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PORTLAND—This one was the sweetest.
Yarmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team has long been an elite program and has collected plenty of hardware for the school’s trophy case, but for most of the spring, it didn’t appear that 2015 would be a championship season.
Until the Clippers saved their absolute best for last.
Saturday evening on the new turf at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Yarmouth was the underdog against Kennebunk in the Class B state final, but no one convinced the Clippers that they weren’t supposed to win.
Yarmouth, which lost at home to Kennebunk last month as part of a 1-3 start to its season, culminated its resurgence with a fabulous effort and even when it required more than 50 minutes to produce victory, the Clippers were up for the challenge.
Yarmouth, as it did a year ago en route to the title, got off to a hot start, as senior captain Emma Torres once again embraced the biggest stage, winning draws, scooping up ground balls and willing her team to an early lead.
Torres scored the game’s first goal three minutes in and after sophomore Cory Langenbach doubled the lead, Torres scored again with 18:28 to go in the first half to make it 3-0 Clippers.
To no one’s surprise, the Rams settled down and crept back within a goal behind tallies from junior standout Kyra Schwartzman and sophomore Gabby Fogg.
The teams then traded goals until Torres and senior captain Shannon Fallon scored late in the half to make it 7-4, but Kennebunk got back within two when junior standout Jenny Bush converted a free position with just over a minute to go before halftime.
In the second half, the Clippers couldn’t shake the Rams, who eventually caught up.
A free position goal from sophomore Eliza Lunt made it 8-5 and after Bush answered for Kennebunk, another Langenbach goal put Yarmouth on top, 9-6, but the Rams got the next two goals. Lunt’s second goal, with 20:24 to play, made it 10-8, but thanks to several stellar saves from Kennebunk junior goalie Bella Kudas, the Clippers wouldn’t score again in regulation.
After junior Molly Parent scored on a free position, junior Olivia Sandford tied the game on a free position with 7:18 to play and despite both teams having chances, neither scored the rest of the way and when Kudas made her finest save, robbing Torres with just 10 seconds to go, it was on to overtime.
Thirty-seven seconds into the first three-minute, non-sudden victory OT session, Yarmouth junior Lilly Watson earned a free position and she ended her team’s drought.
From there, the defending champs only had to run out the clock to become repeat champs, but the Rams refused to go quietly.
Late in the first overtime, Schwartzman had a good look, but Clippers sophomore goalie Mary Kate Gunville, whose legend grows by the day, stood tall and made the save.
Rams freshman Hallie Schwartzman earned a free position at the start of the second OT session, but again Gunville slammed the door with a save and Kennebunk wouldn’t get another look.
Yarmouth was able to run out almost the rest of the clock and celebrated an 11-10 victory, certainly the most dramatic and unexpected of the program’s seven championships.
The Clippers got four goals from Torres, three from Langenbach and seven huge saves from Gunville as they finished 12-4 and denied the Rams’ dreams of a first title, ending their season at 14-2.
“This is the sweetest,” said Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt, who now has five crowns in her reign. “It took this whole team to win this championship. They’ve been working so hard, pushing each other. The underclassmen shoving the upperclassmen. We’ve worked so hard as a group that when we got out here, we just had grit. We were definitely the underdogs and we knew it and we loved the underdog role.”
Yarmouth and Kennebunk were supposed to meet in last year’s state final, but the Rams were upset by Cape Elizabeth in the regional final and the Clippers went on to a 13-10 victory over the Capers in the state game.
This season, both teams were expected to be top contenders and each wound up on the biggest stage, but they took different routes, to say the least.
Yarmouth took its time hitting its stride, as the Clippers had to replace a pair of defensive stalwarts, Abby Belisle-Haley and Julia Primeau, and one of the most prolific scorers in program history, Grace O’Donnell.
