Yarmouth lax teams ace early tests; NYA girls avenge state game loss

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(Ed. Note: For each of the following game stories, in full, please visit theforecaster.net)

The season is still in its veritable infancy, but local lacrosse fans have already been treated to several delicious showdowns in recent days.

There were four compelling battles in a six-day span, two each on the boys’ and girls’ sides, that simply reinforced that the best lacrosse in the state continues to be played in our backyard.

The fun began last Wednesday night when neighbors and fierce rivals North Yarmouth Academy and host Yarmouth squared off. The Clippers beat the Panthers (in overtime) in the regular season a year ago, but NYA turned the tables in the Eastern B Final, defeating Yarmouth, 10-7.

Round 1 this year would go to the Clippers, as the Panthers were given a whopping five yellow cards, two each to standouts Courtney Dumont and Lily Wellenbach, which relegated both to the bench in the waning moments.

The Clippers (who won their opener, 13-11, at York) clung to a 6-5 halftime lead and extended their advantage to 8-5 behind a pair of goals from junior Devin Simsarian (both set up by senior Molly Curry), but the Panthers (who rolled in their first game, 11-4, at Freeport) answered and drew within one when Dumont (from Wellenbach) got in the scoring column and Wellenbach followed with an unassisted goal with 12:23 to play.

NYA’s comeback hopes would soon be extinguished, however, as its two star players were forced to depart. Yarmouth pulled away down the stretch and won, 12-8, behind four goals each from Simsarian and junior Danielle Torres and three from Curry. The Clippers had a whopping 63-39 edge in ground balls and won 15 of 22 draws.

“It’s always nice to beat them,” Simsarian said. “We have so much potential on this team. We’re working so hard. I think our intensity was the difference. We came out really strong and we finished strong. It gives us a boost, but we can’t get cocky. It’s definitely a good start to the season.”

“In the end, the girls held their own,” added Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. “I’m so proud of them. We’ll both be different teams the next time. It’s just good competition. We respect them a lot.”

Wellenbach led NYA with four goals. Senior Ashley Salerno stopped nine shots.

“Yarmouth did a great job,” said Panthers coach Julia Sterling, who previously spent over a decade coaching the Clippers. “They’re very aggressive. Dorothy’s got a good team. They’re coached well. My team got off to a slow start with two yellow cards, which I thought was unfortunate. They called it close against us. I felt there was quite a lot going on both ways. I think our girls did a great job without those two. It’s unfortunate to have to play without two great leaders. It’s always hard to play here. We’ll learn from this and get better.”

In case you’re wondering, Act Two will be May 19 at NYA.

“We’ll get them at our place and see what happens,” Sterling said.

Yarmouth then rallied for an 11-7 victory at Greely Friday (getting four goals from Torres and three from Simsarian) and improved to 4-0 Monday night, downing visiting Cape Elizabeth, 18-8. The Clippers were only up 6-4 at halftime, but scored eight straight and went on to the win behind three goals each from Curry, Torres and senior Nalini Robbins. Yarmouth has a showdown at Waynflete Thursday and hosts dangerous Scarborough Saturday.

Less than 48 hours after losing at Yarmouth, NYA found itself at the other end of the emotional spectrum after a rare victory over two-time state champion and nemesis Waynflete., a team the Panthers lost to in each of the past two Class B title games, including 9-5 a year ago. Friday, NYA turned the tide behind draw prowess, ground ball acumen and timely scoring.

Salerno kept the Panthers in the game early, making several clutch saves and NYA, despite being outshot, 16-4, found itself tied, 4-4, at halftime. In the second half, the Panthers raced to a 7-4 advantage behind a Wellenbach free position goal and two Dumont tallies (both assisted by Wellenbach). NYA held the potent Waynflete offense without a goal for nearly 29 minutes, but two late strikes pulled the Flyers to within 7-6 with 48.5 seconds to go. A clutch defensive play by Wellenbach then allowed the Panthers to seal it and they improved to 2-1 as they ended Waynflete’s 22-game win streak.

“We’re really excited,” Wellenbach said. “It really feels great. We worked so hard. We were feeling frustrated after the Yarmouth game. We gave it our all.”

“It’s a huge win,” Salerno (11 saves) said. “Our team came into it hoping to have some fun. The last minute was definitely nerve-wracking, but we got through it. It’s a big game for us, but we’re not happy with this. I think with each game we’re getting better, so we’re definitely heading in the right direction.”

“(Waynflete is) a very good team,” Sterling added. “Always very well coached. We don’t beat them very often. You can never be ahead enough against them. The girls learned a lot from the Yarmouth game and learned to keep their hands to themselves.”

NYA returned to action Tuesday when it hosted Falmouth. Thursday, the Panthers are at Greely. Saturday, they host two-time defending Class A champion Brunswick. NYA meets Waynflete again May 25, in Portland.

