(Ed. Note: This story originally ran June 22, 2006)
PORTLAND—If it’s true that to be the best you have to beat the best, then the Yarmouth girls’ lacrosse team is truly unrivaled.
Saturday morning, in one of the most dazzling and impressive championship game performances in any sport in recent memory, the Clippers dominated the three-time defending state champion Waynflete Flyers, 12-5, to earn the program’s first title since 2002 and its third overall.
Yarmouth shot to a 6-0 lead before the poised and talented Flyers knew what hit them, never let Waynflete embark on a patented comeback and cruised to the win which ended the Flyers’ mind-boggling three-year winning streak at 36.
Without a doubt, the Yarmouth Clippers are Class B state champs.
“It’s amazing,” said senior captain and All-American Emily Johnson, who scored six times. “This is my dream. We’ve been waiting for this. I’ve been waiting for four years. This was our goal. We wanted it so bad. We just barely lost to them last time. This is amazing for me. I’d never beaten them in my four years.”
“This feels incredible,” Yarmouth second-year coach Dorothy Holt added. “I’m still riding a cloud. The girls rose to the occasion. They did what we do in practice everyday on the field and it showed.”
A perfect game
The teams last played April 26 in the second game of the regular season in Yarmouth. In that one, Waynflete raced to an 8-1 halftime lead before the Clippers embarked on a furious rally which left them a goal shy, 8-7.
Yarmouth didn’t lose again, going 11-1, and earned the top seed in Eastern Class B. The Clippers downed No. 4 Camden Hills (15-1) in the semifinals and avenged two years worth of regional final heartbreak with a 10-6 victory over second-ranked North Yarmouth Academy in the regional final.
Waynflete also navigated the rest of the regular season without a loss, making it two straight undefeated campaigns. The Flyers, ranked first in Western B, almost saw their run come to an end in the semifinals, but rallied for a stirring 8-5 overtime win over No. 4 Greely. In the regional final, versus No. 2 Kennebunk, Waynflete prevailed more easily, 14-8, to make it to its fourth straight state final.
The rivals entered the championship game contest with a rich playoff history, although they hadn’t met in seven years. In 1994, the Flyers earned a 7-6 win over Yarmouth in the state game. The next year, Waynflete edged the Clippers 6-5 in the semifinals. In 1996, Yarmouth beat Waynflete 5-4 in the Division I state championship game. In 1998, the Flyers capped their first perfect season with a 13-8 win over the Clippers in the first state final sanctioned by the Maine Principals’ Association. The next spring, Waynflete beat Yarmouth again, 5-3 in the championship game.
This time around, the Clippers would build on the momentum from the second half of the regular season meeting and they shocked the world with the decisiveness of their victory.
The tone was set right from the beginning as Yarmouth controlled draws and forced an uncharacteristic plethora of Waynflete turnovers.
In fact, the Flyers weren’t able to successfully set up an offensive possession in the Clippers’ end until the first half was more than half done. By then, Yarmouth led 6-0.
Clippers senior and All-American Molly Dilworth opened the scoring with 21:07 to play in the first half. Taking a pass from sophomore Nicole Grover, Dilworth flung a shot past Waynflete senior goalie Lily Hoffman into the net.
Yarmouth won the ensuing draw and just 26 seconds later, led 2-0 as Dilworth (this time from junior Laurie Baker, get used to reading her name) scored again. The Clippers won the next draw too and pushed to extend their lead. Hoffman fought them off for awhile, stopping a free position bid by Johnson, but after a pair of Johnson misses, the standout took a pass from Baker and beat Hoffman at the 18:40 mark for a commanding 3-0 lead.
Flyers coach Cathie Connors called a timeout, but uncharacteristically, Waynflete didn’t respond.
After another turnover, Johnson scored unassisted. With 15:57 to play in the first half, Yarmouth junior Tierney Minte was the beneficiary of Baker’s largesse and scored for a 5-0 lead. Clippers sophomore Abby Saucier capped the game-opening surge when she (assisted by Baker) scored with 13:26 to play in the first half.
The exact opposite of the first game (and a dream scenario for the Clippers) had ensued.
