YARMOUTH—Less than two weeks removed from back-to-back sloppy performances in losses to Waynflete and Scarborough, the Yarmouth girls’ lacrosse team played a nearly perfect game Wednesday on the field of the North Yarmouth Academy Panthers, its fiercest rival.
The Clippers shot to an early 3-0 lead, then, after the Panthers rallied to tie, rattled off seven goals in succession, blanked the hosts for over 25 minutes, then cruised to an 11-6 victory behind four goals from senior Molly Curry and three from junior Danielle Torres, as they improved to 7-2 (dropping NYA to 6-3), moving into the driver’s seat for homefield advantage for the upcoming playoffs.
“This was a great game,” said Torres. “We’ve been practicing really hard the last couple weeks. We’ve been so excited to play NYA again. Our team has really meshed and is so much stronger.”
“We needed a little confidence,” added Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt. “To come here and beat them is just incredible.”
Fifty minute effort
The Clippers have shown glimpses of greatness this season, but have also been vulnerable at times. After opening with a 13-11 triumph at York, Yarmouth defeated visiting NYA, 12-8. Wins over host Greely (11-7) and visiting Cape Elizabeth (18-8) gave the Clippers a 4-0 mark, but they crashed to earth at Waynflete (8-6) and at home against Scarborough (13-9), when they turned the ball over a combined 45 times. Yarmouth got back on track with wins at Freeport (13-6) and Marshwood (16-5).
NYA, meanwhile, which beat Yarmouth in the 2008 and 2009 regional finals, en route to state title game losses to Waynflete, has also gone from seemingly invincible to very mortal at times in 2010. The Panthers were 11-4 winners at Freeport in their first game, lost at Yarmouth, then beat Waynflete, 7-6. After wins over visiting Falmouth (13-10) and host Greely (12-6), NYA fell, 14-13, at home to Brunswick, before rallying to win in overtime at York, 13-9, and rolling at Messalonskee, 13-5.
The rivals have met in every regional final since 2004, with NYA capturing four (including a 10-7 decision last year) and Yarmouth winning twice (on its way to the 2006 and 2007 Class B championships).
In the first meeting this spring, Torres and junior Devin Simsarian both scored four times for Yarmouth, but their performance was overshadowed by the Panthers receiving five yellow cards, including two each to senior standout Courtney Dumont and junior star Lily Wellenbach, which forced the dynamic duo to miss much of the second half.
Wednesday, the Clippers came out sizzling and never let up.
Just 59 seconds in, senior Nalini Robbins fed Torres for a goal and Yarmouth had the jump. With 21:46 to go in the 25-minute first half, Torres struck again, this time taking a pass from junior Anne Ryan and beating NYA senior goalie Ashley Salerno. With 21 minutes remaining in the half, Simsarian got in on the act, taking a pass from Curry and scoring for a 3-0 lead.
After a timeout, the hosts answered.
With 20:27 remaining in the half, Panthers freshman extraordinaire Molly Strabley beat Clippers junior goalie Carlie Woodson to break the ice. An unassisted goal after a pretty spin move by Wellenbach and a free position goal from Strabley tied the score, but after time was called to fix a hole in the Yarmouth net, the Clippers took control for good.
With 13:28 left in the half, junior Becca Bell (from Robbins) scored to give Yarmouth a 4-3 advantage. A little over a minute later, Curry scored for the first time, assisted by junior Natalie Salmon. After Yarmouth managed to fend off an NYA three-minute advantage after a yellow card, Bell (from Robbins) scored again with 7:01 to go for a 6-3 lead.
Curry then scored twice in just over a minute, the first coming unassisted and the second from Salmon after a nice catch, for an 8-3 advantage. In the final minute, Robbins got in the scoring column, taking a pass from Curry and scoring to give the Clippers a stunning 9-3 lead at the break.
“A fast start was huge for us,” said Curry. “For me personally, I trust every single one of my teammates. When I see Danielle coming up the field, I trust passing it to her every single time.”
Yarmouth only had a 7-6 edge in draws, but won 30 ground balls in the first half and had a commanding 17-5 advantage in shots on goal, while forcing 14 NYA turnovers.
A commitment to fundamentals had paid big-time dividends.
“We’ve done some drills to work on ground balls and set goals to cut down on our turnovers,” Torres said. “We’ve focused on our weaknesses.”
“We’ve been working our hardest in practice and focusing on simple things like passes and ground balls,” Curry said. “We’ve been really united as a team. We’re trusting each other in a whole new way.”
“These girls have been practicing so hard,” Holt said. “We’ve been working on our basics, throwing and catching. We needed to prove to ourselves that we could pull it together. Everybody on this team has worked hard. Our kids just had to regroup a little bit. What pays off in practice, pays off in a game.”
While the Clippers were cruising at the half, they knew the game was far from over.
“We always act like it’s 0-0,” Curry said.
“I think every coach says at the half that it’s 0-0, but especially with these guys,” Holt added.
