Yarmouth's upset bid falls short this time; Kennebunk earns elusive first championship

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Kennebunk senior captains Jenny Bush, left, Olivia Sandford and Kyra Schwartzman beam as they show off the championship plaque following Saturday’s 9-7 win over Yarmouth in the Class B state final. The Rams avenged last year’s painful loss in the same game and won the first title in program history.

Chris Lambert photos.

Yarmouth senior captains Campbell Dorsett, left, Lauren Bartlett and Lilly Watson receive the runner-up plaque in the postgame ceremony. The Clippers’ two-year run as Class B champion came to a close, but not without an inspirational effort.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Kennebunk 9 Yarmouth 7

Y- 2 5- 7
K- 5 4- 9

First half
23:32 K Koch (Sandford)
16:32 Y Langenbach (free position)
12:38 K K. Schwartzman (Sandler)
10:19 Y Then (Langenbach)
2:36 K Bush (unassisted)
1:50 K H. Schwartzman (unassisted)
59.8 K K. Schwartzman (unassisted) 

Second half
24:11 K K. Schwartzman (free position)
22:33 Y Kirk (Lunt)
16:53 K K. Schwartzman (Sandler)
11:33 K K. Schwartzman (free position) 
8:55 Y Then (Elder)
5:14 Y Then (Kirk)
1:12 Y Harrison (unassisted)
17.7 K Sandford (free position)
0.0 Y Then (Elder) 

Goals:
Y- Then 4, Harrison, Kirk, Langenbach 1
K- K. Schwartzman 5, Bush, Koch, Sandford, H. Schwartzman 1

Assists:
Y- Elder 2, Kirk, Langenbach, Lunt 1
K- Sandler 2, Sandford 1

Draws (Kennebunk, 14-3)
Y- Antolini 3 of 9, Lane 0 of 4, Kirk 0 of 3, Then 0 of 1
K- Bush 14 of 17

Ground balls (Kennebunk, 35-24)
Y- Then 5, Kirk 4, Antolini, Dorsett 3, Bartlett, Lane, Lunt 2, Corey, Watson, Wilson 1
K- H. Schwartzman 9, Bush 8, Sandford 4, Fogg, Koch, Sandler 3, Parent 2, Kudas, Oakman, K. Schwartzman 1

Turnovers:
Y- 14
K- 11

Shots:
Y- 13
K- 21

Shots on cage:
Y-12
K- 17

Saves:
Y (Gunville) 8
K (Kudas) 5

PORTLAND—Kennebunk’s girls’ lacrosse team got its long-awaited coronation, but Yarmouth sure didn’t make it easy.

Not that the Rams could, should or would have had it any other way.

Kennebunk, not only the best team this spring, but arguably one of the finest in state annals, battled the two-time state champions in the Class B Final Saturday morning at Fitzpatrick Stadium and got to demonstrate all of what makes it so great.

The Rams took the lead a minute-and-a-half in, as unheralded senior Kristen Koch scored, but after Clippers junior goalie Mary Kate Gunville, a big-game goalie if there ever was one, prevented Kennebunk from going ahead by more, junior Cory Langenbach scored to tie the game with 16:32 to play in the first half.

The Rams retook the lead on a goal from senior Kyra Schwartzman (you haven’t heard the last from her), but sophomore Eva Then (who also was just getting started) tied the game again.

With Gunville doing her thing and Yarmouth’s defense holding Kennebunk’s prolific offense at bay, it appeared the Clippers were in a great position, but the Rams, as they’ve done all postseason, closed the first half strong.

Senior standout Jenny Bush, who had been held in check up until that point by a face-guarding strategy, put Kennebunk ahead to stay with 2:36 remaining, when she scored unassisted.

That sparked a three-goals-in-97-seconds surge that gave the Rams breathing room.

Bush’s goal was followed by unassisted tallies from sophomore Hallie Schwartzman and Kyra Schwartzman to make it 5-2 Kennebunk at halftime.