Yarmouth lost at home to Falmouth in the opener, 14-9, then, after a two-week break, fell at York, 8-6. The Clippers got on track with an emphatic 16-3 win at Freeport, but a 10-7 home loss to Kennebunk May 5 followed. The Clippers began a win streak with a 14-2 romp at Fryeburg Academy, then turned the corner with home victories over contenders Scarborough (15-12) and Lake Region (19-8) before coming from behind to down visiting Greely (11-10) and rallying past host Waynflete, 8-6. Yarmouth lost for the first time in six games, 10-8 at home to Cape Elizabeth in a state game rematch, then closed with decisive wins at Brunswick (16-1) and North Yarmouth Academy (15-3) to earn the No. 2 seed in Eastern B.
The Clippers ran roughshod through the regional field, ousting No. 7 Camden Hills in the quarterfinals, 20-2, third-seeded Oceanside in the semifinals, 20-1, and No. 4 Freeport in the regional final, 15-7, for an average victory margin of 18-3 in those three games.
As for the Rams, they opened by dominating Gould Academy in the opener, 16-7, then enjoyed a rare win at nemesis Waynflete, 8-4. After an 18-1 home win over Wells, Kennebunk won at Yarmouth, 10-7, at home over defending Class A champion Massabesic in an overtime thriller, 11-9, at home over Cape Elizabeth in a rematch of last year’s regional final (15-6), at Messalonskee (12-3), at home over Fryeburg Academy (14-4) and at York (10-7). The Rams fell from the unbeaten ranks with a 10-8 home loss to Falmouth, then closed with victories at NYA (15-1) and at home against Greely (15-10) to wind up second in Western B.
Kennebunk advanced by virtue of wins over No 7 Greely (14-8) in the quarterfinals, third-ranked York (13-10) in the semifinals and top-ranked Falmouth (9-7) in the regional final.
The Rams and Clippers met twice previously in state finals (see sidebar, below) with Yarmouth winning the one-class championship in 2002 (13-8) and repeating in Class B back in 2007 (7-5). The Clippers also won crowns in 1996, 2006, 2011 and last year. They lost in the state final in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2013.
In addition to their losses to Yarmouth, Kennebunk was beaten by Brunswick in the Class A Final in 2008 and 2009.
Saturday, the teams put on a show and everyone on hand on an evening that turned progressively chillier, was the ultimate winner.
The Rams shot to a 3-0 lead in the regular season meeting, as the Clippers were done in by 13 first half turnovers and 23 overall.
This time, Yarmouth got the jump and took much better care of the ball, allowing it to play from ahead.
Torres set the tone by winning the opening draw against Bush and 32 seconds in, Fallon had a great look, but Kudas made her first save.
The Clippers’ second shot resulted in their first goal, as Torres used her speed and agility to work around a defender before beating Kudas for a 1-0 lead with 22 minutes to go in the first half.
Torres, who won draws and ground balls to help Yarmouth open up a first half lead against Cape Elizabeth in the 2014 finale, continued to do the same as the Clippers kept the pressure on.
Kennebunk got its first look with 19:32 to play, but Kyra Schwartzman was robbed by Gunville.
Yarmouth then went on top 2-0, as Fallon set up Langenbach with 18:52 to go.
Just 23 seconds later, Torres, after another draw win, scored unassisted to make it 3-0.
“Coming out and scoring the first three goals gave us the momentum,” said Torres. “Once we got those, we were comfortable in the game. I just wanted it. That’s all there was to it.”
“We knew we needed to start hot,” Watson said. “The team that gets the first goal usually wins. That was a huge confidence booster. Jenny is amazing at draws and Emma was amazing. She executed so well.”
“That lead was important,” Gunville said. “It was a boost of confidence. I know when you get down at the beginning, it’s hard to work out of it. Getting ahead was really good for us.”
Rams coach Annie Barker didn’t call timeout and her team soon came to life.
With 17:50 left in the half, in transition, Bush hit Schwartzman and Schwartzman beat Gunville to make it 3-1.