“It was very important to get off to a fast start,” Johnson said. “Waynflete’s amazing and we knew if we didn’t get off to a fast start, they’d take it to us. We wanted to get the edge over them by getting quick goals. Our goal this time was to have a good, solid lead heading into half.”
“We played defense really hard,” Dilworth said. “Our defense played really hard when their offense had the ball. We never imagined this. When we played them before, we weren’t the same team we are now. Maybe they were expecting the same team, but we gave it to them early. That gave us a boost.”
“Getting the draws was the key,” Baker added. “We didn’t let them have the ball much.”
Connors wasn’t sure what had staggered her team.
“I don’t really know,” she said. “It could have been nerves, but Yarmouth had an intensity to come at us. They’re faster too. I had to drop four people back. I never have to do that. I think Yarmouth was just so driven. They connected and it fed them. We got off-kilter. We hadn’t been challenged like that before.”
With just under 12 minutes to play before halftime, Waynflete finally got the ball across midfield and a goal resulted. It would be freshman Mariah Monks breaking the ice, taking a pass from senior Betsy Critchfield and beating Yarmouth junior goalie Annalisa Carson to make it 6-1 and give the Flyers’ rooting section something to yell about.
Waynflete won the ensuing draw, but quickly turned the ball over again. With 10:11 to play in the half, Yarmouth cashed the turnover in, scoring to go ahead 7-1 as Grover (from Baker, of course) scored.
Baker simply had her way Saturday setting up her teammates
“It’s pretty easy behind the net because no one’s really on you,” she said. “It’s easy to see everyone. They do the hard part to get open.”
The Flyers won the next draw and quickly answered. With 9:44 left, senior Carrie Schnell fed senior Maggie DeFanti, who beat Carson to make it a 7-2 game. Johnson scored unassisted with 8:40 left, however, and the Clippers kept their lead at a comfortable margin, 8-2.
“We really worked on what happens off the draw,” Holt said. “To win the draw and then, if they win, how we cover and the need to get the ball back. We knew if they got the ball on their sticks, they’re going to score. They’re a powerhouse. We had to control the transition and that’s what we did this time. Last time we did it in the second half, but it was a day late and a dollar short.”
Late in the half, Waynflete appeared primed to make a patented run. With 7:25 to play, Critchfield (from DeFanti) scored and it was 8-3. Then, with 5:06 to play, a crucial call went against the Flyers. Senior Gretchen Koch appeared to have scored to cut the deficit to 8-4, but instead of being credited with a goal, she was sent to the sidelines for three minutes with a yellow card for dangerous propelling of her stick.
“It was a turning point,” Connors lamented. “A huge point in the game. We could have had momentum, but that doesn’ take away from Yarmouth’s perfect game.?
Yarmouth had a couple of great opportunities to extend its lead before halftime, but Hoffman came up big on a Johnson free position and Waynflete sophomore Ashley Allen came from nowhere to intercept a sure goal off the stick of Baker.
Despite those heroics, however, the Flyers (due in large part to 13 turnovers in the first 25 minutes) were in deep trouble, down 8-3.
Most on hand expected Waynflete to rally in the second half and make a game of it, as Yarmouth did during the regular season.
It never happened.
“At halftime, I still thought we could win,” Connors said. “I pointed out that five goals was nothing. I reminded them that Yarmouth had come back against us. I told them we needed to come out strong and get a couple goals. It just didn’t happen.”
Instead, the Clippers got early possession and peppered Hoffman (10 saves), who was stellar. She made four consecutive sterling saves before finally, with 21:35 to play, Yarmouth went up 9-3 as Johnson fired a low shot into the net on a free position.
Schnell almost answered for the Flyers, but Carson made her finest save. Then, with 19:03 left, Johnson struck again on a free position for a 10-3 advantage, the Clippers’ largest to that point.
Over the next five minutes, Monks and senior Glennie Hill had good chances to return momentum to the Waynflete side, but Carson (seven saves) stood tall. Then, with 13:59 showing on the clock, Johnson (this time from junior Molly Hallweaver) scored again for an insurmountable 11-3 lead.
Connors took timeout again, but the Flyers just couldn’t put a surge together. With 9:27 to go, Critchfield ended a 22 minute, 58 second drought with an unassisted goal and with 5:17 to play, the promising Monks (from Critchfield) scored to cut the Yarmouth lead to 11-5, but it was far too little, too late.
