Yarmouth’s quest for perfection denied by Kennebunk’s ‘Shutdown D’

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Yarmouth junior Eva Then shoots while being blanketed by Kennebunk senior Marran Oakman, left, junior Hallie Schwartzman (2) and junior Mia Murray during the teams’ third straight showdown in the Class B state final Saturday. The Rams put on a defensive clinic and shocked the Clippers, 5-4, to repeat as champions.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Class B Final

Kennebunk 5 Yarmouth 4

K- 4 1- 5
Y- 2 2- 4

First half
21:25 K Gorton (free position)
14:36 K Dumas (Beaudette)
13:38 Y Antolini (unassisted)
9:15 K Dumas (unassisted)
4:41 K Gorton (Schwartzman)
3:51 Y Antolini (free position)

Second half
23:06 K Fogg (unassisted)
8:31 Y Elder (Lane)
6:22 Y Antolini (unassisted)

Goals:
K- Dumas, Gorton 2, Fogg 1
Y- Antolini 3, Elder 1

Assists:
K- Beaudette, Schwartzman 1
Y- Lane 1

Draws (Kennebunk, 6-5)
K- Oakman 6 of 11
Y- Lane 4 of 8, Then 1 of 3

Ground balls (Yarmouth, 29-22)
K- Fogg, Koch, Schwartzman 4, Oakman 3, Beaudette, Cain 2, Burchill, Murray, Thompson 1
Y- Then 7, Lane, Langenbach 5, Barbera, Decker 3, Antolini, Elder, Lunt 2

Turnovers:
K- 15
Y- 12

Shots:
K- 13
Y- 13

Shots on cage:
K- 9
Y- 12

Saves:
K (Burchill) 8
Y (Gunville) 4

PORTLAND—It was a defensive effort without peer.

A nearly perfect effort which squashed the dreams of a perfect season.

Saturday morning at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Yarmouth and Kennebunk’s girls’ lacrosse teams squared off in the Class B state final for the third year in a row and the Rams not only managed to repeat as champions, they did so by doing the unthinkable, holding the powerhouse Clippers’ offense in check for 50 minutes.

From the moment Yarmouth junior Eva Then had a shot denied in the third minute right through the final horn, the seemingly invincible Class B North champions could only shake their head and wonder why they couldn’t solve Kennebunk’s defense.

With their teammates yelling, “Shutdown D!” from the sidelines, the Rams did exactly that and did just enough on offense as well.

Kennebunk went ahead to stay with 21:25 to go in the first half, when junior Erin Gorton converted a free position.

Seven minutes later, senior Leah Dumas added to the lead, but Yarmouth finally broke through with 13:38 to go, when senior Ella Antolini scored a fast break goal.

Undaunted, the Rams continued to stymie the Clippers and when Dumas scored unassisted with 9:15 on the clock and Gorton added a second goal with 4:41 remaining, they had a surprising 4-1 advantage.

Yarmouth pulled within two at halftime, thanks to an Antolini free position goal with 3:51 left in the half, but the Clippers wouldn’t score again for over 20 minutes.

Early in the second half, Kennebunk made it 5-2 when senior captain Gabby Fogg scored a highlight reel goal and while the Rams wouldn’t tickle the twine again, they had enough to prevail.

With 8:38 left, junior Greta Elder scored to end the drought and with 6:22 to play, Antolini scored again to make things very interesting.

Yarmouth had its share of chances down the stretch, but Kennebunk’s defense and senior goalie Mallory Burchill wouldn’t budge.

The Clippers got one final chance inside the final minute, but never could manage a shot, as they turned the ball over, and the Rams were able to run out the clock on a stunning 5-4 upset victory.

Kennebunk capped a dazzling postseason run, which saw it hold three prolific offenses to just 16 goals, finished the season 13-2, earned the program’s second straight Class B championship and in the process, handed Yarmouth its first loss in 16 games, at the worst possible time.

“It was tough at the end,” said longtime Rams coach Annie Barker. “They rattled us a couple times and got the ball back, but thanks to the composure of the defense, we were able to hold on. It’s a great feeling. I’m happy for the girls. They’re an amazing group.”

