YARMOUTH—Four days early.
That’s when the title dream of the Yarmouth field hockey team was extinguished Tuesday afternoon.
Four days shy of what one of the most entertaining programs around hoped would be its first championship in 19 years.
The potent and fun-loving Clippers, after a magic carpet ride of epic proportions, finally met their match in the Western Class C semifinals against a Lisbon squad which has enjoyed deep postseason runs in recent years.
After boasting a prolific offense much of the season, Yarmouth couldn’t rattle the cage despite some golden opportunities and two Greyhounds goals in less than five minutes early in the second half proved to be too much to overcome.
While the Clippers fought valiantly to the end, their 2-0 loss brought the curtain down on a 14-2 season, their best since 1998.
While Lisbon improved to 14-2 and advanced to meet top-ranked Oak Hill (15-0-1) in Thursday’s regional final, Yarmouth was left sad, but proud.
“It’s been incredible,” said Clippers coach Mandy Lewis. “At the end of the game, what I shared with the girls, was that I was incredibly proud to have been part of their journey. This really was their journey. They created this. They were motivated by each other on the field. It was very special to be a part of this group.”
Yarmouth last took the field last Tuesday, when it handled visiting Telstar in the quarterfinals, 3-0. That proved to be the Clippers’ 14th and final this fall. Yarmouth’s lone regular season blemish was a 2-1 overtime loss at rival North Yarmouth Academy, in a game decided by one of the (depending on your perspective) luckiest or unluckiest bounces you’ll ever see.
As for Lisbon, the 2012 Western C champion and runner-up a year ago after falling to NYA in penalty corners, it had another solid campaign (12-2), then ousted No. 6 Dirigo in Saturday’s quarterfinal, 1-0.
The teams had met just once previously in the postseason, a 2-1 Yarmouth victory in the 1999 quarterfinals.
Prior to the game, the Clippers received a blow when junior Bre Morrill, one of the league’s top players, was forced to sit out with a knee injury. Morrill, who had a goal in the win over Telstar, is one of the premier midfielders and ballhandlers around, but even in her stead, Yarmouth believed it would be able to weather the tide.
“Facing today without one of our strongest players was tough,” Lewis said. “We also knew that other players have stepped up in so many different ways over the season that we were confident we’d be able to make it work.”
Tuesday, the Clippers had their chances, but on balance, the Greyhounds had the better of the play and eventually, they broke through.
Lisbon almost struck first in the sixth minute when a long hit was redirected by junior Charlotte Mooney just wide.
Yarmouth then earned a corner with 21:45 to play in the first half and almost scored.
The ball was inserted to senior standout Kallie Hutchinson, who scored the first goal of the Telstar win on a booming shot off a corner. Again, Hutchinson had a great look and made solid contact, but Greyhounds senior goalie Victoria Swan made the save. The rebound came to sophomore Abby McDowell, who scored so many big goals this autumn, but her rebound was handled by Swan as well and the Clippers missed a great chance for some early momentum.
Lisbon carried play for most of the rest of the half, but Yarmouth junior goalie Tori Messina ensured the game would remain scoreless.
With 20:18 left before halftime, Mooney had a rush broken up by Clippers junior Samantha Middleton. Two minutes later, senior Arianna Kahler sent a backhanded shot on goal which Messina kicked away. Messina saved the rebound as well.
With 16 minutes remaining in the half, Lewis called timeout, but Lisbon continued to press for the first goal.
After Messina cleared a loose ball from the crease, she had to make an impressive kick save on a bid from Greyhounds senior Molly Nicholson.
Lisbon then had its lone penalty corner of the first half, but Yarmouth senior captain and defensive wizard Meaghan Gorham cleared it.
Late in the half, the Clippers had three more corner chances, but the first two didn’t result in a shot and with under a minute to go, Hutchinson had another great look, but her blast was deflected wide.
The Greyhounds would finally break through in the second half.
After Messina saved a shot by Mooney and Messina stopped a Nicholson bid, the ball came to Kahler, who fed senior Courtney Lawrence and Lawrence’s blast rattled the cage for a 1-0 lead with 24:15 to play.
Having scored once, Lisbon didn’t waste much time doing so again.
Messina had to save three bids off corners, but with 19:38 showing, sophomore Kate Philbrick scored on a rebound and for the first time all season, Yarmouth trailed by two goals.
“That’s hard to take,” Hutchinson said. “Especially coming on corners. You never want to see that when you’re running back from the 50.”
“We knew that when they started to gain that momentum, we needed to do something to bring it back to our side,” Lewis said. “In the first half, we kept it pretty balanced, but in the second half, they came out harder than we did and we had a hard time regaining that speed.”
Lewis called timeout and not surprisingly, the Clippers responded and almost got back into the game.