“With 1:21 left, I looked at the scoreboard then I looked at Dorothy,” Connors said. “She had her hands on her head and she was smiling. She was doing the bounce that I do when I know we’ve got it and I thought, ‘How lucky am I? I know exactly how she feels right now. I’m lucky.’ I was happy for her. That’s when I said to myself that it wasn’t going to be our day.”
An unassisted goal by Saucier with 29.4 seconds to play served as the punctuation mark in the 12-5 final.
Suffice it to say that Yarmouth (14-1 when all was said and done) enjoyed every minute of its experience.
“We got here early this morning,” Holt said. “I wanted them to relish in it. I think it really helped them, letting it sink in. They felt the energy here. I couldn’t have asked for them to come out any stronger. Molly and Emily as seniors rose to the occasion today and fired everybody up. It was just an incredible experience. For my team to come out so strong, really showed that they had the heart. Everyone showed up ready today.”
The Clippers were ecstatic.
“We’re state champs, I love it,” Johnson said. “Dorothy’s been amazing. We really get along as a team. We work well together.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Dilworth said. “I can’t even describe it. We finally did it. To actually win is unbelievable.”
“It’s great,” Baker added. “Our seniors had never won a state championship. Last year, we just missed. It’s a really good feeling. We knew they were a good team, but we knew we could take them since we came back in the second half of the first game.”
Waynflete had nothing but praise for the new champion.
“I would have enjoyed watching Yarmouth play if I wasn’t coaching against them,” Connors said. “I like Dorothy and Jill (assistant coach Thomas) and the Yarmouth girls are good kids. It?s easier to lose because they’re a nice team.”
Waynflete made 25 turnovers and surrendered a double-digit number of goals for the first time since a 10-9 home loss to NYA on May 13, 2004 (39 games ago). The loss was the Flyers’ first ever in a state final sponsored by the Maine Principals Association (they did lose to Hyde in the 1995 MAISAD Final and to Yarmouth in the 1996 Division I championship game) and also ended Waynflete’s postseason winning streak at 14 (dating to a 7-6 loss to Kennebunk in the 2002 West Region Final).
“I think overall, Yarmouth played perfect lacrosse,” Connors said. “They were on all over the field, from beginning to end. We had a less than perfect day. When another team plays superior lacrosse like that, it’s really hard to come back. It just didn’t happen for us.”
Waynflete will miss its “Magnificent Seven” seniors, but the 2007 Flyers will be no pushovers. Overlook them at your own risk.
“It was sad for the seniors, but for the underclassmen, it takes the pressure off,” Connors said. “The season was fun. Being in the finals is always a thrill. The best thing was the Greely playoff game. It’s one of my proudest moments. Having this group together for 12 weeks was wonderful.
“To look on the bright side, it’s refreshing for next year. We have two juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen who played this year and others coming up. It’s a great time to look at the program and figure out what we’re going to do next. It’s nice to lose a little of the expectations, I’m not going to lie. If I was feeling the pressure as an adult, I know they felt it. I have a fun and amazing group coming back with a lot of potential. We’ll still have high expectations. It’s the dawn of a new day.”
Yarmouth (which won its second MPA title and third overall, the other was in 1996) was honored that its championship came against the most storied team in the sport.
“I thought it would probably be 8-7 like last time,” Holt said. “I strive to be as good a coach as Cathie and to get here as many times as she has. Her seniors lost only five games.”
Yarmouth (which is riding a 13-game winning streak of its own) has a great shot at repeating in 2007. The Clippers lose just three seniors, including huge losses in Dilworth and Johnson, but everyone else returns, exhilarated from finally winning it all and primed to do it again.
“I’m not looking toward next year yet,” Holt said. “I’m savoring this experience. What a great experience.”
“Hopefully we?ll do it again,” said Baker. “We have a good chance. We lose two great captains, but I think we’ll be up for the challenge.”
In a sight all too familiar for the Waynflete Flyers Saturday morning, Yarmouth junior Laurie Baker races around the goal looking for a teammate to feed during the Clippers‘ impressive and surprising 12-5 state championship game victory.
Waynflete freshman Mariah Monks fires a shot past Yarmouth goalie Annalisa Carson.