“It’s a tribute to (Kennebunk),” said Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. “They’re really good. Coming from behind is tough, but we showed we could rally. We just needed five more minutes.”

One last hurrah

With girls’ lacrosse going to three classes next school year, the two teams will find themselves no longer on a June collision course, but over the past decade-and-a-half, Yarmouth and Kennebunk have frequently found themselves standing in each other’s way with the ultimate prize on the line (see sidebar, below, for links to previous state game stories).

The teams first met in the state final way back in 2002, back when girls’ lacrosse had just one class. In that game, played on Kennebunk’s field, the Clippers completed a perfect season with a 13-8 victory.

The next encounter came in 2007, when again Yarmouth’s final victory in an undefeated campaign came over the Rams, this time by a 7-5 margin, as the Clippers won their second consecutive crown.

Kennebunk then spent several years in Class A before returning to Class B, where it faced Yarmouth in the 2015 title tilt. The Rams were favored to win their first championship, but the Clippers started fast and eventually eked out a palpitating, 11-10, overtime victory.

Last spring, the best Kennebunk team to date finally scaled the mountain, rightfully against Yarmouth, fending off the proud Clippers’ upset bid, 9-7.

Yarmouth also won state titles in 1996 (5-4 over Waynflete), 2006 (12-5 over Waynflete), 2011 (9-8 over Waynflete) and 2014 (13-10 over Cape Elizabeth) and lost in 1993 (11-8 to Gould), 1994 (7-6 to Waynflete), 1995 (6-5 to Waynflete), 1998 (13-8 to Waynflete), 1999 (5-3 to Waynflete) and 2013 (7-4 to Waynflete).

Kennebunk’s other state final appearances resulted in losses to Brunswick in 2008 (15-11) and 2009 (13-9).

Heading into the 2017 season, there weren’t a lot of pundits suggesting the teams would battle in the state game for the third year in a row, as graduation did a number on the Rams.

Kennebunk has persevered, however, and Barker and her staff did one of their best coaching jobs, filling holes and keeping confidence high.

The Rams went 10-2 in the regular season, losing only to York and Yarmouth, and along the way, giving Barker her 200th win.

Kennebunk earned the top seed in Class B South and after enjoying a bye into the semifinals, the Rams rallied from an early deficit and blanked No. 4 Cape Elizabeth in the second half en route to a 9-6 win.

Wednesday, in the regional final, Kennebunk was down, 5-2, early to No. 2 Falmouth in the teams’ third straight showdown in that round, but the Rams got a goal back before the break and roared out of the gate in the second half, taking the lead and never looking back en route to a 9-6 triumph.

Yarmouth was viewed as the team to beat when the season dawned and nothing changed anyone’s view of the Clippers this spring, as in reality, Yarmouth was even more dominant than expected (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).

The Clippers met every test in the regular season and only got taken to the wire once, a come-from-behind, 9-8 victory at Falmouth in the finale.

As the region’s top seed, Yarmouth barely broke a sweat in the quarterfinals, outscoring the opposition, 54-10. The Clippers started by crushing No. 8 Winslow, 20-2, then overcame a sluggish start in the semifinals against No. 5 St. Dom’s before prevailing, 16-6. Wednesday, in its regional final, Yarmouth sent No. 3 Oceanside packing, 18-2.

Back on May 25, in the rain, the Clippers came to Kennebunk and prevailed, 7-3. Junior Meredith Lane and Then each had two goals and senior goalie Mary Kate Gunville made nine key saves.

Saturday, on a 61-degree day, Yarmouth hoped to deliver another early knockout punch, but the Rams didn’t just hang tough, they actually had the better of the play in the first half, laying the foundation for a shocking finish.

Kennebunk senior captain Marran Oakman hinted at a huge effort to come by winning the opening draw, but the Rams turned the ball over, as Then made a terrific individual effort to intercept a pass.

Then then had a look at breaking the scoring ice, but her shot was turned aside by Burchill, giving the Rams even more confidence.

Kennebunk then got a settled possession and with it, the game’s first goal, as Gorton beat Gunville on a free position with 21:25 to go in the half.

Lane won the ensuing draw, but senior Katie Waeldner shot wide and Antolini’s bid to tie the score was denied by Burchill.

