YARMOUTH—For the first quarter of the 2011 season, things came rather easily to the Yarmouth girls’ lacrosse team.
Since then, however, the Clippers have faced their share of obstacles yet they continue to meet the challenges and Tuesday afternoon, playing without two key seniors, Yarmouth was able to overcome 36 turnovers and an early four-goal deficit to an up-and-coming threat, Falmouth, that gets more confident and dangerous by the day.
The Clippers closed the first half on a 6-1 run, took the lead for good on senior Devin Simsarian’s goal with 31.4 seconds to play before halftime, then fought off every Yachtsmen surge in the second half to eke out a 13-12 victory.
Seniors Becca Bell (who put on a clinic in the draw circle) and Natalie Salmon both scored four times, senior goalie Stephanie Moulton made five huge second half saves and Yarmouth improved to 7-1, dropping Falmouth to 5-3 in the process.
“We are adapting to adversity every day,” said Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. “We have depth and these girls work really well together. I direct a little bit, but they know what to do and they got the job done.”
Yarmouth had no trouble in its first three games, all against good teams and all on the road, scoring the same number of goals in wins at defending Class B champion North Yarmouth Academy (16-9), defending Class A champion Scarborough (16-11) and Cape Elizabeth (16-6). The Clippers were finally bested by a goal at Waynflete, 11-10, but bounced back with home wins over York (18-10) and Freeport (17-7). Saturday brought a 6-2 home victory over Marshwood.
That last triumph didn’t come without a price as senior Danielle Torres, a prolific scorer and the state’s lone returning All-American, suffered an ankle injury early and didn’t return. She joined classmate Kate Dilworth, the team’s defensive leader, on the sidelines. Dilworth hasn’t seen much action in 2011, suffering a concussion after being hit in the head with a shot in the opener at NYA and soon after returning, injuring her arm against Freeport.
Falmouth, meanwhile, has produced plenty of drama to date. The Yachtsmen enjoyed a 16-7 home win over Greely to start the year, then suffered an 18-10 home loss to nemesis Waynflete, but they responded with victories at Massabesic (17-3), York (17-7) and at home over NYA (13-10), their first-ever win over the Panthers and Cape Elizabeth (a come-from-behind 11-9 decision). Saturday, Falmouth was perhaps done in by an early start time and its players looking ahead to the Prom that evening and lost to visiting Brunswick, 10-4.
Heading into Tuesday’s contest, the Yachtsmen had never beaten the Clippers and hadn’t even been close in the eight meetings dating back to 2002 (Yarmouth won by an average of 14-4). Last year’s game was typical, a 19-10 home victory for the Clippers.
This time around, Falmouth started hot and almost managed to hold on and make history.
It only took 56 seconds for the scoring ice to be broken, hinting at a frenetic first half to come. Yarmouth senior Lindsey Purpura did the honors, scoring unassisted on Yachtsmen junior goalie Moie Aaskov.
Falmouth drew even with 23:12 to go in the 25-minute first half as senior Laura Fay fed sophomore scoring machine Alex Bernier. After the hosts went back on top on a free position goal from junior Claudia Lockwood at 20:05, a free position goal from Bernier tied the score nine seconds later.
With 18:49 left before halftime, the Yachtsmen went on top for the first time as Bernier set up senior Caitlin Costello. The Clippers answered with 17:24 remaining as Bell scored unassisted, but Falmouth got the next four goals to seemingly take control.
With 14:54 to play before the half, Bernier took a pass from junior Vanessa Audet and beat Moulton. A little over two minutes later, Fay scored unassisted, forcing Holt to call timeout, but it didn’t turn the tide as sophomore Geneva Waite scored unassisted after a turnover at 11:53 and Costello (from Fay, on a shot that Moulton slowed, but couldn’t stop) struck at 10:31 to make it 7-3.
Yarmouth managed to get up off the deck and by halftime improbably had regained the lead.
With 8:22 to go in the half, Salmon took a pass from classmate Mariah Lanfer and scored to get the comeback started. Bell scored on a free position with 7:05 remaining and 40 seconds later, Salmon took a pass from senior Anne Ryan (who had a splendid game) and beat Aaskov to cut the deficit to 7-6.
The Yachtsmen stretched the lead back to two when senior Jess DiPhillippo scored unassisted with 6:05 remaining, but Salmon scored from Ryan at 2:27 and after Bell hit the post 14 seconds later, Lockwood tied the score at 8-8 when she split two defenders before firing past Aaskov with 1:28 left.
Finally, with 31.4 seconds to go before the break, Simsarian, who had been held in check until that point, took a pass from Salmon after a turnover and scored to put Yarmouth ahead to stay.