When Kyra Schwartzman opened the second half with a free position goal, the Rams were up by four and after sophomore Jess Kirk answered for Yarmouth, Schwartzman scored twice more to make it 8-3 with 11:33 to play, seemingly putting the game away.

But the Clippers refused to go quietly.

Two goals from Then and another from senior Sophia Harrison cut the deficit to 8-6 with 1:12 to play and sophomore Greta Elder had a chance 20 seconds later to make things really interesting, but Rams senior goalie Bella Kudas made the save.

With 17.7 seconds left, senior Liv Sandford delivered the dagger, scoring on a free position, and even though Then scored as time expired, Yarmouth didn’t have quite enough and after falling short on five previous tries, Kennebunk was state champion at last, 9-7.

Kyra Schwartzman scored five times, Bush won 14 of 17 draws and the Rams capped a 15-0 season, one of the finest seasons in the history of girls’ lacrosse in the state, and ended the Clippers’ two-year run as state champions, dropping them to 12-4 in the process.

“It feels good,” said longtime Kennebunk coach Annie Barker, who got the monkey off her back at last. “These kids deserved to get this one. They’ve worked so hard. We took it one game at a time. We didn’t even make a big deal that this was the state game.”

“It was an amazing effort from start to finish,” said Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt. “The score was indicative of the game. They’re a great team and you can’t make turnovers against a great team. That’s what hurt us. We could have collapsed being down, but coming back shows how we’ve come together as a team.”

A coronation at last

Kennebunk has annually been in contention for a state title, but despite its best effort, has consistently found itself stymied by the likes of Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Waynflete or Yarmouth.

This spring, the Rams were viewed as the prohibitive favorite and they more than lived up to billing. 

Kennebunk, with five college-bound players on its roster, produced the highest Heal Points tournament index (231.111) in memory, was equal parts prolific on offense (scoring in double figures in 10 of 12 games and putting up 158 goals) and stingy on defense (only surrendering 41 goals and holding eight of 12 foes to three goals or less) during a dazzling 12-0 regular season (see sidebar, below, for previous game stories).

The Rams had no trouble with Class A champion Messalonskee (15-2), won with surprising ease at defending Class A state champion Marshwood (15-5) and were truly only tested once, when they had to go to double overtime to win at Falmouth, 7-6.

As the top seed in Class B South, Kennebunk was equally as impressive in the postseason, as after a bye, it scored seven unanswered goals to dispatch No. 5 Waynflete (10-2) in the semifinals, then controlled play from start to finish in Wednesday’s 8-3 win over No. 2 Falmouth in the regional final.

Yarmouth, meanwhile, lost several key contributors from last year’s squad and did stumble at home against York in the opener and at Kennebunk and Falmouth, but even as the No. 3 seed, met little resistance in the Class B North field, putting up 44 goals in three contests, downing No. 6 Freeport (15-5) in the quarterfinals, No. 2 St. Dom’s (13-6) in the semifinals and top-ranked Morse (16-7) in Wednesday’s regional final.

In the regular season meeting May 24, the Rams got three goals from Bush and two from Kyra Schwartzman as they had the lead most of the way en route to a 9-5 triumph. 

The Rams and Clippers met three times previously in state finals (see sidebar, below) with Yarmouth winning the one-class championship in 2002 (13-8) and repeating in Class B both in 2007 (7-5) and last June (11-10, in overtime).

In that one, Kennebunk came in as the favorite, but the Clippers shot to an early 3-0 lead, held an advantage most of the way and after the Rams rallied to force overtime, then-junior Lilly Watson scored in the first portion of the six-minute OT and Yarmouth ran out the clock from there to win an absolute thriller, 11-10.

The Clippers also won crowns in 1996, 2006, 2011 and 2014. They lost in the state final in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2013 (see sidebar, below).

In addition to their losses to Yarmouth, Kennebunk was beaten by Brunswick in the Class A Final in 2008 and again in 2009.

Saturday afternoon, under beautiful, sunny, 72 degree skies, the Rams finally ascended to the pinnacle.

Bush set the tone by winning the opening draw, but Kennebunk turned the ball over.