Gunville made her first save at the other end, denying Gorton, but the Clippers turned the ball over the next three times they possessed it and with 14:36 left in the half, junior Briannagh Beaudette fed Dumas for a goal and a 2-0 lead.

Oakman won the draw again, but the Rams turned the ball over and with 13:38 on the clock, Antolini raced in, got some room and fired a shot past Burchill into the net to cut the deficit in half.

Kennebunk didn’t allow Yarmouth to get any momentum, however, as it forced a turnover and after Dumas shot wide, Gunville denied a Gorton bid, Fogg shot high and Gorton did the same, Dumas got a shot off through traffic and it found the net with 9:15 remaining to make it 3-1.

The Clippers continued to struggle with the ball, forcing passes in close which led to turnovers and the Rams extended their lead further with 4:41 on the clock, as junior captain Hallie Schwartzman set up Gorton for a goal and a 4-1 lead.

Yarmouth came right back, as Then won the ensuing draw and Antolini earned a free position, which she buried with 3:51 remaining.

Oakman won the ensuing draw and Kennebunk milked the clock to try and score again before the break, but Gunville made a save on a Beaudette free position and the Rams took a 4-2 advantage to halftime.

In the first half, Oakman won five of seven draws and the Rams enjoyed a 10-5 shots advantage.

Kennebunk’s game plan was working like a charm.

“Our motto today was, ‘Shutdown D!'” Oakman said. “We followed that all day today. We were playing tight defense, we were talking, we were really loud. We’ve worked on that all week. We played stick-to-stick defensively, knocked balls down and got interceptions. Everyone had a great effort.”

“We’re the strongest drivers in the state, but they took that away,” Antolini said. “They essentially doubled the ball and prevented us from feeding or driving from the top. We had a lot of turnovers in there. That’s not something we’re used to. It flustered us. We weren’t composed in the first half.”

The Clippers hoped to get in gear to start the second half when Lane won the draw, but Oakman intercepted a pass and the Rams went on the attack.

Then, with 23:06 to play, Fogg made a move on a defender and despite being tripped up, she fired a shot past Gunville while falling for a 5-2 lead.

“(The goalie) had me beat going right, so I switched to my left and just shot it,” Fogg said.

Burchill then preserved the lead by denying Lane and Waeldner.

After Kennebunk senior Katherine Koch hit the crossbar, Antolini had a great chance to cut into the deficit, but as she shot, her stick was hit by a defender and the ball went wide.

After Burchill denied Then on a low shot and robbed Antolini, the Clippers finally ended a 20 minute, 13 second drought, as Lane set up Elder for a goal with 8:38 to play, cutting the deficit to 5-3.

Oakman won the ensuing draw, but Yarmouth junior Callie Decker forced a turnover.

Elder had a look to make it a one-goal game with 7:19 on the clock, but again, Burchill made a save.

The Clippers called timeout, but again Oakman intercepted a pass.

The Rams gave the ball back, however, and with 6:22 to go, Antolini ran in and again scored unassisted to make things very interesting, cutting the deficit to 5-4.

When Lane won the ensuing draw, Yarmouth was in position to pull even, but Oakman blocked a pass and junior Mia Murray got the loose ball.

Kennebunk called timeout with 5:11 on the clock and 28 seconds later, Fogg earned a free position, but she passed up the shot and the Rams continued to milk the clock down to 2:25 before senior Cory Langenbach forced a turnover and got the ball back for the Clippers.

With 1:36 remaining, senior Eliza Lunt got off a shot in traffic, but it didn’t have much on it and Burchill made the save.

Yarmouth would have one more chance.

With 58.1 seconds on the clock, Decker stole the ball back and the Clippers set up in the offensive zone and called timeout with 27.4 seconds to play.

After a season which saw it score almost at will, 199 times to that point, Yarmouth wasn’t able to produce the one more tally it so desperately needed.

The Clippers didn’t even muster a shot, as they threw the ball away with 18 seconds to go.

“We wanted to get everything moving and hopefully get a feed, but it just didn’t happen,” Antolini said.

“We were going to get the ball to Greta, who would get it to Eva, who was going to drive, but we threw it behind and we had an unforced turnover,” Holt said.