The Clippers won 14 of the 18 first half draws, but consistently shot themselves in the foot with 20 turnovers.
“I think different people playing in different positions had a lot to do with (the turnovers),” Salmon said.
“If we didn’t have the turnovers, it would have been a different game,” said Holt. “When you take key people out of the mix, it takes a couple games to figure it out.”
The offensive onslaught slowed a bit in the second half and the teams battled down to the wire.
Two minutes, 35 seconds into the second half, Yarmouth went up 10-8 when Salmon stayed tenacious, beat a defender to win a contested ground ball, then set up Simsarian for a goal.
After the visitors got back to 10-9 on a transition goal (Bernier from Fay) with 19:25 remaining in regulation, Bell made it 11-9 with an unassisted tally 42 seconds later.
The Yachtsmen again pulled within a goal when Fay beat Moulton with a pretty low shot (Bernier got the assist) with 16:24 to play, but Falmouth wouldn’t score again for 13-plus minutes.
The Clippers got a little breathing room when Bell scored unassisted with 13:31 to play. Salmon made it 13-10 when she scored unassisted with 7:40 left, but Falmouth wasn’t done.
With 3:16 to go, Bernier set up Audet (who celebrated her 17th birthday Tuesday) for a goal to make it 13-11. Then, with 2:22 to play, after Moulton made a nice save, her outlet pass was stolen by a heads-up Bernier, who fired the ball into the net to cut the deficit to 13-12.
Bell won the ensuing draw, but Yarmouth turned the ball over. The Yachtsmen looked to tie, but Waite was called for a dangerous shot. The Clippers gave the ball back, but Falmouth turned it back over as Lockwood won a contested ground ball. Yarmouth then managed to run its stall to perfection and depleted the clock without the ball ever hitting the turf.
“That was a lot of pressure for us (running out the clock), but we’ve practiced that a lot,” Bell said. “We’ve learned in the last couple weeks especially. It’s frustrating for the defense.”
The horn sounded and the Clippers had survived a mighty test.
“It was quite a game,” Salmon said. “I think we got a little cocky at first, but we definitely pulled through at the end. We have some good games and some bad games. Today was a little shakier. We did better in the second half. We knew (Falmouth would) come out hard against us. They have some really strong attackers who drive to goal. We were trying a new defense and had to get that under our belts. Once we settled down and won draws, we started to play our own game.”
“It wasn’t our prettiest game and we came out a little more confident than we should have,” Bell said. “We pulled through in the second half. That seems to be our strength this season. Falmouth’s a very good, talented and deep team. Deeper than we expected. It was a good challenge. It’ll be good to play them again. We’ll know what we’re in for next time.”
“It’s been a rough couple days,” Holt added. “I’d rather have close games. Getting through today was huge for us. It gave us a huge lift mentally.”
Without Torres, it was incumbent on Bell, Salmon and Simsarian to step up and that triumvirate rose to the occasion, combining for 10 goals, as Bell and Salmon each tickled the twine four times and Simsarian scored twice.
“Everyone has to be more active without Danielle,” said Salmon. “She’s such a driving force out there. We depend on her a lot, but we have a lot of other strong players and everyone stepped up today. I enjoy scoring a lot. It’s a different role for me. I’m used to feeding.”
Lockwood added two goals and Purpura had one. Ryan and Salmon each had two assists, while Lanfer added one. Bell had a game-high 11 ground balls, while junior defensive standout Caitlin Crawford had 10. Ryan finished with nine, Lockwood seven. Salmon and sophomore Olivia Conrad both had five. Moulton finished with seven saves, five in the second half, which ultimately made the difference.
“Steph’s unbelievable,” Salmon said. “I don’t know what we’d do without such an awesome goalie.”
“Steph made some big saves in the second half,” said Holt. “I’m proud of our kids. They’ve worked really hard to adjust. The younger ones get nervous, but they came up big. The defense was tough today. Anne and Natalie and Lindsey played well. Olivia Conrad came in and played like she was a senior. (Juniors) Jeanna (Lowery) and Caitlin back there on defense get the job done.
“I’m not rushing my injured players back. I have enough depth. (Junior) Maddie Wood and (junior Erica) Pierce got in today. In the end, we came together as a team. I think it’s a good test for everybody to have to play different positions.”
Falmouth got a game-high five goals from Bernier. Costello and Fay both scored twice. Audet, DiPhillippo and Waite had one goal apiece. Bernier and Fay each had three assists, Audet one. Audet led the team with eight ground balls. DiPhillippo and senior Elizabeth Carew added six apiece, senior Abbey Cavalero and junior Ashleigh Burton each grabbed five. Aaskov made six saves.