Yarmouth gave it right back as Sandford intercepted a pass and she raced into the offensive zone and passed to wide open Koch, who beat Gunville with 23;32 to go in the first half for a 1-0 lead.

After Sandford shot wide and Gunville denied Sandford on a free position, the Clippers finally got a settled offensive possession.

Yarmouth’s first shot, from Then, was saved by Kudas, but with 16:32 remaining in the half, Langenbach earned a free position and buried her shot to make it 1-1.

Gunville then showed what’s made her so special on the big stage, denying Kyra Schwartzman, Sandford and Sandler in an 84-second span to keep the game deadlocked.

The Clippers weren’t able to go ahead, however, and with 12:38 left in the half, Schwartzman scored her first goal, one-timing a feed from Sandler past Gunville, and the Rams were up, 2-1.

Yarmouth was again able to answer and Langenbach was again in the middle of it, as she set up Then for her first goal and the score was 2-2.

After Hallie Schwartzman had a shot blocked, sophomore Erin Gorton shot high, then Gorton had a shot saved by Gunville.

With 5:34 remaining in the half, Langenbach had a free position opportunity to give the Clippers the lead, but Kudas made the save.

With 3:41 left, Kirk fired a shot that Kudas got a piece of and deflected it off the post and out.

Yarmouth would never again come so close to taking the lead.

For most of the first half, when Kennebunk had the ball on offense, Bush was smothered by junior Gretchen Barbera, who face-guarded and shadowed her everywhere she went.

Bush did get free once, however, with 2:36 to go, as off a re-start, Bush raced in on goal and beat Gunville to put the Rams ahead to stay, 3-2.

That opened the door for Kennebunk to get some breathing room, as with 1:50 to go in the half, Hallie Schwartzman scored unassisted to make it 4-2.

With 59.8 seconds showing, Kyra Schwartzman scored again, unassisted, and the lead was up to three.

“Once we get the momentum, and sometimes that comes from the defense, we get on a roll and we get confident and we get going,” Sandford said.

Bush almost extended the lead even further after winning the ensuing draw, but Gunville made the save and the Rams took a 5-2 lead to the half.

In the first half, Bush won 7 of 8 draws, Kennebunk had a 21-14 advantage in ground balls, forced nine turnovers while committing only three and had a 14-6 edge in shots.

Only six saves from Gunville kept Yarmouth within hailing distance.

The Rams then seemingly put it away early in the second half.

Just 23 seconds into the half, Bush earned a free position, but shot wide.

Kennebunk kept the ball and with 24:11 remaining in the game, Kyra Schwartzman earned a free position and finished to make it 6-2.

After Gunville denied Koch, the Clippers got a goal back with 22:33 left, as Kirk took a pass from junior Eliza Lunt and finished to cut the deficit to three.

With 16:53 remaining, the Rams went back ahead by four, as out of a timeout, Sandler fed Kyra Schwartzman for a 7-3 lead.

With 13:44 left, Schwartzman had a free position shot saved by Gunville, but she got another chance with 11:33 remaining and this time, she finished to make it 8-3 and seemingly put it away.

Yarmouth junior Ella Antolini won the ensuing draw, which was notable because Bush had won 11 in a row up to that point.

With 9:05 to go, Kennebunk junior defensive standout Marran Oakman was given a yellow card and was sidelined for two minutes,

The Clippers took advantage, as Elder fed Then 10 seconds later to make it 8-4.

Oakman got another yellow with 5:57 left and again Yarmouth produced a goal, as after Kudas denied Langenbach, Kirk set up Then to cut the deficit to 8-5.

The Rams were able to run some time off the clock, but after a turnover, the Clippers scored again, as Harrison raced in and finished unassisted with 1:12 to play, making the score 8-6 and creating some discomfort among Kennebunk and its fans.

When Antolini won the ensuing draw, Yarmouth very much had life, but Kudas made her biggest save of the game, robbing Elder with 52.8 seconds showing, and the Clippers’ last, best chance to rally had gone by the wayside.