Just 52 seconds later, Schwartzman assisted on a Fogg goal and Kennebunk was within one.
The Clippers didn’t buckle and with 16:08 to go before halftime, Langenbach scored unassisted in transition for a 4-2 lead.
After Yarmouth sophomore Katie Waeldner was just off on a shot and Lunt was robbed by Kudas, Fallon was twice frustrated, as Kudas made a save and moments later, she hit the crossbar.
After Watson had a shot saved by Kudas, senior captain Lane Simsarian had a great look at the goal, but she too hit the post.
The Rams then capitalized, as junior Carly Sandler earned a free position and while Gunville got a piece of the shot, it wasn’t enough to keep the ball out of the cage and Kennebunk was again within one.
With 6:11 to go in the half, Fallon set up Torres for a similar goal (Kudas got a piece of the ball, but not enough) and it was 5-3 Clippers.
After Torres shot high on a free position, the Rams again pulled within one when Schwartzman set up Bush with 3:46 left.
At the other end, 53 seconds later, Torres scored unassisted and after Kennebunk senior Hannah Pepin was given a yellow card and had to sit for two minutes, Fallon converted a free position with 2:24 left for a 7-4 lead.
A Bush free position goal with 1:06 to go gave the Rams a little momentum and cut their deficit to 7-5 heading to halftime.
Yarmouth had a decided edge in draws, ground balls and shots in the first 25 minutes, but hadn’t yet put Kennebunk away.
And the Clippers wouldn’t be able to do so in a dramatic second half.
Kudas hinted at a brilliant half to come when she robbed Watson just 18 seconds in.
Yarmouth kept possession though and with 24:12 to play in regulation, Lunt, who has developed into a star this spring, scored for the first time in the game, on a free position.
The Rams roared right back to make it 8-6 when Bush scored on a free position with 23:30 to go.
The Clippers restored their three-goal lead when Torres set up Langenbach with 21:57 left, but 37 seconds later, Schwartzman passed to Sandford, who beat Gunville, and with 20:40 remaining, Schwartzman finished a feed from Sandler and just like that, Kennebunk was only down one, 9-8.
Holt called timeout and Yarmouth responded, as Lunt grabbed a ground ball in front and fired past Kudas to make it 10-8 with 20:24 to play.
The Clippers wouldn’t score again in regulation, but they sure had some great chances.
After Gunville denied Schwartzman on a free position and Sandford hit the post, Kudas saved bids by Simsarian and Torres and Langenbach shot wide.
With 11:57 to go, Parent earned a free position and she buried it to pull her team back within a goal, 10-9.
After Gunville turned aside shots from both senior Hayley Fecko and Sandler, Sandford tied the score on a free position with 7:18 left.
Then, things got really interesting.
Hallie Schwartzman tried to give Kennebunk its first lead 29 seconds later, but Gunville stood tall.
At the other end, on a Watson free position, Watson passed to Lunt, but her shot was denied by Kudas.
The Rams turned the ball over, but the Clippers did the same.
Then, with just under a minute to play, Kennebunk gave the ball back and Yarmouth had one final golden opportunity.
After Simsarian kept possession with a ground ball win, the ball came to Torres and with 10.4 seconds to go, after a nice drive around a defender, Torres appeared primed to win the game, but Kudas made the save and it was on to overtime.
It seemed as if the Rams had all the momentum, but even though they hadn’t scored in over 20 minutes, Yarmouth remained calm and confident.
“I wasn’t too worried,” Torres said. “I had complete faith in my team that we’d win this game.”
“We weren’t too concerned because we’d had good chances,” Watson said. “We hit the post. We were getting unlucky. The key this game was staying composed, holding the ball, not forcing it. We were still confident going to overtime.”
Kennebunk had reason for optimism too, considering their defense and goalie had held the Clippers in check for a long time.
