizabeth (4-0), then settled for a 0-0 tie at Kennebunk Thursday.
Falmouth, which reached the Western A quarterfinals in 2014, has been very competitive as well. After opening with an 8-0 victory at Cape Elizabeth, the Yachtsmen lost at defending Class B champion York, 4-1. Wins over visiting Greely (2-0) and host Poland (3-1) were followed by a 2-0 home setback at the hands of Fryeburg Academy. Falmouth then survived visiting North Yarmouth Academy in double overtime, 3-2, but followed that up with a 1-0 loss at Lake Region. Monday, the Yachtsmen edged visiting Kennebunk, 2-1. Thursday, Falmouth won at home again, 3-0, over Gray-New Gloucester.
Saturday, on a chilly night (the mercury plummeted from 56 degrees at the start of the game to the high 40s by its conclusion), the Clippers produced a solid 60-minute effort and beat Falmouth for the first time since the Black Eyed Peas, Maroon Five and Matchbox Twenty were rocking the charts and the Red Sox’ “curse” was still alive.
Yarmouth forced the play early, earned a penalty corner a minute into the game and 10 seconds later had the lead, as a long shot from senior Bre Morrill was redirected into the cage by Wilson.
“That was a major relief for us to score first,” Wilson said. “It felt good. Coming out strong was a major focal point. We haven’t been that pumped up to start a game in awhile. That goal was a relief, but it was still nervewracking because we knew 1-0 wouldn’t last the rest of the game.”
“It was incredibly important to score early,” Lewis said. “We’ve had some games where we score early and that excites us.”
The Clippers almost doubled their lead on the second of three successive corners, but a high shot from MacLeod was swatted away by Falmouth senior goalie Elizabeth Amadei.
The Yachtsmen’s first look came in the 12th minute, but junior Sydney Bell had a shot blocked.
Falmouth then got four corners in a four-minute span, but only registered one shot, as Bell was denied by Yarmouth senior goalie Tori Messina. Middleton and McDowell broke up two of the other opportunities.
After Amadei robbed Morrill at one end, Messina made consecutive saves on Bell to preserve the lead.
Late in the half, a Bell blast on a corner was tipped away by a defender and after Bell passed far ahead to junior Isabella Libby, Messina was caught out of the goal only to have Falmouth fail to finish a golden chance.
That allowed the Clippers to go into halftime still ahead, 1-0.
Shots (3-3) and corners (5-5) were even in the first half, but Yarmouth clung to a lead.
The Clippers weren’t about to get complacent.
“We knew we had to keep playing like it was 0-0 and come out our hardest and play like we really wanted it,” MacLeod said.
“We knew we couldn’t go into maintain mode or get comfortable,” said Lewis. “We knew Falmouth would come back at us and they did.”
Three minutes into the second half, the Yachtsmen earned a corner, but Middleton broke it up.
Then, Yarmouth transitioned to offense and got an insurance goal as junior Abby McDowell sent in a long shot toward MacLeod. Amadei got a pad on the ball, but MacLeod corralled the rebound and sent it into the cage for a 2-0 lead with 25:54 remaining in regulation.
“I had an assist from Abby and the goalie kicked it, then I got it in,” MacLeod said.
“Ally gave us a little bit of breathing room, but we knew we couldn’t relax,” Lewis said.
When the Clippers earned a pair of corners five minutes later, they had a chance to ice the victory, but they couldn’t finish.
Then, Falmouth applied serious pressure and after a blast by Bell from the side was saved by Messina, the hosts finally broke through.
The goal came with 14:23 left, as a long hit by Bell was stopped by Messina, but the rebound came to junior Lisa Smoluk, who passed to Sarazin, who finished to cut the deficit to 2-1 and make things very interesting.
After the Clippers failed on two corner opportunities, the Yachtsmen looked for the equalizer, but three corners led to two Bell misses.
With 5:43 to play, Yarmouth called timeout.
“The message was to not get comfortable and to attack,” Lewis said. “We’d spent a lot of time on defense and we needed to get back up the field.”
The Clippers heeded that advice and ran three minutes off the clock before getting another chance on a corner, but Morrill’s shot was deflected just wide.