With 35.2 seconds left, Kirk was sent off with a yellow and Kennebunk scored one final goal with 17.7 seconds to go, as with Gunville out of the cage, Sandford was given a free position and she ripped a shot into the empty net to make it 9-6.

At that point, the Rams’ celebration began, but Yarmouth wasn’t quite ready to pack it in.

The Clippers got the ball back with time winding down and just before the clock hit zero, Elder passed to Then, who fired the ball into the net as the horn sounded.

The goal stood, but it wasn’t enough, and Kennebunk beat Yarmouth, 9-7.

At 2:06 p.m., after the better part of two decades of close calls and heartache, the Rams erupted with joy.

“We did it,” Bush said. “It feels better than I even thought it would feel. I knew they’d give us a great game. They weren’t going to let us get away with winning by five goals. We pushed through and I knew we would. We played so well together this whole season. I couldn’t ask for a better team, better coaches. In our heads, we knew we had to finish it. We just played our game. It’s so special to be the first state champion lacrosse team from Kennebunk. This is for Coach Barker and the whole coaching staff. We’re so happy.”

“It wasn’t easy,” Kyra Schwartzman said. “We knew coming in it would be a battle. You can’t walk into a state championship game thinking it will be an easy road. We were ready mentally and we were ready physically. We knew coming in it would be whoever has more heart and passion. We know we’re not always going to get the calls you look for. We talked about overcoming adversity and I think we did. Last season was great, but this one is one to remember. It’s great to have a perfect season, but that’s not what mattered. We knew what happened before didn’t matter. It’s been a great ride with these girls.”

“It’s very exciting,” Hallie Schwartzman said. “We’ve worked hard all season, all offseason. It’s really rewarding. We knew we had to play 50 minutes and not take a break and we did that today.” 

“It’s amazing, especially to end my senior year like this,” Sandford said. “It’s awesome. We’re like a family this year. We tried to think of it as a new season, but losing a state championship lit a fire. We tried to take it one game at a time. That was our mentality. This was the end goal. They’re really aggressive, but we were prepared for it today.”

A worthy champion

Kennebunk got goals from five different players, but it was the Merrimack College-bound Schwartzman who shone the brightest, capping her stellar career with five goals (giving her 205 total points in four years).

“We’ve been in the position before when Jenny gets face-guarded, so we knew we had to work to get her open and she had to work to get us open,” Schwartzman said. “For me, I didn’t think I had to do it. I just happened to be the one getting open, but it could have been any of the other girls.”

“I’m really proud of Kyra,” said Hallie Schwartzman, Kyra’s younger sister. “She’s my idol. I want to be just like her. She’s an amazing player and an amazing person.”

“I knew Kyra would step up today,” Bush said. “She’s awesome. Every one of our attackers are amazing.”

The Assumption College-bound Bush (who wound up with over 200 career points as well) scored once.

“We set picks for (Jenny) and she set picks for other people,” Barker said. “We practiced it all week. I thought (Dorothy) might do that, so we were prepared. If you take Jenny out, some one else is in. Today, it was Kyra, then when they took Kyra out, it was Liv.”

Koch, the Bates College-bound Sandford and Hallie Schwartzman also scored a goal.

“Hallie really helped us out in transition,” Barker said. “We had practiced that.”

Sandler (who is bound for Lynchburg College in Virginia) had two assists and Sandford finished with one.

Bush’s impact was most felt in the draw circle, where she bested four separate foes 14 of 17 times to earn critical possessions for her team.

“I had a feeling they might (face-guard me),” Bush said. “I knew if I couldn’t score, I had to win every draw, get every ground ball, re-defend, do whatever I could. I just wanted to work hard and I think I did that. They kept rotating them in, but I’m proud of how me and the other circle players did today on draws.”

“Jenny did a good job getting open and setting picks for us,” Hallie Schwartzman said. “She did a great job working off the ball to get us open and let us score.”

Kudas, who will play next year at Drew College in New Jersey, made five saves.

The Rams had a 35-24 advantage in ground balls (Hallie Schwartzman led all players with nine and Bush had eight).

“Ground balls are my speciality,” Hallie Schwartzman said.