“At halftime, I told the defense to be tighter,” Barker said. “(Torres) got through there a couple times and we had to be tight. Only a few of their girls went to the cage, the rest were just cutters. We did a great job on the crease against Fallon. We didn’t give her much. I felt confident going into overtime.”
In girls’ lacrosse, teams play two three-minute overtime sessions and if the score remains tied, additional three-minute OTs are played until someone wins in a “sudden victory” situation.
That wouldn’t be needed in this one, the first-ever Class B girls’ final to need more than 50 minutes to decide a winner.
Parent won the draw to start overtime, but Kennebunk turned the ball over and Lunt got possession. The ball eventually came to Watson, who was fouled and with 2:23 left in the first OT, she beat Kudas on a free position to snap a 21 minute, 1 second drought and more importantly, give the Clippers an 11-10 lead.
“I’ve worked a ton with Grace O’Donnell on how to take free positions,” Watson said. “I got one of the good hashes on the 8 (meter). When I got the opportunity, I just angled it and shot it down low.”
“Lilly is such a great player,” Torres said. “She’s worked on occupying the defense this year. Lots of our goals are off Lilly. I’m so glad she got that goal. She deserved it.”
Torres won the ensuing draw with Simsarian getting the ground ball, but Yarmouth couldn’t add to its lead as Lunt just missed on a good look.
On the Rams’ lone settled offensive possession in the first overtime, Hallie Schwartzman shot high and Kyra Schwartzman’s bid was snared by Gunville.
After the teams switched sides, Parent won the draw and 20 seconds into the final overtime session, Hallie Schwartzman set up for a free position, but one final time, Gunville saved the shot and saved the day.
“We had to persevere,” Gunville said. “My defense kept me in it. They constantly remind me, ‘You can do it, you’ve got it.’ I knew (the Rams) were really good, so I had to work hard. I just promised my defense I’d do everything possible to get in front of the ball and luckily, I was able to get there.”
“We rely heavily on (Mary Kate),” Watson said. “Her free positions are amazing. She saves almost all of them. Our defensive players are awesome and our goalie is awesome.”
“That save she made was a game-maker,” Holt added. “I said to her, ‘What’s your show after this?’ I’m blessed. She has (junior) Sarah (Kirk) push her and they warm each other up. Mary Kate takes care of all of us. She’s the team Mom.”
The Clippers worked the ball up the field, with Torres and Waeldner both collecting ground balls to keep possession and with 1:23 remaining, Holt called timeout.
Out of the timeout, Yarmouth moved the ball around and over the defense, showing tremendous poise.
“That’s the hardest stall I’ve ever done,” Torres said. “We try to keep moving the ball. At the end of the day, you just have to hold on to it.”
“We do a lot of conditioning in practice,” Watson said. “Getting tired isn’t a problem. We work a lot on the stall. We move the ball fast, fake, cut and try not to get stuck to run out the clock.”
It wasn’t until just over a second remained that Kennebunk got the ball back.
And by then, it was too late.
The horn sounded at 7:52 p.m. and the Clippers raced to Gunville to celebrate as they had improbably repeated as Class B state champions, 11-10.
“We wanted it so badly,” said Torres, who graduates with two state titles to the one captured by her sister, Danielle (hero of the 2011 state final). “It’s incredible. We kept pushing. We fought for each other, the coaches and our town and that’s how we won a state championship. I remember seeing (Danielle) come over with the trophy (in 2011) and I’m so glad I’ve done it twice. We’ve worked hard every single day. Losing early this season was hard, but we kicked it into gear and we brought it together with the help of our coaches, every player and everyone on the bench. Yarmouth lacrosse is the best part of my high school career. I’ll miss it the most. I know in the future, I’ll always be a part of Yarmouth lacrosse.”
“I’m always nervous, but I was confident in my girls,” Gunville said. “I knew we could do it. I knew we had the power, drive and grit to get it done. (The championships are) both equally exciting. They’re exciting in different ways. This one is really special because I’ve known these girls longer now. We’ve really bonded.”
