YARMOUTH—Each step gets tougher.
Yarmouth’s field hockey team entered the week thinking that the biggest threat to its quest for an undefeated season would come from crosstown rival North Yarmouth Academy Friday afternoon.
But it turns out that the other two teams on the Clippers’ slate this week were fired up for their opportunity to hand them their first loss.
After holding on for a one-goal win at unheralded Waynflete Monday, Yarmouth welcomed a Sacopee Valley squad Wednesday afternoon which took it to the waning seconds before the Clippers prevailed in the teams’ first meeting.
At least in that one, Yarmouth was able to rattle the cage.
This time around, despite ample opportunities, the Clippers simply couldn’t score.
Much of their frustration was due to Hawks senior goalie Chloe Ronco, who frustrated Yarmouth time and again.
The game would ultimately go into overtime and after one scoreless session, the Clippers had only eight more minutes to finally solve Ronco and extend their win streak.
They needed only 2 minutes, 27 seconds.
A challenging afternoon had a joyous conclusion when sophomore Abby McDowell, who had a splendid day, banged home a loose ball and at last, Yarmouth had its 10th victory without a defeat, 1-0, dropping valiant Sacopee to 5-6 in the process.
“I think the challenge was good for us,” said Clippers coach Mandy Lewis. “We had to perservere and work through frustration. We know that as the season progresses, each game will get more competitive. We have to continue to meet and overcome those challenges. We talk about taking it game by game and focusing on the opponent as it comes.”
Yarmouth was expected to be a team to be reckoned with this fall, but after graduating nine key members of last year’s squad, the thought of the Clippers entering October unbeaten was improbable at best.
Yet Yarmouth ran the table in September.
The Clippers handled host Old Orchard Beach (7-0) and visiting Waynflete (7-0),, before scoring late for a 3-2 win at Sacopee Valley. After downing NYA, 2-1. Yarmouth blanked host Wells (6-0), visiting Traip (4-0) and host Old Orchard Beach (7-0). After a pivotal 2-0 home win over Cape Elizabeth, the Clippers eked out a 1-0 win at Waynflete Monday.
Sacopee Valley, meanwhile, has been up and down. After 6-0 wins over visiting Traip and host Old Orchard Beach to start the season, the Hawks dropped one-goal games to Yarmouth and host Waynflete (1-0, in overtime), beat Wells, 1-0, lost at home to NYA, 2-1, fell at Wells (1-0) and at home to Fryeburg Academy (6-1), then prevailed at Traip (1-0) and at home over Old Orchard Beach (2-0).
The Clippers entered Wednesday’s game having beaten the Hawks in all four meetings since Yarmouth moved back to Class C last fall. Last season, the Clippers won by 4-0, 1-0 and 2-0 margins.
This time around, Yarmouth would pitch another shutout, but there was a ‘0’ under their name for far too long before the Clippers found a way to prevail.
The tone was set for this one just 45 seconds in, when McDowell had a good look, but shot wide.
A little over a minute later, Yarmouth senior standout Kallie Hutchinson fired a shot, but Ronco made her first save and the battle was joined.
The Clippers then got a penalty corner, but a shot from sophomore Taylor Robison was denied by Ronco.
Sacopee’s defense then began to stymie Yarmouth, as players managed to steal the ball or break up rushes before shots could be unleashed.
With 15:30 to play before halftime, Ronco saved a shot from junior Breanna Morrill.
The Clippers had one more good look before the break, but after Morrill stole the ball and set up junior Cara Ricciardi for a shot, Ronco made a kick save to send the teams to intermission still scoreless.
Yarmouth had a 6-0 shots advantage in the first 30 minutes, but Ronco’s four saves kept her team even.
The Clippers’ onslaught continued in the second half, but so did Ronco’s brilliance.
A minute in, on a corner, Hutchinson sent a blast just wide.
With 21:05 to play in regulation, McDowell had two looks, but Ronco saved them both. Morrill then sent a rebound wide.
“It was frustrating, definitely,” McDowell said. “(Ronco) was good.”
With 14:30 to play, on a corner, Hutchinson made solid contact, but Ronco kicked the shot aside.
With 12:10 to play, Hutchinson sent a long shot on target and freshman Emilie Martin managed to tip it, but still, Ronco stood tall and stopped it from rattling the cage. For good measure, she saved a rebound shot as well.
With 10:30 left, Yarmouth sophomore Georgia Giese had a great look in front, but Ronco made the save point blank.
The Clippers then earned a corner and again Hutchinson had a good look, but again, Ronco kept the ball out. A rebound shot hit the corner of the cage.
With a minute to go, on another corner, Hutchinson missed just wide.
Yarmouth kept the pressure on and as time wound down, Giese had another good look in front, but one final time, Ronco made the save and it was on to overtime.
Teams play two eight-minute, “sudden victory” overtime sessions and if no one scores, the game goes in the books as a tie. That result looked like a distinct possibility, but ultimately, there would be resolution.
In the first OT, Sacopee, which did nothing on offense in regulation, finally produced some chance and scary moments for the hosts.
First, Hawks senior Abby Ouellette had a rush broken up. Clippers junior Tori Messina then had to kick away a loose ball.
With 2:34 left, Sacopee fired its lone shot of the day, but while freshman Haiden Sawyer’s bid got past a diving Messina, it trickled just wide of the far post.
Late in overtime, Ronco denied Giese and on a corner, Hutchinson eluded a defender to get a great look, but again Ronco kicked aside the shot and it was on to overtime number two.
Early in that extra session, Giese’s bid to end it on a rush was broken up. Yarmouth then earned a corner and at last, brought the curtain down.
After an initial shot was saved, the ball was sent to McDowell, who had plenty of open goal at which to shoot. She didn’t falter and sent the ball into the cage to give the Clippers a 1-0 victory.
“Bre passed it to me and the goalie was on the other side of the goal and I just pushed it in,” McDowell said. “It’s the biggest goal I’ve scored. It was so exciting. It was so stressful, but it felt so good to end it. We just had the intensity at the end. We really wanted it. We knew we could do it. We kept pushing.”
“Abby played so well,” Lewis said. “She’s had great intensity. Her stick skills have really improved. She has no fear, which is something we need on the forward line. I was very excited for Abby to get that goal.
“The fact that we went into overtime was a good experience and it’s something we have to prepare for. I think we had our opportunities, especially toward the end of both halves. We created plenty of opportunities for ourselves, but we couldn’t finish. The intensity we have on the other parts of the field we have to maintain that in the circle.”
Yarmouth outshot Sacopee, 23-1 and had seven penalty corners to none for the Hawks, but Ronco’s 17 saves, many of them highlight reel material, kept this game in doubt much longer than it should have been.
There will be a lot at stake Friday when Yarmouth makes the short jaunt to NYA. Not just the Clippers’ undefeated status, but Heal Points, playoff positioning and of course, bragging rights will also be contested.
“We’ll go in with intensity and do our best,” McDowell said. “I think we can do it. It should be fun over there. I’m excited.”
“We expect an intense game,” Lewis said. “I know I’ll feel exhausted at the end of the game. I can’t imagine what these guys will feel. It’s a great matchup for us.”
The Clippers (who were second behind Oak Hill in the Western Class C Heal Points standings at press time) play their home finale Tuesday versus Wells, then close the regular season with games at Traip Oct. 9 and Freeport Oct. 15.
Perfection is still in play, but Yarmouth is enjoying itself too much to obsess over it.
“There’s a little bit of pressure, but we tell ourselves it’s about loving playing the game and having fun with it,” McDowell said.
Let the fun continue.