FALMOUTH — Unfinished business.
That’s the motto of the Falmouth High girls’ lacrosse team this season.
“This is going to be our year,” said Falmouth senior Sydney Bell. “We have to make it our year. We want a state championship and we want to get to where we’ve never been before.”
For the past two years, Kennebunk has thwarted the Yachtsmen’s efforts to win their first state title by defeating them in the Class B South regional final. But with both two-time regional champions – Kennebunk and Yarmouth – graduating a lot of players, Falmouth is looking to go all the way.
“They’re hungry for it because we’ve knocked them out two years in a row,” said Kennebunk Coach Annie Barker. “Sydney Bell is the real deal. If (teams are) not prepared to stop her, they can win it all.”
Bell, a Maine Sunday Telegram All-State midfielder, had 71 goals and 27 assists last season. But the Rams found a way to shut her down in the regional final, which they won 8-3 before defeating Yarmouth 9-7 for their first state title. The year before that, Kennebunk beat Falmouth in the regional final 9-7, then lost to Yarmouth, 11-10.
This year, Kennebunk is young. After notching an undefeated season, the defending state champions graduated 11 seniors – including five four-year varsity players in attackers Jenny Bush, Kyra Schwartzman, Olivia Sandford, Carly Sandler and goalkeeper Bella Kudas.
“They see that those seniors are gone and think, ‘Oh, they’re going to be young and weak – they lost all their talent,” said Kennebunk senior defender Marran Oakman. “Little do they know we had a bench full of really great players.”
Falmouth Coach Kait Johnson isn’t fooled.
“Never underestimate Kennebunk,” Johnson said. “They graduated a lot of talented players, but they have just as many coming up.”
The Rams have a JV squad that hasn’t lost in years, and – so far – those players seem to be filling their predecessors’ big shoes. Kennebunk opened its season Saturday with a 17-1 victory over Fryeburg Academy.
Barker said she will count on Oakman, a defender Sydney Bell said will be hard to get past, along with versatile midfielders Gabby Fogg and Hallie Schwartzman to step into leadership roles for Kennebunk.
“When the superstars go away, it’s amazing how the kids step up and fill in,” Barker said. “Last year, we changed our philosophy to the more people we can have come off the bench to give everyone a rest, the better we’re going to be.”
The Yachtsmen were in a similar boat last season when they started four freshmen in the wake of graduating a large senior class. Now, they are returning a talented core of sophomores with varsity experience, including Kayla Sarazin, Caitlyn Camelio, Christina Oakes and Natalie Birkel.
“We just have to work on not getting too nervous – not getting in our own head,” Bell said. “It’s a big game, and you just think about it. You want in so badly that, sometimes, you psych yourself out.”
For Falmouth seniors such as Bell and Devon Sarazin, it’s now or never.
“I’m definitely ready to get back at them,” said Devon Sarazin, an attacker, of Kennebunk. “They’re definitely going to be a top team and a big rival, but I think we can take them this year.”
“We want to win for them,” said Kayla Sarazin, a sophomore midfielder for Falmouth as well as Devon’s younger sister. “It’s not necessarily pressure – it’s more of a will to win.”
While Kennebunk may have lost a lot of players, they also have shed the burden of expectations.
“In previous years, we’ve had a lot of external pressure on us,” said Hallie Schwartzman, a junior who scored four goals in the Rams’ opener. “Kennebunk has a reputation for being a well-rounded, strong team everywhere. We’re hoping to be just as talented as we have been in years past without the extreme pressure.”
“It’s nice to surprise people,” Gabby Fogg added.
But Yarmouth Coach Dorothy Holt said she wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see the two Class B South rivals face off again for a spot in the state final.
“You’ll see Falmouth and Kennebunk on that side of the bracket for sure. That’s going to be a big matchup,” Holt said. “I think you’ll see everybody getting better and better, each team is getting strong.”
The Clippers have dominated the other side of the bracket for the last four years, winning four Class B North titles and two state championships since 2013. After graduating six players, Yarmouth will count on All-Telegram defender Gretchen Barbera and goalkeeper Mary Kate Gunville, both seniors, to help the team get back to the big stage.
“We’re young, but we kept some seasoned players in some key positions,” Holt said. “We’ll try to make a run for it.”
Taylor Vortherms can be contacted at 791-6417 or