“We had confidence coming in because we didn’t lose to them big and in none of our games were we blown out,” Holt added. “We knew we had to play our best game ever to beat them. They have poise, balance and awesome stick skills, but we executed our plan. We knew we had to win the draw because Jenny’s amazing. We knew we had to fight for ground balls and the 50/50 balls came our way. We executed the pressure, doubling in the midfield, and it really showed.
“I’m so proud of this entire team. It took everyone giving 110 percent. Every game has been so close this year, so nothing surprises me, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. It shows when you pull together as a crew you can win.”
Torres led all scorers with four goals. She also had an assist. If that wasn’t enough, Torres won 13 of 22 draws (Yarmouth enjoyed a 14-11 advantage in that critical category) and had a game-high 13 ground balls (no other player had double figures), in helping the Clippers win that battle, 48-42.
Langenbach continued to emerge as a special player with three goals and six ground balls. Lunt scored twice (and had eight ground balls), while Fallon and Watson both had one goal. Fallon also had two assists. Gunville made seven saves.
“I didn’t even think I’d play varsity as a freshman,” said Gunville. “I thought I’d be the backup or JV goalie. They needed a goalie and I was able to step in. It’s been the experience of a lifetime.”
Yarmouth committed 18 turnovers, a most respectable number considering the circumstances, and outshot Kennebunk 27-22 (22-17 on cage).
The Rams got three goals from Bush, two apiece from Sandford and Kyra Schwartzman and one each from Fogg, Parent and Sandler. Schwartzman had three assists, while Bush and Sandler both finished with one. Sandford had a team-high seven ground balls. Kudas made 11 saves.
“Bella had a great game in the second half,” Barker said. “We had to help her on the other hand offensively and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Kennebunk committed 18 turnovers.
The Rams expected from day one this spring to win it all and left the field in disbelief and disappointment.
“You have to have breaks here and there,” Barker said. “We gave it all we had. They were a little grittier than we were. They never stopped. I think in the first half, we weren’t winning the draws and we weren’t coming up with ground balls and they went ahead of us. We made some adjustments and it was really a ground ball game on the draw and they were quicker than us. They were very well prepared. When we had the ball, we pretty much put it in the net, but we didn’t have the ball.
“Someday we’ll get it. It takes an awful lot to get here. We’re close. We’ll keep trying. Most of the girls are back. They’re a great group of young women and talented lacrosse players. They were fun to coach every single day.”
Yarmouth has done a lot of great things over the years, but the Clippers have never won three straight championships.
Yarmouth will have to replace some special players in senior captains Fallon, Simsarian, Torres and defender Mary Coyne, who along with Sarah Myers, Caitlin Teare and the injured Madelain Mitchell, depart.
“The seniors are incredible,” Watson said. “I’ve played with most of them in other sports too.”
“Our senior captains pulled it off today,” Holt said. “Emma Torres, Lane, Mary and Shannon, the four senior captains, I spoke to them and told them to keep their nerves in check because that’s a seasoned Kennebunk team. They’re phenomenal. I had underclassmen who were nervous. Girls said their stomachs hurt prior to the game. The upperclassmen helped them. The captains clearly led today. Every year, it’s hard to lose seniors and losing Lane and Emma, I coached their sisters, so I’m losing families. This team really was a family.”
Next year, the Clippers’ offense will start with Ella Antolini, Langenbach, Lunt, Waeldner and Watson. Defensive stalwarts include Gretchen Barbera, Lauren Bartlett and Campbell Dorsett. Several others will step up as well and of course, there’s Gunville as the last line of defense.
Yarmouth might just find itself back in a familiar position a year from now.
“I really hope we’ll be good again next year,” Gunville said. “We have a lot of young talent.”
