YARMOUTH—Temperatures were in the 30s, snow surrounded the field and a foggy drizzle greeted the defending Class B girls’ lacrosse champions last week at practice.
But the Yarmouth Clippers didn’t mind. Their sights are set on better things down the road.
Like warmer weather and a repeat state title.
The Clippers are approaching the new season with a mixture of excitement and cautious optimism.
“So far, so good,” said senior Emma Torres, who had a game-high nine ground balls in last year’s state final. “Our team’s working right now on conditioning and stick skills. We’ll practice a lot and get ready for the season. Our team is very young, but I feel like we have a lot of potential this year.”
A year ago, Yarmouth was a favorite and lived up to the hype, falling only in the regular season opener at Scarborough and in the regular season finale, at home to Kennebunk. After holding off rivals North Yarmouth Academy and Freeport in the Eastern B playoffs, the Clippers shot to a big lead, then held off Cape Elizabeth in the state game, 13-10.
That was then and this is now, however, and graduation did take its toll.
The biggest loss was that of two-time reigning Yarmouth Spring Female Athlete of the Year, Grace O’Donnell, an All-American honorable mention now playing at Trinity College. O’Donnell scored a whopping 62 goals last year, meaning the Clippers have a lot of offense to replace.
Luckily, there’s plenty of talent waiting in the wings, including last year’s revelation, senior Shannon Fallon (who had three goals and two assists in the state game), Torres, seniors Lane Simsarian and Caitlin Teare, juniors Sophia Harrison and Lilly Watson and sophomore Ella Antolini.
“(Offense) will be way more balanced this year,” said Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt, who enters her 11th season. “Shannon and Lilly will control it up (top). Then we have Caitlin, Emma and Lane. We have some young kids like Ella and Sophie who are hungry. We’ll be more diverse and use our strengths.”
Defensively, the Clippers have to replace graduated stalwarts Abby Belisle-Haley and Julia Primeau.
“We lost huge communicators in Julia and Abby,” Holt said. “We have big shoes to fill, but I think we’ll do it. (Seniors) Mary Coyne and Sarah Meyers and (junior) Lauren Bartlett are my seasoned ones back there. (Junior) Campbell (Dorsett) will step in.”
A year ago, Yarmouth began the season unsettled at goalie, then freshman Mary Kate Gunville grew into a clutch big game performer. She, along with junior Sarah Kirk, make the Clippers as strong in goal as any team in the state.
“Mary Kate had an amazing season,” Fallon said. “She’s still really young, but she’s done a great job anyway. We expect amazing things from her.”
“Mary Kate has worked hard,” Holt said. “She has that goalie mentality. She’s gritty. She gets it. She’s psyched to be back. I think she’s more comfortable.”
Yarmouth has some new players, or players who saw limited time in 2014, ready to make names for themselves in the weeks to come.
“(Junior) Annabelle Elvidge will come up from JV, (sophomore) Gretchen Barbera, who has great stick skills, and (sophomore) Katie Waeldner will help out,” Holt said. “(Sophomore) Molly Wilson will help out Lilly and Shannon. (Sophomore) Eliza (Lunt) is going to step into a bigger role this year. I have younger players to watch and with the senior leadership they’re getting, it’s going to be awesome.”
Heading into the season, Kennebunk appears to be the favorite in the West Region, while perennial powerhouse Waynflete, defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth, dangerous Falmouth and athletic Greely will also be heard from. Closer to home, in Eastern B, Yarmouth will be focused on Freeport and NYA.
It all adds up to a season where every game will be a challenge.
“There are so many good teams,” said Simsarian. “Kennebunk, Cape, Greely, Waynflete, all of them are so competitive. We play a very tough schedule.”
“Kennebunk has a lot back,” Holt said. “I never count (Waynflete) out. Falmouth have seasoned people back. Greely’s young, but they have speed. Freeport is strong and they have a new coach. NYA is better. It’s going to be really interesting. We’ll be challenged every single game.”
The Clippers (who open the regular season at home versus Falmouth Thursday, then take an April vacation week trip to Florida) have repeated just once in program history (2006 and 2007). Another championship won’t come easily this spring, but this group will be heard from.
“It’s really exciting,” said Fallon, who plans to attend the University of Notre Dame next year. “We know people have expectations for us and we have high expectations for ourselves, so we hope to do as well as we can and see where it takes us. There’s a pressure aspect to it. Teams are gunning for us. There are a ton of great teams and we hope to be one of them.”
“It’s a lot of pressure, but I think we’ll do pretty well,” said Simsarian, who will follow in the footsteps of her sister Devin (Yarmouth High Class of 2011 and key member of the 2011 championship team) and attend Elon University in North Carolina. “If we can make it to the championship game, that would be great, but we’ll play one game at a time and play the best we can.”
“If we use all our strengths and if we collectively work together, I think we can go far,” said Torres, who plans to attend and Nordic ski at Bowdoin College. “It would be so nice to win as a senior. That’s the best way to end the season.”
“We’ll turn the page,” Holt added. “We talk about missing those girls (who graduated). I handed out uniforms and no one wanted to take Grace’s number. (The girls are) well aware of the number on their back and who it represents. Everyone knows it’s really hard to win a state championship, but that’s where we want to be.”
Yarmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team celebrated winning a Class B state title last June. Despite some key graduation losses, the Clippers are primed for a repeat run.