Kennebunk only turned the ball over 11 times in 50 pressure-packed minutes and enjoyed a 21-13 shots advantage (16-12 on cage).

“W knew Yarmouth would give us a tough game and I expected nothing less,” Barker said. “We prepared the girls for the physical game and they were ready.

“This team managed to finish. I think the love piece was there. They loved each other and loved coming to practice. If you don’t have all those factors, you can’t finish, no matter how talented you are. I don’t know what they’re going to do with themselves on Monday.”

Kennebunk will have to part with a special group of seniors, who will never be forgotten in Rams’ lore.

“It’s been an amazing ride with (the seniors),” Hallie Schwartzman said. “I’ve not only become a better player, but a better teammate. They’ve taught me countless things. We’ve had girls come up from JV. We also have a great feeder system. We’ll be ready.” 

“(The seniors are) great role models, great athletes, academic scholars, they have the whole package,” Barker said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. The younger kids are the same thing. The feeder system is kicking in for us, so I think we’ll be OK next year.”

Two out of three ain’t bad

Yarmouth’s offense was paced by Then, who scored four times in a breakout effort. Harrison, Kirk and Langenbach had one goal apiece.

Elder assisted on two goals, while Kirk, Langenbach and Lunt each had one assist.

Gunville made eight saves.

“Mary Kate kept us in it,” Holt said. “That’s what you get when you have a veteran goalie. She carries us in every game. She makes us feel like one big family. Once you’re part of the Yarmouth lacrosse family, you’re part of it forever.” 

Then had a team-high five ground balls.

The Clippers committed 14 turnovers.

“A lot of people thought we shouldn’t be here, because that’s the draw,” Holt said. “A lot of people counted us out, but we showed we deserve to be here. My seniors stepped up. My captains stepped up. Everybody played. It took the whole team to get here. You can’t doubt these youngsters.

“We create a standard at Yarmouth. These girls have risen. I’m so proud of them. They prepared and they were ready. We came to fight. There are no tears here because we gave our best. Everyone left it all on the field. Kennebunk capitalized on our mistakes and that’s what a good team does. We had determination. Conditioning and stick skills and draw controls. This is the first time we had to break it down, but we played like veterans today.”

Yarmouth will be back in 2017, looking to return to the pinnacle.

Bank on it.

“Next year starts now,” Holt said. “The youngsters wanted to practice again today. They have a goal and a drive to get back here. This is a special place. That’s how we treat it. It just doesn’t come to you handed on a platter. It’s a lot of hard work to get here and you have to earn it. We earned it. I tell the girls to take it in and cherish it.”

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

Kennebunk sophomore Hallie Schwartzman is defended by Yarmouth junior Eliza Lunt.

Kennebunk senior Carly Sandler shoots on Yarmouth junior goalie Mary Kate Gunville, who makes one of her eight saves.

Yarmouth junior Cory Langenbach races in for a shot.

Kennebunk senior Kyra Schwartzman scores one of her five goals.

Yarmouth sophomore Jess Kirk is stymied by Kennebunk junior defender Elizabeth Cain.

Kennebunk sophomore Hallie Schwartzman gets a step on Yarmouth sophomore Greta Elder. Schwartzman led all players with nine ground balls.

Even though Yarmouth scored at the final horn, Kennebunk was the team exulting as it won the Class B title.

It’s safe to say that Kennebunk’s girls’ lacrosse team was thrilled as it got to show off its spoils following the victory.

Previous Yarmouth stories

Season Preview

Yarmouth 13 @ NYA 3

@ Yarmouth 4 Waynflete 3

@ Kennebunk 9 Yarmouth 5

@ Falmouth 14 Yarmouth 7

Previous Kennebunk stories

Kennebunk 13 @ Waynflete 3

@ Kennebunk 9 Yarmouth 5

Kennebunk 7 @ Falmouth 6 (2 OT)

Class B South semifinal
@ Kennebunk 10 Waynflete 2 

Class B South Final
@ Kennebunk 8 Falmouth 3 

Previous state game results

Yarmouth

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

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.