While NYA was knocking off Waynflete, a potential Class B boys’ state final preview was being contested in Falmouth, where the upstart Yachtsmen hosted two-time defending champion Yarmouth in a game that lived up to advance billing. The Clippers entered the game on a 22-game win streak and easily dispatched NYA (11-4) and York (17-3) in their first two outings. Falmouth rolled over Cape Elizabeth (11-4) and Waynflete (18-9) in its first two outings and sought a first-ever win over Yarmouth, but it wasn’t to be.

The Yachtsmen clung to a 3-2 lead (behind two goals from senior Mike Kane and another from junior Jake Alexander) midway through the second quarter, but didn’t score again for 26 minutes, 7 seconds. The poised and talented Clippers tied the score by halftime and went ahead for good in the third period on an unassisted goal from senior Steven Petrovek. Yarmouth took a 6-3 lead before Falmouth finally scored, but a goal from senior Mike Johnson in the final minute allowed the Clippers to leave town with a 7-4 triumph.

Yarmouth got three goals apiece from Petrovek and senior Evan Henry and 15 saves from senior goalie Cam Woodworth.

“Falmouth’s a great team and we respect them, but we played our game,” Petrovek said. “We played well on both sides of the ball. We had a couple halftime adjustments. We were able to put a few more in the net. Our defense stepped up. All of our seniors took it to them.”

“It was a tough game on both sides,” said Woodworth, who reminded everyone on-hand why he’s the best big-game goalie in the state. “We picked up ground balls and did the dirty work and it worked out.”

“It was everything we thought it would be and I’m sure it was everything they thought it would be,” added Clippers coach Craig Curry. “It was just a great game. Obviously, both teams have room to improve and they will. Cam made some outstanding saves, but there were some transition situations that our guys closed down and I was so impressed. I predicted Falmouth would be good three years ago. They’re very impressive. Our guys stayed calm. We knew it would be a dogfight. I know I have a tough team. I’m so excited to have a team of that nature. We might be missing some pieces we had in the past. Today, we just wanted it. It was awesome.”

While disappointed with the loss, Falmouth (now second in the coaches’ poll) competed very well and reaffirmed its status as Yarmouth’s top contender.

“(Yarmouth) brought an intensity level today that we just didn’t have,” said Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel. “The skill level was not the difference. The difference was that Yarmouth wanted it more than we did. They played harder. The intensity from their side was too much. We were back on our heels. The difference was their intensity and Cam. The kid made some incredible saves. Defensively, we played probably our best game. We weren’t patient enough on offense. We’re just not there yet, experience-wise. We have the talent to beat lesser teams, but when it comes to putting together an entire game, it just wasn’t there today.”

Falmouth returned to action Wednesday at NYA. Saturday, the Yachtsmen host Scarborough. Falmouth gets another crack at the Clippers, May 21 in Yarmouth.

As for the Clippers, they continued their gauntlet Monday night at home against a Cape Elizabeth team they’ve beaten each of the past two seasons in the Class B Final. Yarmouth, which hasn’t lost at home since 2002, kept the good times rolling.

After a slow first quarter, which ended with the Capers up 2-1, the Clippers got three goals from Petrovek (five goals, two assists on the night) and another from junior Mike McCormack to take a 5-2 lead to the break. Yarmouth went up 6-2 early in the third period when Petrovek fed Henry, but they didn’t score again for over 16 minutes and Cape Elizabeth drew within 6-4. Finally, with 6:34 to play, a scintillating individual play by senior David Dietz led to a fastbreak that culminated in a Petrovek goal and some breathing room. Senior Colby Shields added another with 3:29 to go and the Clippers extended their homefield win streak to 67 games and their homefield unbeaten streak to 70 straight.

“It’s the elephant in the room,” said Dietz. “We don’t like to talk about it, but you don’t lose here. You just don’t. We have a lot to live up to, but we have serious potential to match any team we’ve had.”

“It was a great game,” Curry added. “I knew they were a better team than scores might have indicated. Falmouth will find out when they play them again that if poke a hornet’s nest, you’ll get the bees. Both teams kind of settled in defensively in the second half. We’ll live and die by transition and defense. This keeps us motivated. We understand that we haven’t separated ourselves. It’s going to continue to be a dogfight.”

Yarmouth (first in the latest coaches’ poll) hosts Brunswick Saturday and Waynflete Tuesday. The Clippers go to Cape Elizabeth for a rematch on May 28.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

Yarmouth junior Mike McCormack bulls his way downfield during Monday night’s 8-4 home victory over Cape Elizabeth.

Sidebar Elements

NYA senior goalie Ashley Salerno makes a sensational save on this bid from Waynflete freshman Sadie Cole during Friday’s contest in Yarmouth. The Panthers earned a small measure of revenge for losing the past two state championship games to the Flyers as they eked out a 7-6 triumph.

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.