With 16:21 to go, Hutchinson forced Swan to make a difficult save and senior Fiona Clarke’s rebound was denied as well.
Yarmouth then earned a corner, but couldn’t produce a shot.
With 7:40 remaining, on a corner, Hutchinson again made solid contact, but again, Swan made the save.
With 5:01 left, Clarke was robbed in front and with 2:59 showing, Clark got her stick on a Hutchinson shot that was deflected, but once more, Swan kept it out.
The hosts had one final chance with 1:40 to go, but Hutchinson had the ball taken away by Lisbon senior Mia Durgin and the Greyhounds ran out the clock on their 2-0 triumph.
“It’s hard walking away from a game where a few minutes made the difference,” Hutchinson said. “If you could cut away those few minutes, it would have been a different story. All in all, we played together. There were times in the first half when I thought we had it. When we get a first goal, that’s when we pull it together. When we didn’t get it in the first half, I think we came out a little flat in the second half.
“It was hard having such a long break (between games). We had injuries happen between last Tuesday and today. We had fingers, we had ankles. Being without Bre had an effect, but I think we came out with just as much intensity as we ever do and I can’t ask for anything else.”
“We created opportunities for ourselves, but we weren’t able to finish,” Lewis lamented.
Yarmouth was outshot, 17-9, but got 11 saves from Messina, who’s only getting better.
“Tori is someone I’ve gained progressively more confidence in throughout the season,” Hutchinson said. “She’s a great player. I’m very excited to see what she can do next year.:
“I think Tori played incredibly well,” Lewis said. “It’s hard to be in her position, where she spends a lot of games not touching the ball and still coming out and playing the way she did today. She had a phenomenal game.”
The Clippers had eight corners to the Greyhounds’ seven. Swan made seven saves.
From 2008-2010, Yarmouth had a composite record of 4-36-2. To rise from those ashes to the brink of the regional final is an unthinkable turnaround and it’s no coincidence the resurgence began with the arrival of Clarke, Gorman and Hutchinson.
“We brought the program far,” Hutchinson said.
After going 6-7-2 and falling in the preliminary round in 2011, 8-7-1 and reaching the quarterfinals in 2012 and posting a 10-5-1 mark and making it to the semifinals in 2013, the Clippers weren’t expected to take another step forward this autumn.
But they did.
In dizzying and memorable fashion.
“We’ve been through a lot,” said Hutchinson. ‘When you’re growing your program, every single year you get a little farther. I don’t think you ever really believe you have the ability to win states unless you’re on a team like this. I never expected going into the season that we’d do this well. My Dad joked that we’d go .500 and I believed him. We had a very young team. Once we started winning and got to playoffs, we started to trust that this was a team that could do it all.”
“I think that in August, nobody would have predicted this is how our season would go,”Lewis said. “We were an incredibly young team with three talented seniors and I think we did a lot.”
Lewis paid tribute to the role played by Clarke, Gorman and Hutchinson, one of the finest players in program history.
“We only lose a few, but they’re important,” said Lewis. “The seniors have seen the program go from primarily a losing record to finishing second in the (Heal Points standings). That’s exciting for them and they inspired our younger athletes as well. I’m grateful for them.”
The good news is that Yarmouth will start in a much stronger place in August of next year. The offense will feature the likes of McDowell, junior Cara Ricciardi, sophomores Georgia Giese, Taylor Robison and Molly Wilson and freshmen Maggie Gunville and Emilie Martin. On defense, Middleton, along with sophomores Gracie Griffin and Nicole McDowell, will provide a wall in front of the returning Messina.
We haven’t heard the last from the Clippers.
“We’re going to continue to be persistent and to develop our program,” Lewis said.
“Knowing that we didn’t get the one step farther (this year) is hard, but I still have that goal for next year’s team,” Hutchinson said.
Yarmouth senior Fiona Clarke chases after the ball.
Yarmouth senior captain Meaghan Gorman, who capped her stellar career, clears the ball away from Lisbon senior Arianna Kahler.
Yarmouth senior standout Kallie Hutchinson fires a backhanded shot.
Yarmouth sophomore Abby McDowell pokes the ball away from Lisbon senior Molly Nicholson.
Yarmouth sophomore Nicole McDowell knocks the ball away from Lisbon senior Mia Durgin.
Yarmouth junior Cara Ricciardi keeps the ball inbounds.
Yarmouth sophomore Taylor Robison plays the ball in traffic.
1999 Western C quarterfinals
Yarmouth 2 Lisbon 1
Yarmouth junior goalie Tori Messina kicks away a shot during Tuesday’s 2-0 home loss to Lisbon in a Western Class C semifinal. The Clippers’ best season in 16 years ended at 14-2.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.