YARMOUTH—At the final horn of Thursday evening’s Class B South field hockey showdown, a glimpse at the Yarmouth Clippers’ postgame huddle would have led you to believe that the Clippers had just sprung an upset over powerhouse, defending Class B state champion York.
While that wasn’t the case, Yarmouth did have legitimate reason for pride and excitement.
That’s because the Clippers went toe-to-toe with arguably the finest team in the state, fought off foray after foray and thanks to a superb effort from their defense and the heroics of senior goalie Tori Messina, they were able to push the Wildcats to the final horn before losing, 1-0.
Messina came up huge early to set the stage and Yarmouth fended off seven York penalty corners in a scoreless first half.
The Wildcats earned a dozen more corners in the second half, but it wasn’t until their 19th and final opportunity of the evening that they finally broke through as senior Devon Datsis finally solved Messina with just 6:10 remaining.
The Clippers weren’t able to answer and went down to defeat for the first time this fall, 1-0.
Yarmouth got 13 saves from Messina, but it wasn’t enough as they became York’s 29th consecutive victim over the past two seasons, falling to 9-1-1 in the process as the Wildcats improved to 11-0.
“We wanted someone to challenge us,” said Clippers coach Mandy Lewis. “We knew that would be coming from York. The girls came out excited. We just couldn’t convert today.”
While York has been the dominant Class B team in this part of the state the past decade, Yarmouth didn’t even spend the past two years in Class B.
This fall, while the Wildcats have lived up to billing, winning their first 10 contests by a composite 44-6 margin (only Kennebunk played them within a goal), the Clippers have turned heads.
Not only did Yarmouth move up from Class C, but it graduated standout Kallie Hutchinson, now playing at Colby College, and wasn’t viewed as a top contender. Instead, the Clippers hadn’t lost a game coming into play Thursday.
Yarmouth with shutout victories over visiting Lake Region (6-0) and Gray-New Gloucester (4-0), then edged host Greely (3-2). After blanking visiting Freeport (2-0), the Clippers rolled at Gray-New Gloucester (4-1), held off visiting Fryeburg Academy (3-2), blanked host Cape Elizabeth (4-0), then settled for a 0-0 tie at Kennebunk before beating host Falmouth for the first time in a dozen years, 2-1, and downing visiting Cape Elizabeth Monday, 5-1.
Yarmouth last beat York back on Oct. 14, 2002 (2-1, in York). Since then, prior to Thursday, the Wildcats won 15 consecutive meetings by a composite 56-4 score, with the most recent being a 4-0 triumph Oct. 2, 2012 in Yarmouth.
Thursday, the Clippers gave York everything it could handle, but ultimately fell just short.
The tone was set in the third minute when the Wildcats earned a penalty corner and junior standout Lily Posternak, who recently verbally committed to Duke University, fired a shot which forced Messina to make a kick save.
York got another corner and Posternak backhanded a high shot which Messina calmly swatted away before denying junior Isabel Bretz’s rebound with her pad.
“I love getting shots,” Messina said. “There are some games when I get none. I rely on my defense so much. I know if I can’t get it, my defense will. My favorite thing is getting a first save. My least favorite thing is giving up a first goal. I told my team to come out hard.”
The York corner parade continued in the fourth minute, but a shot attempt from senior Logan Roberge was blocked by Yarmouth senior defender Sammy Middleton.
In the ninth minute, Messina made a save on a shot from senior Alex Jones.
With 19:25 left in the first half, the Clippers earned a penalty corner, their lone corner of the game, and that set up what proved to be their best scoring chance, but senior captain Bre Morrill’s blast was deflected wide.
The Wildcats went back on the attack, but Messina denied Datsis’ backhanded bid and a Jones rebound.
With 11:30 to go in the half, Datsis looked to put her team ahead, but Messina made a pad save.
That led to a corner on which Datsis shot wide.
In the first half, York put nine shots on goal to none for Yarmouth and the Wildcats had a 7-1 edge in penalty corners, but thanks to nine Messina saves, the game remained scoreless.
“Tori was in her element tonight,” Lewis said. “I think it’s the best I’ve seen her play. She’s doing incredible stuff. To have her as a senior captain and the heart of the team is awesome. She works so hard at practice. There are times she doesn’t get as much action, but she’s always ready when the ball comes her way.”
The onslaught continued in the second half until finally, York broke through.
With 26:20 to play in regulation, the Wildcats earned a corner, but after a pretty cross from Bretz, Jones’ shot hit the side of the cage.
The corners kept coming, but Yarmouth’s defense either broke them up, or Messina came up big, turning aside bids from Bretz, Posternak and junior Alex Lawlor.
After Messina swatted away Datsis’ high flick with 7:25 to go, it looked like the Clippers might get the game to overtime, but York got another corner and finally broke through.
The goal came with 6:10 left, as off a corner, Posternak set up Datsis, who ripped a shot that Messina couldn’t save, even though she felt like she should have.
“I was so mad,” Messina said. “My foot came up and the ball just went under. Those things happen, but it was pretty frustrating.”
Yarmouth hoped to rally, but really only had one chance, a rush from junior Abby McDowell which was broken up by Wildcats junior defender Samantha Dargie, and York closed out its 1-0 victory.
Following the final horn, the Clippers, bolstered by their effort, rushed to congratulate Messina on her effort.
“It was a good game,” Messina said. “I don’t want any of my teammates to have their heads down after tonight. Tonight tested us a lot. We proved ourselves. We know they’re an amazing team, but we love being the underdog. It’s an amazing feeling to just go for it with nothing to lose. It was fun to play them. We’re so strong across the field, from sideline to sideline. We have a lot of passion for the sport and I have a lot of faith in my team behind me.”
“It was a great game,” Lewis said. “Thinking about how much pressure our defense was under, they did some great things. All the way from the fly on corners to our backs. We’ve really worked on communication and I think that stepped up for us today.”
York finished with a 14-0 shots advantage and a huge 19-1 differential on corners. Freshman goalie Julianna Kiklis didn’t have to make a save.
Messina made 13 saves, but it wasn’t enough.
York likely has locked up the top seed for the upcoming Class B South playoffs. The Wildcats close the regular season next week with games at home versus Traip Academy and Wells and a trip to Kennebunk.
Yarmouth (second in the Class B South Heal Points standings at press time) goes Poland, hosts Falmouth, then finishes at Traip Academy.
The Clippers are ready to make a playoff run and after Thursday’s performance, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against them.
“I know we can go really far,” Messina said. “I’d love to see (York) again.”
“We learned about the adjustments we need to make,” Lewis said. “We hope to make the most of our playoff run. We hope to see York in playoffs again and see how we do.”