YARMOUTH—Kennebunk reaffirmed that it’s the best girls’ lacrosse team in the state Tuesday night, but the defending Class B champion Yarmouth Clippers made some nice strides as well during the teams’ lone regular season meeting.

The visiting Rams never trailed and opened up an early 3-0 lead, but on five occasions, the Clippers drew within two goals. They never could get it to one, however, to make things really interesting, as Kennebunk, thanks to a solid offensive production and nine key saves from junior goalie Bella Kudas answered every challenge.

The Rams clung to a 6-4 lead late in the first half and after dodging a bullet when Yarmouth senior Shannon Fallon hit the crossbar, they took momentum into the half when junior standout Jenny Bush scored her third goal of the half, converting a feed from junior Liv Sandford, with just under five seconds to go.

Then, after the Clippers got close again at 7-5 on junior Lilly Watson’s unassisted goal early in the second half, Kennebunk scored three straight times to open up a comfortable lead.

Yarmouth made one final run late, but the Rams were able to run out the clock and hold on for a 10-7 triumph.

Bush led the way with three goals and Sandford and junior Carly Sandler scored two goals apiece as Kennebunk improved to 4-0 and dropped the Clippers to 1-3 in the process.

“We were all really pumped up going in,” Bush said. “We knew it would be a tight game and we had to fight through. It was a big test and I’m really glad we got through it.”

“We’re not getting the bounces quite yet,” said Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt. “It’ll come. The momentum went both ways. I think we’re evenly matched.”

Home away from home

While Yarmouth rarely loses on its home turf, Kennebunk is one squad which has had a fair amount of luck. Entering Tuesday’s game, the Rams had won the last three meetings in Yarmouth, including an 8-6 decision in last year’s regular season finale. In fact, the Clippers hadn’t beaten Kennebunk in Yarmouth since May 1, 2003 (9-8, in overtime).

The Clippers did win in Kennebunk last season, 9-6, and many expected the teams to meet a third time in the Class B Final, but the Rams were upset by Cape Elizabeth in the Western B Final and Yarmouth went on to down the Capers, 13-10, to win the state title.

This year, Kennebunk is viewed as the favorite, while the Clippers have some holes to fill to get back to championship level.

The Rams have lived up to billing in the early going, dominating Gould Academy in the opener, 16-7, then impressing with a rare win over nemesis Waynflete (in Portland no less) last week, 8-4. Saturday, Kennebunk had no trouble with visiting Wells in an 18-1 triumph.

Yarmouth struggled out of the gate, losing at home to Falmouth in the opener, 14-9, then after a two-week break, falling at York, 8-6. The Clippers righted the ship Saturday with an emphatic 16-3 win at Freeport. 

Tuesday, Yarmouth struggled early and while it battled hard for 50 minutes, it ultimately fell just short.

While the Clippers were having trouble holding on to the ball early, the Rams had some good looks, but Bush shot wide and junior Kyra Schwartzman’s shot was saved by Yarmouth sophomore goalie Mary Kate Gunville.

With 20:59 to go in the first half, Kennebunk broke through, as Schwartzman set up Sandford for a goal and the Rams were ahead to stay.

A little over a minute later, with 19:32 showing, Sandler got her first goal, assisted by junior Katy Ross, and the lead was 2-0.

The Clippers’ first good offensive look came with 18:14 to go before halftime, but senior Caitlin Teare was denied by Kudas.

At the other end, with 17:16 left, Bush scored for the first time, curling around the goal, beating a defender, then shooting past Gunville to make the score 3-0.

Yarmouth didn’t panic and 40 seconds later, got on the board when Watson scored unassisted, but after sophomore Eliza Lunt and Fallon were both denied by Kudas, Bush scored unassisted again for a 4-1 lead at the midway point of the half.

The Clippers’ second goal came with 10:41 to go before halftime when senior Emma Torres scored unassisted, but after coach Annie Barker called a timeout, Kennebunk again answered, as Sandford scored unassisted with 10:12 left.

Again Yarmouth pulled within two, when Fallon scored unassisted at the 9:19 mark, but after Gunville saved a Sandford free position, Sandford set up Schwartzman for a goal with 5:20 remaining to restore the three-goal advantage, 6-3.

Thirty-five seconds later, Fallon fed sophomore Cory Langenbach to cut the deficit back to two and with 3:15 left before the half, Fallon appeared primed to make it a one-goal game, but her bid hit the crossbar.