In the final minute, Robison broke up a rush and on its final chance, Falmouth committed a violation as the ball hit a player’s foot.
Yarmouth finished it off from there and at 7:39 p.m. after waiting 12 years and then some, the Clippers could finally celebrate a win over the Yachtsmen.
“A win is really nice because we hadn’t faced them since freshman year,” said Middleton, who was in kindergarten the last time Yarmouth beat Falmouth. “We really wanted it today and I think it really showed. Sometimes we got frustrated, but we huddled and we pumped each other up.”
“The last seven minutes seemed like they took forever,” Lewis said. “This helps us in that we know we can stand our ground and can play with these good teams. We have to be ready for them again in a week-and-a-half.”
The Clippers graduated all-stater Kallie Hutchinson, a once-in-a-generation star and moved up in class this fall, but haven’t missed a beat.
“I think our success has carried over,” said Middleton. “Kallie set a good tone for us. Taking what she taught us, it carried over to this year. I didn’t honestly think we’d be 8-0, but it’s happened.”
“This year has been sort of a surprise,” Wilson said. “Our leaders have stepped up and have helped push us through the season. We’ve jelled together and we work well as a team. We’re a close-knit family. Other teams aren’t as close as us. That helps us a lot.”
“We weren’t quite sure what to expect,” Lewis added. “We have six seniors. We have a lot of returning players in our junior class. We’ve had different players step up every game.”
Yarmouth finished with a 10-9 edge in corners and a 6-5 advantage in shots. Messina made four saves.
Falmouth got four saves from Amadei and had ample opportunities to extend the game, but couldn’t capitalize.
“Falling behind was hard, especially against an undefeated team, but I’m proud of how we played in the second half,” said Yachtsmen coach Robin Haley. “Yarmouth had their ‘A’ game today. We just came up short. I saw some good things. We had a couple opportunities, but we missed passes. It gets tough as time’s dwindling. We’ve done well against them historically, but things have a way of shifting. There’s a reason why they’re undefeated. I’m looking forward to playing them again.
“This has been a great group. They’re competitive. Girls have stepped into roles and are learning. They’re hungry.”
Both teams are in the hunt for a high playoff seed.
Falmouth (fourth in the Class A South Heal Points standings) is back in action Wednesday at home versus winless Cape Elizabeth. After going to Freeport Friday, the Yachtsmen finish with trips to Kennebunk and Yarmouth.
“The season’s flying,” Haley said. “This would have helped us if we won. We’re hoping to finish in a good position. We just have to put it all together. We have to take care of our upcoming games. All the games are tough. It gets harder, but hopefully it prepares us for playoffs.”
Yarmouth (second in Class B South) hopes to stay undefeated when Cape Elizabeth visits Monday. The Clippers will then get an idea just how close they are to regional supremacy when top-ranked, unbeaten and untied York pays a visit Thursday.
“York will be a tough game,” Middleton said. “They’ll challenge us all over the field. We just have to come out strong and hold our own. If we set the tone, I think we’ll do really well.”
“We haven’t seen York yet and we know they’re good,” Lewis said. “We’re excited for that game.”
After going to Poland, Yarmouth closes the regular season with a home game versus Falmouth and a trip to Traip Academy.
Yarmouth junior Molly Wilson (right) is congratulated by (from left) junior Nicole McDowell, senior Cara Ricciardi, senior Bre Morrill and junior Abby McDowell after scoring 70 seconds into Saturday’s game at Falmouth. The Clippers went on to a 2-1 victory, their first over the Yachtsmen since 2003.
Mike Strout photos.
Yarmouth senior Sammy Middleton breaks up the rush of dangerous Falmouth junior Sydney Bell.
Falmouth senior goalie Elizabeth Amadei kicks away a shot from Yarmouth junior Abby McDowell.
Yarmouth junior Eliza Lunt and Falmouth junior Olivia Stucker go for the ball.
Falmouth junior Maddie Rouhana plays the ball as Yarmouth senior Cara Ricciardi gives chase.
Yarmouth senior Bre Morrill crushes the ball.
Yarmouth senior Cara Ricciardi and Falmouth junior Devin Sarazin fight for the ball.
Falmouth sophomore Brienn Douglas tries to keep Yarmouth senior Sophie McGrath from the ball.