Yarmouth senior Maggie Gunville (4) and junior Kyaira Grondin watch the ball go past North Yarmouth Academy sophomore goalie Eliza Tod during the Clippers’ 6-1 victory Friday afternoon.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
YARMOUTH—In a season full of change, Yarmouth’s field hockey team has done one thing consistently.
Play hard and find a way to win.
Friday afternoon, in their first game under new coaches Andrea Musante and Kristy Bernatchez, the Clippers took the shortest road trip possible, around the corner to North Yarmouth Academy, and continued to turn heads with their play.
Just over four minutes into the contest, a rebound tally from junior Kyaira Grondin put Yarmouth on top to stay.
With 17:03 left in the first half, senior captain Emliie Martin set up senior captain Sophie McGrath for a second goal off a penalty corner and less than two minutes later, senior Cate Ralph scored on a rebound for a 3-0 halftime advantage.
The Clippers quickly ended any doubt in the second half, scoring a fourth goal just 30 seconds in, when senior Maggie Gunville finished on a rush.
Quick second goals from Grondin and McGrath followed and while the Panthers hung tough throughout and got a late tally from sophomore Caroline Gepfert, Yarmouth was able to cruise home with a 6-1 victory.
The Clippers put 37 shots on cage and won their fifth game in a row, improving to 7-1 in the process, while dropping NYA to 4-4.
“It’s been an emotional, mental and physical roller-coaster, but we’ve come together as a team and we’ve done pretty well,” McGrath said. “I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
Despite their proximity, Yarmouth and NYA have only met sporadically over the years, just eight previous times since 2001 (see sidebar, below). The teams hadn’t played since 2014, when the Clippers beat the Panthers for the first time this century in the first meeting before NYA ended Yarmouth’s undefeated run with a stirring overtime decision in the rematch.
This fall, both programs have faced their challenges, but have been competitive.
The Panthers welcomed back Julia Sterling for her third stint as coach and after opening with a 9-0 home loss to three-time defending Class B champion York and a 2-0 setback at Sacopee Valley, NYA defeated host Old Orchard Beach (4-2), visiting Maine Girls’ Academy/Waynflete (9-1) and host Traip Academy (6-3). After a 9-0 loss at powerhouse St. Dom’s, the Panthers bounced back Monday with a 5-0 win at MGA/Waynflete.
The Clippers, meanwhile, opened with home wins over Poland (3-1) and Fryeburg (2-0). After falling at York, 3-1, Yarmouth blanked visiting Lake Region (1-0), rallied to beat host Greely (2-1) and handled visiting Gray-New Gloucester (7-0) and Cape Elizabeth (4-1). The win over the Capers was Amy Ashley’s farewell as coach, as she’s taken over as the athletic director at Cheverus.
Going forward, the team will be led the rest of this fall by Musante, who played at Plymouth State (New Hampshire) University and served as Ashley’s assistant for two years at Yarmouth and eight years at Cheverus. Musante will co-coach with Bernatchez, the one-time Messalonskee and University of North Carolina standout.
“The transition has been good,” Musante said. “The girls have handled it very maturely. It could be a huge distraction and there have definitely been emotions, but they’re handling it really well. We came out and practiced hard yesterday. We have really good leadership with Sophie and Emilie, our captains. The girls are working together well. They know that this is their season and it doesn’t really matter who is on the sidelines. We’ll basically co-coach. Between the two of us, we’ll figure it out. (Kristy’s) invaluable with her background and knowledge. She’s the best asset for this program.”
“They’re both so awesome,” McGrath said. “Coach Andrea has been a big part of the program. We’re lucky to have her. Kristy brings such a new outlook and we know how good she was. She helps our team out quite a bit.”
Friday, on a pleasant, early-autumn 70-degree afternoon, NYA looked to improve to 6-1-2 against Yarmouth since the start of the century, but instead, the Clippers went out and stayed red-hot.
Yarmouth put the pressure on immediately and after an initial shot from junior Lydia Guay was denied by Panthers sophomore goalie Eliza Tod, Grondin was there to finish the rebound and with 25:52 to play in the first half, the Clippers were on top to stay.
Tod tried to hold Yarmouth off as long as she could, denying shots by Martin, Grondin, Guay and Ralph, but with 17:03 to go before halftime, on a penalty corner, Martin set up McGrath for a shot which rattled the cage and extended the lead to 2-0.
The third goal came courtesy a nice rush by McGrath, which resulted in a shot that was rebounded home by Ralph with 15:14 on the clock, forcing Sterling to call timeout.
The Clippers pushed for a fourth tally, but Martin and McGrath were both denied.
Late in the half, the Panthers generated a shot by junior Amber Rose and earned a couple penalty corners, but they couldn’t convert and Yarmouth took a 3-0 lead to the half.
Any NYA comeback hopes were dashed quickly, as just 30 seconds into the second half, Gunville raced through the defense, then beat Tod for a 4-0 advantage.
With 28:01 remaining, Martin sent a shot on target which Tod saved, but Grondin was there for the rebound and her second goal.
With 23:01 to go, on another corner, McGrath worked through the defense, then fired a shot into the cage to push the lead to 6-0.
“At the beginning of the season, we weren’t connecting as well, but recently, we’ve connected really well,” McGrath said. “Our passes are coming together. We’ve worked on tips in front of the goal. We don’t care how we score. We just want to get the ball in.”
“To have such a variety of girls hitting the back of the net has been a huge confidence builder,” said Musante. “Our front line was new to field hockey. One was a former goalie and two had never played before. They just needed some time to get in the rhythm of the game and get the stick skills. Now, we’re putting it together and scoring. It’s been fun watching that develop.”
Tod made sure that the Clippers didn’t score again, frustrating freshman Abby Hill and Ralph on multiple shots, then denying Martin and McGrath.
Late in regulation, NYA began to push and after multiple corners, Gepfert scored on a rebound off a corner with 8:02 to go to cut the deficit to 6-1.
Yarmouth ran out the clock from there and celebrated its victory.
“Our goal was to come out early and set the tone, not just for this game but for the rest of the season,” Musante said.
The Clippers got five saves from Ralph, had a 10-5 edge in penalty corners and sent 37 shots on goal to just six for the Panthers.
NYA’s highlight was 31 saves from Tod.
“Eliza was fantastic today,” Sterling said. “The girls played really well today. I have an eighth grader and three ninth graders who are learning as fast as they can. It’s a very nice group of girls. They work really hard. I’m so proud of them. Yarmouth is good. I hope they win it all. My heart will always be there.”
NYA (currently eighth in the Class C South Heal Points standings) looks to bounce back Tuesday at Wells. After hosting Sacopee Valley, the Panthers go to Lake Region, then finish with home games versus St. Dom’s, Wells and Traip Academy.
“If we can beat Wells a couple times, Traip, Sacopee Valley, we could move up a little bit,” Sterling said. “We have no seniors, so we’re building for next year.”
Yarmouth’s road gets tougher as well, as the Clippers (who were second to York in Class B South at press time) visit dangerous Freeport Tuesday and after home games versus Wells and York, close with trips to Lake Region, Cape Elizabeth and Poland.
“I think we could be as good as we want to be,” said McGrath. “We have so much potential. We’re excited.”
“My vision for this team is that we’ll peak just before playoffs,” said Musante. “We talk about getting five percent better every day and the girls haven’t let us down with that. We’ll be in a really good position if we keep this momentum going.”
Yarmouth freshman Abby Hill and NYA junior Alex Markonish chase after the ball.
NYA sophomore goalie Eliza Todd makes one of her 31 saves as junior teammate Maggie Larson and Yarmouth senior Cate Ralph look on.
Yarmouth senior Emilie Martin keeps the ball away from NYA freshman Eleanor Commons.
NYA freshman Olivia Juve knocks the ball away from Yarmouth senior Cate Ralph.
Yarmouth lines up for one of its 10 penalty corners.
@ NYA 2 Yarmouth 1 (2 OT)
NYA 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Western C semifinals
@ NYA 2 Yarmouth 0
@ NYA 3 Yarmouth 2 (2 OT)
@ Yarmouth 4 NYA 4 (tie)
@ Yarmouth 1 NYA 1 (tie)