“Defensively, we were just trying to play like we usually do,” Oakman said. “As soon as they came out, we were on them and they ended up throwing the ball out of bounds. That’s what we do.”

Yarmouth almost got the ball back, but Schwartzman collected a ground ball and Kennebunk was able to run out the clock and at 11:24 a.m., celebrate arguably the most meaningful victory in program history, 5-4.

“We believed in ourselves,” Schwartzman said. “We knew we could get it done. We’re a low-key, quiet team that comes out and gets the job done. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world. There’s nothing more satisfying than coming off this field, being the underdog, having no one believe in us, except the girls around us, and proving them wrong. That was our motto. ‘Prove Them Wrong.'”

“All season, we wanted to prove everyone wrong,” said Fogg, who will play at Springfield College. “People thought we’d be average. That was our motivation. We proved them wrong by winning here. It wasn’t easy to hold on. They gave us a scare. We just had to settle down and stay composed. This means a lot. It was the last game of my high school career and to play in a championship game was amazing. Winning’s icing on the cake.”

“It’s awesome,” said Oakman, who will play at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts next year. “It’s a nice way to start of my next four years of lacrosse.”

“Our girls are resilient,” Barker added. “They’re all even-keeled. They were amazing. After the loss to York, which I think was the best thing that could have happened to us, we took them away and went camping and hiking and we built on that. It’s a quiet senior class. Not like last year. They’re loose all the time, while last year’s team was so tense.”

The Rams’ offense produced the fewest goals by a state champion since Waynflete edged North Yarmouth Academy, 5-4, in overtime, back in 2005.

Dumas and Gorton both scored twice and Fogg had one goal.

Beaudette and Schwartzman each had assists.

Burchill had eight critical saves.

“It was her best game,” Fogg said. “We couldn’t have done it without her.”

Oakman won 6 of 11 draws.

Fogg, Koch and Schwartzman shared team honors in ground balls with four apiece.

Kennebunk scored on five of its 13 shots (nine were on cage).

The Rams only turned the ball over 15 times.

Ultimately, Kennebunk’s defense was its biggest ingredient for success.

“It’s a six-man zone with a backer defender, Marran,” Schwartzman said. “Marran was absolutely phenomenal. She had a high numbers of turnovers and knockdowns. That saved us. Our defense was our backbone.”

“We knew they had two girls pop inside, so we worked on their crease play,” Barker said. “We pounded that the past couple days (in practice). They got a little frazzled against our tight defense. Defense has been our strength and Mallory came up huge. We needed her to do that.”

Gutwrenching end

Yarmouth got three goals from Antolini and one from Elder, but that was it for its offense.

“We pulled it together in the second half,” Antolini said. “I thought we’d come back. It needed to be a few minutes earlier, but we went down fighting. That’s the Yarmouth way. We gave 150 percent.

“Without a doubt, this is the most special team I’ve been on. We all love each other and love lacrosse and love Dorothy and all the coaches. We dug deep when we needed to. It wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but I couldn’t be more proud.”

Lane had one assist.

Gunville, who has been the state’s premier big-game goalie for four seasons, bowed out with four saves.

“Mary Kate was our goalie from freshman year,” Antolini said. “There was so much pressure on her shoulders. She kept her composure so well.”

The Clippers had a 29-22 edge in ground balls, as Then had a game-high seven and Lane and Langenbach each collected five.

Yarmouth had a 12-9 edge in shots and only turned the ball over 12 times, but couldn’t put the ball in the net when it mattered most.

“(Kennebunk) played exceptional today and we started off a little slow,” Holt said. “A fast start is so important. You gain confidence. We hit our stride in the second half, but they go into a stall pretty early. They’re known for that, so we were ready for it. We got the ball back. We just didn’t get the ball in the back of the net and they played really good defense.”

Despite the heartache of falling in the state game as the favorite, the Clippers had a lot to hail. Their 15 victories tied the 2007 team for the second most in a season in program history (the 2002 squad finished 16-0).

“It was a special season,” Holt said. “We didn’t end with a state championship, but this team accomplished so many goals. We got back here. We just came up short.”

Graduation will take a heavy toll, as Yarmouth has to part with Antolini, Gunville, Langenbach, Lunt, Waeldner, defender and captain Gretchen Barbera and Molly Wilson.