Late in the half, the Rams looked to add to their lead, but Bush missed a shot and the Clippers earned possession. Yarmouth then committed its 13th turnover of the half and Kennebunk got one more chance and did it ever take advantage.

As time wound down, Sandford threw a high pass to Bush in front. Fortunately for the Rams, Bush is blessed with size and tremendous athleticism and she stretched, got to the ball and one-timed a shot past Gunville with 4.7 seconds showing for a momentum-turning goal which made it 7-4 Kennebunk at halftime.

“I just knew we needed a score,” Bush said. “I got open. Liv is a great feeder. She got it to me and I scored and I got so excited. (The pass) was a little high, but it gave me momentum going into the shot. That worked out great. It gave us great momentum going into the half.”

The game remained in doubt for most of the second half as well.

The Clippers looked to get off to a fast start when sophomore Ella Antolini, who was excellent in the draw circle all night, won possession to Torres, who raced in for a great look 14 seconds in, but Kudas made a save.

Moments later, Kudas robbed Langebach, Lunt shot wide and Langenbach was wide on a free position.

Finally, with 19:45 to go, Watson scored an unassisted goal to again bring Yarmouth within two, 7-5, but this time the Rams pulled away for a little breathing room.

Just 51 seconds after Watson’s goal, Sandler scored on a free position.

After Torres and Fallon both shot wide, at the other end, Schwartzman set up Ross for a goal with 17:36 to play. With 15:24 remaining, playing man-up, Kennebunk made it 10-5 as senior Hayley Fecko scored unassisted.

The Rams wouldn’t score again, but it didn’t matter.

The Clippers got goals from Torres (set up by Fallon) with 9:34 to play and senior Lane Simsarian (assisted by Watson) at 7:46, but they would get no closer.

Watson earned a free position with 7:02 to go, but Kudas made another key save.

With 4:33 left, Watson was again denied by Kudas.

From there, Kennebunk ran out the clock and celebrated its 10-7 victory.

“It was really back-and-forth,” Bush said. “It made me nervous, but we knew we had to keep pushing and that’s what we did.”

“They gave us a battle,” Barker said. “It was huge for us not to let them get it to one. They’re dangerous.”

Bush had three goals to lead a balanced attack. Sandford and Sandler each scored twice and Fecko, Ross and Schwartzman had one goal apiece. Sandler and Schwartzman both had two assists, while Ross finished with one.

“Our philosophy is to trust everyone because we want everyone to be rolling at the end of the year,” Barker said. “We’re trying to develop everybody.”

Kudas made nine saves, but they were all huge.

“They put a lot of shots on me, but I just had to focus on one at a time,” Kudas said. “(Close games are) more fun. I like to see a lot of shots. It’s more exciting.”

“She did so great,” Bush said. “I love having her back there. She’s really an anchor. She made so many saves. That saved us today.”

“Bella really stepped up big tonight,” Barker added. “She’s done a great job back there in the cage.”

Kennebunk had a 39-35 edge in ground balls, Bush and Sandford had six apiece. Shots were even, 17-17, and the Rams overcame an uncharacteristic 24 turnovers.

For Yarmouth, Torres and Watson both scored twice, while Fallon, Langenbach and Simsarian had one goal apiece. Fallon finished with two assists, while Watson had one.

Antolini won 8 of 14 draws to help the Clippers finish with a 10-9 edge.

“Ella did great off the draw,” Holt said. “She came in and did a fabulous job against a phenomenal draw person(Bush). We knew we had to win the draw to even make it a game.”

Sophomore Katie Waeldner had a terrific game, leading all players with seven ground balls.

“Katie Waeldner had the best game I’ve seen her play,” Holt said. “The team rallied behind her tonight. The youngsters are stepping up.”

Gunville made two saves.

Yarmouth had a 16-12 edge in shots on cage, but was doomed by 23 turnovers.

“It was an exciting game,” Holt said. “We did a lot of good things, but our wounds were self-inflicted. We had too many turnovers against a really good team. We can’t do that. We almost came back, but we made too many silly mistakes.”

Quickly forgotten

Unlike last year, Kennebunk and Yarmouth only play once this spring, unless of course they square off June 20 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in the state final.

Both teams have a lot of work to do before even thinking of the postseason and neither will have an easy time of it from here on out.

