PORTLAND—The Yarmouth Clippers were anything but perfect Monday afternoon at Fore River Fields, but at the end of the day, they still have a zero in the loss column.
Facing the upset-minded Waynflete Flyers in a Western Class C field hockey battle, Yarmouth carried play most of the way and had several good looks at the goal, but Flyers sophomore goalie Kiera MacWhinnie time and again, left the Clippers frustrated.
Yarmouth managed to score just once, when sophomore Molly Wilson redirected classmate Nicole McDowell’s pass into the cage as time expired in the first half.
The Clippers were never able to add to their lead and luckily for them, their goalie, junior Tori Messina, passed her tests with flying colors and Yarmouth escaped with a 1-0 victory.
The Clippers made it nine straight victories to start the season and dropped the vastly improved, valiant Flyers to 2-6-1 in the process.
“We knew when we faced Waynflete that they’ve shown improvement over the past few weeks and that it would be tough today,” said Yarmouth coach Mandy Lewis. “We had to play as a team. We had to put our game together as a collective 11.”
A mere five years ago, Yarmouth didn’t win a single game. Now, the Clippers are trying to avoid their first loss as the regular season hits the home stretch.
“(Being undefeated) a blessing and a curse,” said Messina. “We have pressure to keep winning. What I love about my team is that we don’t come out to win. We come out to play field hockey. That helps us. We lost 10 pretty amazing seniors last year. We’ve come back and have worked even harder. We have amazing seniors again this year, obviously. They’re our foundation.”
After making it to the semifinals a year ago, Yarmouth believes it has a legitimate chance to make a title run this fall and it has certainly impressed from the get-go.
The Clippers handled host Old Orchard Beach (7-0) and visiting Waynflete (7-0), before eking out a tough 3-2 decision at Sacopee Valley and downing rival and defending Western C champion North Yarmouth Academy for the first time this century, 2-1. Yarmouth then returned to its lopsided winning ways by blanking host Wells (6-0), visiting Traip (4-0) and host Old Orchard Beach (7-0) and last Tuesday earned arguably its biggest win yet, holding off visiting Cape Elizabeth, 2-0.
Waynflete opened with a 7-0 loss at Yarmouth, then hit its stride. Three days later, the Flyers won their first game since 2012, edging visiting Sacopee Valley, 1-0, in double overtime. After 1-0 losses to visiting Traip and NYA (in overtime), Waynflete fell again in OT, 2-1, to visiting Wells, in a second extra session. After tying host Traip, 1-1, and falling at home to Greely, 3-1, the Flyers won at Old Orchard Beach Friday, 7-0.
In addition to its 7-0 win earlier this month, Yarmouth swept Waynflete last season: 6-0 in Portland and 4-0 at home.
The Flyers entered the game hoping to snap a five-game losing streak to the Clippers (see sidebar, below) and made things very interesting, but Yarmouth, doing what great teams must, found a way to survive.
The Clippers’ frustrating tone was set in the third minute, when junior Abby McDowell set up junior Cara Ricciardi for a good look, but Ricciardi’s shot was just wide of an open net.
With 19:14 to play in the first half, Yarmouth’s outstanding senior, Kallie Hutchinson, had shooting room on a penalty corner, but whistled her blast just wide.
MacWhinnie made her first big save two minutes later, when she stopped Abby McDowell (who was set up by sophomore Taylor Robison) cold.
With 16:42 to play in the half, Hutchinson unleashed another rocket on a corner, but MacWhinnie made the save, denied a rebound and before the Clippers had another chance, the ball was cleared from harm’s way.
Messina then made her presence felt with 11:50 left before halftime.
On Waynflete’s first corner, out a scrum, a Flyer got her stick on the ball and steered it toward the goal, but Messina dove and denied the bid, keeping the score 0-0.
Messina, who came up huge last week by saving two penalty strokes in the win over Cape Elizabeth, said that she enjoys being tested.
“I love being in the middle of it,” Messina said. “The 7-0 games are hard to keep your attention. I’m lucky to have a defense that’s so amazing that sometimes I don’t even touch the ball. I love to dive. I kind of make excuses to dive even if it’s not necessary. It’s my favorite.”
Late in the half, MacWhinnie denied Abby McDowell and it appeared the Flyers would get to halftime tied, but as time wound down, Yarmouth earned a corner and after the ball was initially cleared, Nicole McDowell sent it back on target and Wilson, who has already scored numerous big goals this fall, fired it past MacWhinnie and into the cage. As soon as the thump was audible, the horn sounded and the Clippers were up, 1-0, at the break.
“I didn’t know how much time was left,” Wilson said. “Nicole passed it in and I just shot it, then I heard the horn.”