“(Being within one goal against Yarmouth is) a good sign,” said Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “We’re hopefully moving up. The girls worked really hard. Having that lead in the first half was nice. We just had a couple key dropped balls and didn’t get draws. (The Clippers) dominated on draws. That hurt us. It was a high-scoring game with two good teams that have pretty good defenses.”
Yarmouth finished with a commanding 20-7 edge in draws, as Bell won a whopping 18-of-24 opportunities and Simsarian went 2-for-3.
“We tried to manipulate it a little more so I tried to get it up to myself a couple times,” Bell said. “Having backup on the circle was awesome.”
“Becca was phenomenon al on the draw,” Holt added. “That was a key.”
Sophomore Molly Ryan went 6-of-22 for Falmouth, while Audet won 1-of-5 chances.
Yarmouth was hindered by 36 turnovers (Falmouth gave it away 26 times).
“I think today especially, there was anxiety at the start,” Bell said. “That led to a lot of turnovers. Once we settle in, we can really control the ball and not drop it or make rushed passes.”
The Clippers grabbed 64 ground balls to 52 for the Yachtsmen. The hosts had a slight 29-26 advantage in shots, but shots on cage were dead even, 19-19.
Both teams turn right around Thursday and play pivotal contests.
Falmouth (second to Waynflete in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) goes to the Flyers, seeking a first-ever win against the perennial championship contenders. The Yachtsmen weren’t close the last time, but hope to have closed the gap.
“I think it’ll be an interesting game for us,” said Haley. “I’m looking forward to playing on grass. We know we can play better than the first game. We know Waynflete will be that much stronger, but we know we can put a solid game together. That’s what I’m looking forward to. We want to win games and make playoffs.”
Falmouth is at Freeport Saturday then gets a rematch with the Clippers May 25 at home before closing the regular season at NYA May 31.
“We have another week (before playing Yarmouth again),” Haley said. “Hopefully we’ll play stronger next time.”
Yarmouth (first in Eastern B by a wide margin) welcomes NYA in Act II of the rivals’ likely three-part Passion Play. The Clippers know that this time around, they won’t beat the Panthers easily.
“We’ll see how we stand up with NYA,” Holt said. “I expect another tough game.”
“NYA’s a good team,” Salmon said. “We played really well last time. We’ll have to keep up that intensity and not get cocky at all, just play like we’re the underdogs. The seniors have lost to NYA every year in the Western Maines and we want it so bad this year. It comes down to us having the willpower to win.”
“We’ll be ready to go,” Bell added. “We know they’ll be ready too. (The past few days have) been challenging and we’re all adapting. Every game we’re getting stronger. We’re staying together. Working on shot placement and getting open on offense will be a strength going forward.”
Yarmouth is at Falmouth May 25 and visits Greely two days later. It finishes at home with a possible state championship game preview versus Waynflete June 1.
F- 8 4- 12
Y- 9 4- 13
24:04 Y Purpura (unassisted)
23:12 F Bernier (Fay)
20:05 Y Lockwood (free position)
19:56 F Bernier (free position)
18:49 F Costello (Bernier)
17:24 Y Bell (un)
14:54 F Bernier (Audet)
12:34 F Fay (un)
11:53 F Waite (un)
10:31 F Costello (Fay)
8:22 Y Salmon (Lanfer)
7:05 Y Bell (free position)
6:25 Y Salmon (Ryan)
6:05 F DiPhillippo (un)
2:27 Y Salmon (Ryan)
1:28 Y Lockwood (un)
31.4 Y Simsarian (Salmon)
22:25 Y Simsarian (Salmon)
19:25 F Bernier (Fay)
18:43 Y Bell (un)
16:24 F Fay (Bernier)
13:31 Y Bell (un)
7:40 Y Salmon (un)
3:16 F Audet (Bernier)
2:22 F Bernier (un)
F- Bernier 5, Costello, Fay 2, Audet, DiPhillippo, Waite 1
Y- Bell, Salmon 4, Simsarian 3, Lockwood 2, Purpura 1
F- Bernier, Fay 3, Audet 1
Y- Ryan, Salmon 2, Lanfer 1
F- (Aaskov) 6
Y- (Moulton) 7
Draws (Yarmouth, 20-7)
F- Ryan 6-of-22, Audet 1-of-5
Y- Bell 18-of-24, Simsarian 2-of-3
Ground balls (Yarmouth, 64-52)
F- Audet 8, Carew, DiPhillippo 6, Burton, Cavalero 5
Y- Bell 11, Crawford 10, Ryan 9, Lockwood 7, Conrad, Salmon 5
Shots on cage: