FALMOUTH—Failing to score a goal for nearly 30 minutes on the field of a talented rival isn’t exactly a recipe for victory, but everything is going the way of Yarmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team of late.
Tuesday evening, four days after a stunning overtime victory at defending Class A champion South Portland, the Clippers went to talented Falmouth for what was expected to be a game that would go down to the wire.
It did, but not in the way anyone could have envisioned.
Yarmouth was simply unstoppable on offense for much of the first half, taking a 3-1 lead after one period, then extending it to 8-1 midway through the second quarter behind the heroics of senior Joe Oliva, who scored five times.
But the Yachtsmen began to chip away late in the half, scoring twice, then they made things very interesting when they added three more goals in the third quarter.
Falmouth had plenty of time to complete its comeback, but the Clippers’ defense and senior goalie Connor Hoehle wouldn’t allow it.
In the fourth quarter, Yarmouth killed three penalties and Hoehle proved impenetrable as the Clippers ran out the clock on an 8-6 victory.
Yarmouth made it three wins in a row, improved to 6-2 and dropped the Yachtsmen to 5-3 in the process.
“We needed a big win and we tried to keep the momentum and energy in this game,” said Hoehle, who made nine saves. “It’s great to get back-to-back wins like this. Falmouth’s a great team.”
Last year, at Yarmouth, Falmouth outscored the Clippers, 7-1, in the second half to prevail, 17-12, cutting Yarmouth’s advantage in the series since 2003 to 10-5 (see sidebar, below).
Neither team could solve Cape Elizabeth when it mattered most, however, as the Yachtsmen were ousted by the Capers in the Western B Final and the Clippers lost to Cape Elizabeth in the state game for the second year in a row.
This spring, both teams came into the game having stumbled twice, but each had some impressive wins on the resume.
Yarmouth opened with a 17-2 home win over York, then lost at Cape Elizabeth, 6-3. The Clippers then downed visiting Greely (11-6) and won at Lake Region (15-0), but lost at home to defending Eastern A champion Brunswick (14-8) before bouncing back for a 14-3 home win over North Yarmouth Academy. Then, Friday, Yarmouth earned its biggest victory to date, 7-6, in overtime, at defending Class A champion South Portland.
Falmouth routed Freeport in the opener, 22-2, then held off host Scarborough, 11-10. A 14-13 loss at Kennebunk followed, but the Yachtsmen bounced back and beat visiting North Yarmouth Academy, 7-3, host Fryeburg Academy, 15-2, and visiting Cheverus, 16-10, before losing at home to Cape Elizabeth last Tuesday, 19-11.
Tuesday, Yarmouth shot out of the gate and appeared en route to an easy win, but instead, the Clippers had to hold on for dear life.
The tone was set 59 seconds in when Falmouth took a penalty and the visitors capitalized.
After Yarmouth sophomore Bill Jacobs had a shot turned aside by Yachtsmen sophomore goalie Liam Tucker, Oliva broke the ice with 10:03 to play in the first period, when he finished a feed from junior Matthew Beatty to put the Clippers ahead to stay.
With 4:44 remaining in the first, Yarmouth went man-up again and again the Clippers pounced, as Beatty set up Jacobs for a 2-0 lead with 3:53 showing.
After Hoehle made his first big-time save, robbing Falmouth sophomore Jack Scribner in front, Yarmouth tried to transition to offense, but senior Tim Pietropaoli, who scored a late goal to tie South Portland Friday, suffered a serious shoulder injury and after play was stopped for several minutes, he left the game and didn’t return.
The Clippers stayed focused on offense and with a minute to go in the first, they went up, 3-0, as Oliva set up senior Will Garrett, who had the OT game winner at South Portland.
The Yachtsmen got a goal back when senior Bryce Kuhn scored unassisted with 26.1 seconds left, but Yarmouth had a 3-1 lead after one quarter.
Falmouth was seriously hindered by nine turnovers in the first 12 minutes.
Oliva then put on a show in the second period.
Just 26 seconds in, Oliva fired a shot which Tucker deflected, but couldn’t stop as it found its way into the net.
Fifteen seconds after that, Oliva scored unassisted for a 5-1 lead.
Oliva added an unassisted goal with 8:54 to go before halftime and after Hoehle denied Yachtsmen junior George Gilbert, Oliva scored his final goal, unassisted, with 6:27 left to make it 7-1.
“I just felt confident,” Oliva said. “I have the best teammates in the world. I love them.”
“I think Joe is one of the better players in the state,” said Yarmouth coach David Pearl. “He’s a real handful. Teams scheme to stop him, but he works as hard as any player I know. He’s a true leader on this team. We turn to Joe when we need to get things done.”
“They did a nice job early on pushing the ball up the field and taking advantage of transitional opportunities,” lamented Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. “Oliva stuck some nice shots. He shot well when he had the opportunity. They made really good plays.”
With 5:28 to play in the half, Jacobs scored unassisted after a dodge for a seemingly safe 8-1 advantage, but unbeknown to anyone, that would be it for the Clippers’ offense and Falmouth would start to chip away.
The Yachtsmen ended the 5-0 Yarmouth run when Gilbert scored unassisted with 2:13 remaining before halftime and 35 seconds later, Scribner set up Kuhn for a man-up goal, cutting the deficit to 8-3 at halftime.
Falmouth senior Jack Mainella won 10 of 13 first half faceoffs, but the Yachtsmen were done in by 15 turnovers.
Despite the healthy lead, the Clippers weren’t comfortable at halftime.
“We saw Falmouth come back against Cape down by five,” Oliva said. “We were up five, but we knew we couldn’t sleep.”
Falmouth came out hot to start the second half and 44 seconds in, Gilbert scored unassisted.
After a Yarmouth penalty, Kuhn set up Scribner for a man-up goal.
Then, after Tucker kept momentum on the Yachtsmen’s side by denying Oliva and Jacobs, Kuhn found Gilbert for a goal, cutting the deficit to 8-6.
“It took our offense a long time to get rolling,” LeBel said. “Sometimes we have a tendency to get anxious when we’re down and rush things. We had to be patient and try to get one goal at t a time. The guys bought into that.”
With 3:53 still remaining in the third period, Falmouth had plenty of time to complete a dramatic comeback, but there wouldn’t be another goal scored.
Not that both teams didn’t have chances.
Early in the fourth, Hoehle denied a bid by Kuhn.
With 8:38 left, Oliva was ruled offsides and 18 seconds later, a slashing penalty gave the Yachtsmen a two-man advantage, but a bid from sophomore Henry Norris, which Hoehle saved, was Falmouth’s only look at the goal.
“We kept getting penalties, too many, but our man-down defense stepped up,” Pearl said. “We forced errors on their man-up. They didn’t get a goal man-up. All the credit goes to Henry Oliva and (senior) Sam Rouda. Our defense played great. We talked about being better than the player next to you.”
“That’s lack of experience and Yarmouth playing an aggressive man-down,” LeBel said. “They forced us to make mistakes. We didn’t react correctly. They controlled the man-up, not us.”
Hoehle then robbed Gilbert, Kuhn and sophomore Devin Russell.
With 3:23 to play, the Yachtsmen again went man-up, but they turned the ball over.
With 2:12 left, Falmouth got another man-up chance, but turned the ball over and Yarmouth ran out the final two minutes and got to celebrate an 8-6 victory.
“Since the SoPo game, we’ve been hyped up,” said Oliva. “We came out with energy, then we sat back a little bit. Even though we didn’t score goals, we chewed up time.”
“Falmouth is really resilient,” Pearl said. “A game is never over against a talented team like that, but I didn’t feel that nervous.”
Oliva had five goals, Jacobs finished with two and Garrett had one, but the Clippers didn’t score the final 29 minutes, 28 seconds.
Beatty had two assists and Oliva one.
Hoehle came up with nine big saves.
“It’s tough when a team keeps scoring, but I have faith in (senior) Garrett Flanagan, Sam Rouda and Henry Oliva,” said Hoehle. “I felt comfortable. The defensemen made sure they weren’t doorstep shots and I did what I could to make saves. We wanted to be aggressive and push out and make sure they didn’t get shots off.”
“It was really frustrating (not scoring), but I had faith in our defense and in our keeper,” Oliva said. “I think he’s the best in the state.”
“Connor Hoehle made some incredible doorstep saves,” Pearl added. “He made saves where he stood on his head, but he made other saves he just had to make.”
Yarmouth had a slim 28-27 edge in ground balls, as sophomore Matt Dostie had a game-high six, and outshot Falmouth, 30-21 (shots on cage were even, 17-17). The Clippers overcame 19 turnovers.
The Yachtsmen got three goals from Gilbert, two from Kuhn and one from Scribner. Kuhn had two assists, while Scribner finished with one.
Tucker made 11 saves.
“Liam made some great saves,” said LeBel. “He saw the ball well tonight and made the saves.”
Mainella won 10 of 18 faceoffs and Norris and Russell shared team honors with four ground balls apiece. Falmouth committed 22 turnovers.
The Yachtsmen’s defense earned its share of postgame praise from LeBel.
“I think we did a nice job in settled defense,” LeBel said. “They didn’t score a lot even. They either scored man-up or in transition. The rest of the time we shut them down. I’m really proud. Compared with how we played in the past, the defense kept us in the game. Our defense eventually forced them to shoot from the perimeter. Credit to the defense for shutting out a decent offense in the second half. It’s a big step up defensively.”
Falmouth (second to Cape Elizabeth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) looks to bounce back when it goes to Wells Friday. The Yachtsmen play at Greely next Wednesday, then hosts Kennebunk May 30 and finish the regular season at Cape Elizabeth June 2.
“We’re improving in certain areas, but we just can’t put it all together,” LeBel said. “There’s always one aspect that breaks down. Tonight it was man-up offense. I think it can be fixed. I just have to make personnel adjustments.
“I think if we take care of business, realistically, we’re looking at the second seed in the West. If we can beat Greely and Kennebunk, it will allow us to do that and have a home playoff game.”
Yarmouth (now second behind Maranacook in Eastern B) hopes to keep the good times rolling Friday when it hosts Waynflete. The Clippers are at Kennebunk Wednesday of next week, host Cape Elizabeth two nights later, then close at North Yarmouth Academy June 3.
“I love this team,” said Hoehle. “I feel confident we’ll finish the season strong. We can always get better. We can improve every aspect of our game. We hope to get homefield advantage. We’ll be pumped for Cape Senior Night.”
“It’s about intensity for us,” Oliva said. “It’s about working hard. We have the talent to do great things. We have to come out and have high energy. I think we can do it.”
“This team’s shown great resilience,” Pearl added. “We’re nicked up with injuries, so it’s next-man-up. We focus on getting better every day. Individually and pushing the guy next to you. We have to find a way to win.”
Falmouth sophomore Henry Norris is surrounded by Yarmouth defenders.
Falmouth senior Jack Mainella and Yarmouth sophomore Bill Jacobs fight for possession.
Falmouth senior Bryce Kuhn makes a move as Yarmouth senior Henry Oliva defends.
Falmouth freshman Brendan Hickey tries to keep up with Yarmouth junior Joe Oliva.
Falmouth junior George Gilbert celebrates one of his three goals.
Falmouth junior Jack Bernier gives Yarmouth junior Matthew Beatty a shove.
Yarmouth junior Jack Venden tries to keep up with Falmouth junior Austin Wheeler.
Recent Falmouth-Yarmouth meetings
@ Falmouth 14 Yarmouth 7
Falmouth 12 @ Yarmouth 6
Falmouth 14 @ Yarmouth 5
@ Falmouth 17 Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 18 @ Falmouth 5
@ Yarmouth 17 Falmouth 2
@ Yarmouth 13 Falmouth 2
@ Yarmouth 19 Falmouth 6
@ Yarmouth 18 Falmouth 1
Yarmouth 13 @ Falmouth 2
Yarmouth senior Joe Oliva is congratulated after scoring one of his five goals during Tuesday’s 8-6 win at Falmouth.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
Y- 3 5 0 0- 8
F- 1 2 3 0- 6
10:03 Y J. Oliva (Beatty) (MAN-UP)
3:53 Y Jacobs (Beatty) (MAN-UP)
1:00 Y Garrett (J. Oliva)
26.1 F Kuhn (unassisted)
11:34 Y J. Oliva (unassisted)
11:19 Y J. Oliva (unassisted)
8:54 Y J. Oliva (unassisted)
6:27 Y J. Oliva (unassisted)
5:38 Y Jacobs (unassisted)
2:13 F Gilbert (unassisted)
1:38 F Kuhn (Scribner) (MAN-UP)
11:16 F Gilbert (unassisted)
7:54 F Scribner (Kuhn) (MAN-UP)
3:53 F Gilbert (Kuhn)
Y- J. Oliva 5, Jacobs 2, Garrett 1
F- Gilbert 3, Kuhn 2, Scribner 1
Y- Beatty 2, J. Oliva 1
F- Kuhn 2, Scribner 1
Faceoffs (Falmouth, 10-8)
Y- Tillotson 8 of 18
F- Mainella 10 of 18
Ground balls (Yarmouth, 28-27)
Y- Dostie 6, Tillotson 4, Beatty 3, Flanagan, Lamourie, H. Oliva, J. Oliva, J. Venden 2, Garrett, Hoehle, Jacobs, Pietropaoli, Rouda 1
F- Norris, Russell 4, Gilbert, Kuhn 3, Hickey, Leighton, Mainella, Valle, Wheeler 2, Scribner, Tucker, J. Zinn 1
Shots on cage:
Y (Hoehle) 9
F (Tucker) 11