NYA would play better in the second half, but never made a serious run.
One minute, one second into the second stanza, Torres scored unassisted to stretch the lead to seven, 10-3. The Panthers looked to answer, but Wellenbach’s free position was denied by Woodson and junior Rozi Smith hit the post.
Finally, with 13:57 to go in the game, after a 25 minute, 3 second drought and seven straight Yarmouth goals, NYA found the net when Strabley scored unassisted.
The Clippers didn’t permit the Panthers to go on a run, however, answering with 11:37 to play when Curry scored unassisted for an 11-4 advantage.
Late goals from Wellenbach (assisted by Dumont) and Dumont (from sophomore Katherine Millett) accounted for the 11-6 final score.
“This game was so intense,” Torres said. “Our offense was great. We had a bunch of scorers. We were intense, but we were more composed. Our defense was phenomenal today. We were great on ground balls and we talked and worked as a team. It was such a team effort.”
Holt credited the influence of some former Yarmouth heroes for her team’s performance.
“We had some of our graduates come back and play with us this week,” she said. “Lanier (Bolmer), Lexi (Wing), Hannah Coleman. They gave the girls the confidence they needed. It’s fun to see the kids who play in college come back and give us a boost.
“We’ve worked hard on defense. Everybody knew who (NYA’s) weapons are. We worked on that and the defense played together as a unit. That’s what you have to do to beat these guys.”
Curry had two assists in addition to her four goals. Torres added three goals, Bell scored twice, while Robbins (three assists) and Simsarian also tickled the twine. Salmon had two helpers, while Ryan had one. Woodson made five key saves.
“Carlie’s been amazing,” Torres said. “Her saves were phenomenal.”
The final team stats heavily favored the Clippers. They forced 27 turnovers, while committing 20 (not bad for the rainy conditions), outshot the Panthers, 29-15 (20-11 in shots on goal) and won 58 ground balls to 41 for the hosts. Torres led everyone with a dozen. Senior Lizzie Fischman and Simsarian both grabbed seven.
For NYA, which had a 10-9 edge in draws, Strabley had three goals, Wellenbach two and Dumont one. Dumont and Millett had assists. Salerno made nine saves. Dumont and sophomore Kylie Dalbec both had six ground balls.
“We just didn’t come out playing our game and they obviously did,” said Panthers assistant coach Jenna McCabe, who was filling in for Julia Sterling, who missed the game due to illness. “We came out in the second half a little different and held them to two goals and figured it out. That’s the important part, learning and implementing changes.”
The Panthers (second in the Eastern B Heal Points standings) host Cape Elizabeth Saturday and go to Waynflete Tuesday before closing the regular season at Greely on May 28.
Yarmouth (first in the Heals) wasn’t able to use homefield to its advantage a year ago, but fervently wants to be at home throughout the postseason this spring.
“It’s huge for our confidence to have homefield,” Curry said. “We’re just comfortable in our house.”
“I think homefield is good for our mentality,” Torres said. “We love playing at home.”
The Clippers are home with dangerous Falmouth Saturday, welcome Waynflete Monday and wrap up the regular season at home versus Greely next Wednesday.
“We still have an uphill battle,” Holt added. “We have Falmouth and Waynflete. It doesn’t get any easier. Now, we have to see what we can do over the next couple games. We still have quite a bit of work to do.”
Everyone expects that Yarmouth and NYA will meet once more, June 16, with the regional title on the line.
“Hopefully, we’ll see them again,” McCabe said. “I think we’ll be ready. I don’t think today was NYA lacrosse.”
“They’ll be really fired up, but we definitely will be too,” said Curry. “We’ll act like we haven’t faced them yet and get really fired up like did for our first game against them.”
“We’re always so anxious to play NYA,” Torres said. “It’s always such a challenge. They’re such a strong team. They’re so athletic. We love to play them. It won’t be easy.”
“Trying to beat (NYA) three times, to be honest, that’s a huge, uphill battle,” Holt added. “You never say never. We’re young, so we just need to have the confidence going into it. NYA will come in ready to roar, but we’d rather be home on our field.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
NYA senior Hayley Bright and Yarmouth junior Natalie Salmon battle for a loose ball in the rain Wednesday.
NYA senior standout Courtney Dumont looks for an open teammate Wednesday. Dumont was held to one goal and one assist in the Yarmouth victory.
NYA freshman Molly Strabley keeps an eye on Yarmouth junior Danielle Torres during Wednesday’s game. Torres scored three goals in the Clippers’ 11-6 win.
Yarmouth junior Devin Simsarian shows her speed while NYA junior Lily Wellenbach gives chase. The Clippers never trailed as they improved to 7-2.
After the win, Yarmouth mobbed junior goalie Carlie Woodson (1) in celebration.
Yarmouth seniors Nalini Robbins (No. 9) and Kate Dilworth celebrate at the final horn of the Clippers’ impressive 11-6 victory at NYA Wednesday afternoon.
More photos below.