“Molly’s a strong player,” Lewis said. “She’s feisty inside the circle and that’s what we need.”
That score would stand up in the second half, but both teams had chances.
With 21 minutes to play, on a corner, Waynflete senior Chloe Williams had a good look, but Messina made the save. Six minutes later, on another corner, Williams tried again, but Messina again stood tall.
“A lot of the time, my mind just does something and my body follows,” said Messina.
“Tori has really worked on being ready,” Lewis said. “There are some opponents where she doesn’t see much action, but she showed up ready to play and she was there.”
With 14:37 to play, Yarmouth almost doubled its lead when Wilson took a pass from junior stick-wizard Breanne Morrill, but MacWhinnie denied the shot.
“Kiera’s been terrific,” Hoffman said. “Watching her throughout the season, she’s been diving more. She takes more leadership in the circle, which is great.”
“It felt like the goal was an inch big at times,” Lewis said. “Their goalie had a great game.”
After MacWhinnie stopped a Hutchinson blast and Abby McDowell tipped a shot wide, the Flyers tried one final time to draw even, but with less than a minute to go, the hosts turned the ball over, the Clippers transitioned to the offensive end and finally ran out the clock on their much-more-difficult-than-expected triumph.
“It was really tough today,” Wilson said. “We knew they’ve gotten better. They fought a good battle. They knew that Kallie was our player to watch and they guarded her well. Their goalie was really good.”
“Waynflete came out really hard and we had to match them,” Messina said. “They’ve really improved since the last time we played them.”
Yarmouth wound up with a 15-6 shots advantage and had 20 corners to five for Waynflete. Messina made six huge saves.
“We’re really confident with (Tori) back there,” said Wilson. “She’s a really good goalie. She makes awesome saves.”
MacWhinnie again turned heads with her 14 saves.
Ultimately, the Flyers came close, but fell just short.
“It was a great, competitive game,” Hoffman said. “The girls had a lot of fun. I was really happy that the girls came off the field and they had their heads down because they want to be competitive. We could have tied or won. I always enjoy playing Yarmouth.”
Waynflete (11th in the Western Class C Heal Points standings) needs to win some games to reach the playoffs (only 10 teams qualify) and the Flyers have several winnable games down the stretch. Thursday, Waynflete visits Sacopee Valley. Home games versus NYA and Old Orchard Beach loom next week and the regular season concludes with trips to Wells and Poland.
“We’ve always been a team that does better throughout the year,” Hoffman said. “I think we’ll have an exciting rest of the season. I hope we can make the playoffs. I think it’s realistic.”
Yarmouth (second to Oak Hill in the Heals) hopes to keep winning and solidify a top two playoff seed, which would guarantee home quarterfinal and semifinal round contests. The Clippers will be tested twice before the week is out, as Sacopee Valley visits Wednesday and Friday brings a showdown at NYA.
“We have huge games coming up,” Wilson said. “It will be a tough week. I hope we can keep it going.”
“We have to remember that we can’t get comfortable,” said Lewis. “We have to keep improving. We have a target, but I think we’re ready. We still have things to work on.”
Yarmouth then plays its home finale next Tuesday when Wells pays a visit and the regular season ends with trips to Traip and dangerous Freeport.
“Being this far into the season and having the record we do adds pressure, but we play it one game at a time,” Messina said. “We’ll need to step it up. We have to come out hard, which is sometimes a problem for us. If we do and we play our game, we should be fine.”
Yarmouth senior Kallie Hutchinson fires a shot.
Waynflete senior Gavriella King weaves through traffic.
Yarmouth freshman Emilie Martin plays the ball forward.
Yarmouth sophomore Abby McDowell makes a move on Waynflete freshman Stella Lynch.
Waynflete senior Lucy Weaver and Yarmouth freshman Sophia McGrath fight for possession.
Waynflete senior Allison Mills prepares to shoot as Yarmouth sophomore Georgia Giese races out to stop her on a penalty corner.
Waynflete senior Dana Peirce and Yarmouth junior Breanne Morrill fight for possession.
Waynflete senior Madison Pellow fires a shot.
Yarmouth junior Cara Ricciardi tries in vain to bang home a rebound as Waynflete sophomore goalie Kiera MacWhinnie stands tall.
Yarmouth 2 @ Waynflete 1
@ Yarmouth 4 Waynflete 1
@ Waynflete 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)
Yarmouth junior goalie Tori Messina is congratulated by (from left) senior captain Meaghan Gorman, sophomore Nicole McDowell and sophomore Gracie Griffin after the Clippers hold off Waynflete, 1-0, Monday to stay unbeaten.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.