“It will be a big loss leadership-wise and on the field next year, but we have a ton of great players coming up, so we should be fine,” Watson said.
Holt wanted no part of a discussion of next year, but she knows her 2016 squad holds promise.
“We’ll have to have underclassmen step up and juniors step into the leadership role,” she said.
Yarmouth senior Shannon Fallon leaps and shoots on Kennebunk junior goalie Bella Kudas.
Yarmouth sophomore goalie Mary Kate Gunville makes a save. Gunville has won two state titles in her young career.
Yarmouth sophomore Cory Langenbach fires a shot. Langenbach scored three times.
Yarmouth sophomore Eliza Lunt, who scored twice, splits a pair of Kennebunk defenders.
Yarmouth senior Sarah Myers plays keepaway from a Kennebunk attacker.
Yarmouth senior Emma Torres races past Kennebunk freshman Hallie Schwartzman. Torres bowed out with a fabulous performance, leading all players with four goals and 13 ground balls.
Yarmouth junior Lilly Watson gets a step on a defender. Watson had the winning goal, on a free position, in overtime.
Yarmouth sophomore goalie Mary Kate Gunville, who made the save of her life to preserve the lead in overtime, is swarmed by her teammates at the final horn.
Yarmouth senior captains (from left) Emma Torres, Lane Simsarian and Shannon Fallon (with Mary Coyne in the background) show off the trophy.
Yarmouth 13 Kennebunk 8
Waynflete 5 Yarmouth 3
Waynflete 13 Yarmouth 8
Yarmouth 5 Waynflete 4
Waynflete 6 Yarmouth 5
Waynflete 7 Yarmouth 6
Gould 11 Yarmouth 8
Brunswick 13 Kennebunk 9
Brunswick 15 Kennebunk 11
Yarmouth 13 Kennebunk 8
Yarmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team erupts in joy after shocking Kennebunk, 11-10, in overtime, in Saturday’s Class B state final. The Clippers repeated thanks to junior Lilly Watson’s goal in the first extra session.
Jason Veilleux photos.
More photos below.
K- 5 5 0 0- 10
Y- 7 3 1 0- 11
22:00 Y Torres (unassisted)
18:52 Y Langenbach (Fallon)
18:28 Y Torres (unassisted)
17:50 K K. Schwartzman (Bush)
16:58 K Fogg (K. Schwartzman)
16:08 Y Langenbach (unassisted)
9:39 K Sandler (free position)
6:11 Y Torres (Fallon)
3:46 K Bush (K. Schwartzman)
2:53 Y Torres (unassisted)
2:24 Y Fallon (free position)
1:06 K Bush (free position)
24:12 Y Lunt (free position)
23:30 K Bush (free position)
21:57 Y Langenbach (Torres)
21:20 K Sandford (K. Schwartzman)
20:40 K K. Schwartzman (Sandler)
20:24 Y Lunt (unassisted)
11:57 K Parent (free position)
7:18 K Sandford (free position)
2:23 Y Watson (free position)
K- Bush 3, Sandford, K. Schwartzman 2, Fogg, Parent, Sandler 1
Y- Torres 4, Langenbach 3, Lunt 2, Fallon, Watson 1
K- K. Schwartzman 3, Bush, Sandler 1
Y- Fallon 2, Torres 1
Draws (Yarmouth, 14-11)
K- Parent 8 of 15, Bush 3 of 10
Y- Torres 13 of 22, Antolini 1 of 3
Ground balls (Yarmouth, 48-42)
K- Sandford 7, H. Schwartzman 6, Bush, Pepin 5, Parent, K. Schwartzman 4, Fecko, Fogg, Sandler 3, Small, Wiewel 1
Y- Torres 13, Lunt 8, Langenbach 6, Watson 5, Bartlett, Simsarian 4, Waeldner 3, Fallon, Myers 2, Coyne 1
Shots on cage:
K (Kudas) 11
Y (Gunville) 7