The Rams have another huge test upcoming Friday when defending Class A champion Massabesic pays a visit. Cape Elizabeth comes to town for a playoff rematch Wednesday of next week, then Kennebunk visits Messalonskee in a crossover. Games at York and North Yarmouth Academy and home showdowns with Falmouth and Greely also loom.

“I feel like we’re starting to jell,” Bush said. “We’re only going to get stronger. I’m excited to see what the future holds. We’re ready for Massabesic. We can’t wait.”

“I’ve really enjoyed myself this season,” Kudas said. “All the girls are great. We’re working well together. I think it’s going to be a great season. We try not to pay attention to the pressure. We just focus on the next game and pump each other up.”

“I expect the same style of game from Massabesic, so it was good to have this game tonight,” Barker added. “So far, so good, but we’re turning the ball over too many times.”

The Clippers don’t play again until Tuesday of next week, when they go to Fryeburg Academy. After hosting Scarborough in a crossover, Yarmouth will have home games against Lake Region and Greely. The Clippers then go to Waynflete, host Cape Elizabeth and close with contests at Brunswick and NYA.

Yarmouth is slowly getting to where it wants to be.

“You can see it coming,” Holt said. “We’re still learning how to play with each other and trust each other. We’ll have some fun this week and work on little things. Once we get that, we’ll hit the ground running next week.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Yarmouth sophomore Eliza Lunt fights Kennebunk sophomore Gabby Fogg for the ball.

Yarmouth senior Emma Torres tries to get past Kennebunk junior Liv Sandford.

Yarmouth junior Lilly Watson splits a pair of Kennebunk defenders and prepares to shoot on goal.

Recent Yarmouth-Kennebunk results

Yarmouth 9 @ Kennebunk 6
Kennebunk 8 @ Yarmouth 6

Kennebunk 8 @ Yarmouth 7

Kennebunk 9 @ Yarmouth 5

Yarmouth 12 @ Kennebunk 11 (OT)
Class B State Final
Yarmouth 7 Kennebunk 5

@ Kennebunk 13 Yarmouth 8
@ Yarmouth 9 Kennebunk 8 (OT)

@ Yarmouth 10 Kennebunk 5
Yarmouth 7 @ Kennebunk 6
State Final
Yarmouth 13 Kennebunk 8

Sidebar Elements

Yarmouth senior Shannon Fallon is tightly defended by Kennebunk senior Hannah Pepin during the Rams’ 10-7 victory Tuesday night.

Jason Veilleux photos.

More photos below.


Kennebunk 10 Yarmouth 7

K- 7 3- 10
Y- 4 3- 7

First half
20:59 K Sandford (K. Schwartzman)
19:32 K Sandler (Ross)
17:16 K Bush (unassisted)
16:36 Y Watson unassisted)
12:30 K Bush (unassisted)
10:41 Y Torres unassisted)
10:12 K Sandford (unassisted)
9:19 Y Fallon (unassisted)
5:20 K K. Schwartzman (Sandford)
4:45 Y Langenbach (Fallon)
4.7 K Bush (Sandford)

Second half
19:45 Y Watson (unassisted)
18:54 K Sandler (free position)
17:36 K Ross (K. Schwartzman)
15:24 K Fecko (unassisted) (MAN-UP)
9:34 Y Torres (Fallon)
7:46 Y Simsarian (Watson)

K- Bush 3, Sandford, Sandler 2, Fecko, Ross, Schwartzman 1
Y- Torres, Watson 2, Fallon, Langenbach, Simsarian 1

K- Sandler, Schwartzman 2, Ross 1
Y- Fallon 2, Watson 1

Draws (Yarmouth, 10-9)
K- Bush 9 of 19
Y- Antolini 8 of 14, Torres 2 of 4, Lunt 0 of 1

Ground balls (Kennebunk, 39-35)
K- Bush, Sandford 6, Parent, K. Schwartzman 5, Fecko, Fogg 4, Kudas 3, Pepin, Sandler, H. Schwartzman 2
Y- Waeldner 7, Torres 5, Lunt 4, Simsarian, Watson 3, Antolini, Barbera, Coyne, Fallon, Langenbach 2, Bartlett, Myers, Teare 1

Y- 23

K- 17
Y- 17

Shots on cage:
K- 12
Y- 16

K (Kudas) 9
Y (Gunville) 2