“This group won two state championships,” Holt said. “They’re special. I’ve known these girls since they were in fifth and sixth grade. I’ll really miss them. I have special groups every year because the Yarmouth lacrosse family is amazing. I had players in the stands today going back to Ana Petrovek.”

Dawn of a new era

Kennebunk plans to move up to Class A next season when the sport goes to three classes. The Rams will likely still face Yarmouth in the regular season, but for now, they won’t have to get through the Clippers to win a championship.

Despite the departure of Burchill, Dumas, Fogg, Koch, Oakman, Elizabeth Cain, Lydia Corcoran, Cassandra Pastorelli and Hayley Wuerthner, Kennebunk’s 2018 squad projects to be very strong again.

“It will be different next year,” Schwartzman said. “I have a little sister (Lily) coming up. I’m looking forward to playing with her. The program is so strong. We’ll adapt and be a family.”

“The JV kids we brought up are ready to roll,” Barker said. “We’ll just start again.”

The Clippers will still likely be the team to beat in Class B.

“We have so much talent and athleticism and grit,” said Antolini. “I will absolutely be in the stands next year hopefully watching them pull out a win.”

“Our youngsters are ready,” Holt said. “They got a sense of what senior leadership is. They saw some great senior leadership this year. They’ll be ready to step in those shoes. We’ll hopefully get back here.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Yarmouth junior Greta Elder looks to pass as Kennebunk junior Mia Murray defends.

Yarmouth senior Ella Antolini launches a shot. Antolini scored three of the Clippers’ four goals.

Kennebunk junior Briannagh Beaudette possesses the ball.

Kennebunk senior captain Marran Oakman, who was tremendous in all aspects Saturday, races up the field as Yarmouth senior Cory Langenbach tries to keep up.

Yarmouth senior goalie Mary Kate Gunville saves the shot of Kennebunk junior Erin Gorton as Clippers junior defender Callie Decker looks on.

Yarmouth junior Meredith Lane can’t get past Kennebunk senior Marran Oakman.

Yarmouth senior Katie Waeldner shadows Kennebunk junior Hallie Schwartzman.

Yarmouth senior Ella Antolini, left, is hugged by junior Greta Elder after scoring a goal.

Yarmouth senior captains Mary Kate Gunville, left, Gretchen Barbera and Katie Waeldner muster up smiles as they show off the runner-up trophy.

Kennebunk captains senior Gabby Fogg, left, junior Hallie Schwartzman and senior Marran Oakman beam after receiving the championship plaque.

Previous Yarmouth stories

Season Preview

Yarmouth 16 Fryeburg Academy 1

Yarmouth 12 Waynflete 4

Yarmouth 9 Greely 3

Yarmouth 7 Kennebunk 3

Yarmouth 9 Falmouth 8

Yarmouth 20 Winslow 2

Yarmouth 16 St. Dom’s 6

Previous Kennebunk stories

Kennebunk 9 Falmouth 5

Yarmouth 7 Kennebunk 3

Kennebunk 6 Cape Elizabeth 5

Previous state game results

Yarmouth

2016
Kennebunk 9 Yarmouth 7

2015
Yarmouth 11 Kennebunk 10 (OT) 

2014
Yarmouth 13 Cape Elizabeth 10 

2013 
Waynflete 7 Yarmouth 4

2011 
Yarmouth 9 Waynflete 8

2007
Yarmouth 7 Kennebunk 5

2006
Yarmouth 12 Waynflete 5

2002
Yarmouth 13 Kennebunk 8

1999
Waynflete 5 Yarmouth 3

1998
Waynflete 13 Yarmouth 8

1996
Yarmouth 5 Waynflete 4

1995
Waynflete 6 Yarmouth 5

1994
Waynflete 7 Yarmouth 6

1993
Gould 11 Yarmouth 8

Kennebunk

2016
Kennebunk 9 Yarmouth 7

2015
Yarmouth 11 Kennebunk 10 (OT) 

2009
Brunswick 13 Kennebunk 9

2008
Brunswick 15 Kennebunk 11

2007
Yarmouth 7 Kennebunk 5

2002
Yarmouth 13 Kennebunk 8

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.