Falmouth junior Sydney Bell fires a shot through Kennebunk senior Cara Small, left, sophomore Erin Gorton and junior Marran Oakman during the teams’ thrilling regional final rematch Thursday afternoon. The Yachtsmen erased a three-goal deficit to force overtime, but the Rams won it, 7-6.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.


Kennebunk 7 Falmouth 6 (OT)

K- 3 3 0 1- 7
F- 3 3 0 0- 6

First half
20:40 F D. Sarazin (Bell)
18:50 K Sandford (K. Schwartzman)
10:58 F Stucker B(ell)
4:08 F Bell (unassisted)
3:40 K K. Schwartzman (Bush)
1:02 K Bush (Sandford)

Second half
24:35 K K. Schwartzman (unassisted)
21:27 K Sandler (free position)
10:55 K Sandler (Sandford)
5:19 F Bernier (K. Sarazin)
4:01 F D. Sarazin (free position)
3:46 F Stucker (Bell)

First overtime
No scoring

Second overtime
2:28 K K. Schwartzman (Sandford)

K- K. Schwartzman 3, Sandler 2, Bush, Sandford 1
F- D. Sarazin, Stucker 2, Bell, Bernier 1

K- Sandford 3, Bush, K. Schwartzman 1
F- Bell 3, D. Sarazin, Stucker 1

Draws (Kennebunk, 11-5)
K- Bush 11 of 16
F- Bell 4 of 13, K. Sarazin 1 of 3

Ground balls (Falmouth, 36-31)
K- Sandford 10, Oakman 5, Bush 4, Kudas 3, Parent, H. Schwartzman, Small 2, Koch, Sandler, K. Schwartzman 1
F-  Bell, Bernier, K. Sarazin 6, D. Sarazin 4, Camelio, Farrell 3, M. Budri, Stucker 2, Birkel, N. Budri ,Oakes, Smithwick 1

K- 19
F- 23

K- 21
F- 9

Shots on cage
K- 14
F- 10

K (Kudas) 4
F (M. Budri) 7

FALMOUTH—Falmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team is never out of a game.

And Kennebunk has the heart of a champion.

So something had to give when arguably the state’s two best squads did battle in an instant classic on a sizzling Thursday afternoon on the Yachtsmen’s home turf where not surprisingly, 50 minutes weren’t enough to determine the winner.

The Rams, who haven’t trailed all season, were behind much of the first half, as junior Devon Sarazin gave Falmouth an early lead and after Kennebunk senior Olivia Sandford tied the score, juniors Olivia Stucker and Sydney Bell scored to give the Yachtsmen a 3-1 advantage.

Instead of buckling, however, the Rams showed the form they hope will make them first-time champions next month, as senior standouts Kyra Schwartzman and Jenny Bush scored before the break to forge a 3-3 tie.

Schwartzman put Kennebunk ahead 25 seconds into the second half and senior Carly Sandler added a pair of goals to put the Rams on top, 6-3, with 10:55 to play, but Falmouth refused to say die and embarked on a spirited, inspirational rally.

With 5:19 remaining, senior London Bernier cut into the deficit and snapped a nearly 24-minute scoring drought in the process.

With 4:01 showing, Sarazin scored on a free position to make it 6-5 and off the ensuing draw, Bell set up Stucker to tie the game with 3:46 to go.

Both teams had ample chances to win in regulation, but nerves were too much to overcome and several turnovers ensued and the contest went to overtime.

One three-minute, “sudden victory” OT didn’t determine a winner, as Kennebunk held the ball the whole time, but its lone good scoring chance, a shot in front by Bush, was denied by Yachtsmen junior goalie Mary Budri.

Bush won the draw to start the second overtime as well and after holding the ball, Sandford spotted a cutting Schwartzman, who scored the goal that ended the game 32 seconds in, as the Rams survived for an exhausting and exhilarating 7-6 triumph.

Schwartzman had a game-high three goals, Sandford added three assists and Kennebunk improved to 11-0, locked up the top seed for the upcoming Class B South tournament and dropped Falmouth to 10-1 in the process.

“It was stressful, our closest game to date,” Schwartzman said. “It’s good for us to face adversity, good to realize what it is to be down and to have to find that fight and dig deep.”

“We showed up to play,” said Yachtsmen coach Kait Johnson. “We were mentally prepared and we were physically prepared. Kennebunk is always a mental battle, no matter what they look like. I’m proud we came back.”

Heavyweight bout

These two squads are the real deal and have been since practice started in late March.

Kennebunk came out of the gate red-hot, toying with visiting Fryeburg Academy (17-1) and York (14-2). The Rams then made a powerful statement when they romped at Waynflete, 13-3. After holding off visiting Greely, 11-8, Kennebunk dominated visiting Cape Elizabeth (14-2) and defending Eastern A champion Messalonskee (15-2), romped at Freeport (17-1), won at Lake Region (10-3), then beat the two defending state champions in succession, downing host defending Class A champion Marshwood, 15-5, Saturday, then beating visiting defending Class B champ Yarmouth Tuesday 9-5, in a state game rematch.

Falmouth opened by beating visiting Freeport (16-5) and Waynflete (17-6). The Yachtsmen then held on for a 9-8 victory at Thornton Academy, won at York (13-7) and Cape Elizabeth (17-8), at home over North Yarmouth Academy (17-7) and Gorham (11-2), then at Fryeburg Academy (17-4), Wells (17-2) and Greely (14-7).

The teams had met eight times over the past decade with the Rams prevailing on five occasions (see sidebar, below).

Last spring, Falmouth won in Kennebunk, 10-8, behind three Bell goals in the regular season, but the Rams came to Falmouth for the Western B Final and turned the tables, racing to leads of 4-0 and 6-1 before holding on for a 9-7 victory behind three goals apiece from Bush, Sandford and Schwartzman.

On a gorgeous, sunny (76 degrees at the onset) Thursday afternoon, the two powerhouses put on an unforgettable show.

The Yachtsmen were hoping for their first home win over the Rams since May 12, 2012, but Kennebunk had just enough to stay perfect.

Bush won the opening draw, but the Rams couldn’t get a shot and Falmouth then went on the attack where Bell had a good look, only to have her shot denied by Kennebunk senior goalie Bella Kudas.

After Budri denied Sandler and Sandford had a great look on a free position, but shot high, the hosts broke the ice.

With 20:40 left in the first half, Bell threw a gorgeous pass over the defense, right on to the stick of Sarazin, who beat Kudas for a 1-0 lead.

After Schwartzman missed an open net, the visitors tied the score, as Schwartzman set up Sandford to make it 1-1 with 18:50 to play in the half.

After Sandford shot wide and sophomore Hallie Schwartzman was robbed by Budri, Falmouth went back on top with 10:58 remaining, as out of a timeout, Bell delivered another terrific pass to Stucker, who finished to make it 2-1.

Budri then preserved the lead with a save on Sandford on a free position and Rams junior Gabby Fogg hit the post.

Kudas robbed Sarazin at the other end, but Budri did the same to Bush.

Then, with 4:08 to play before halftime, in transition, Bell bounced off a defender, got some space, then finished unassisted for a 3-1 lead.

The Rams were staggered, but they responded quickly.

After Bush won the ensuing draw, she set up Kyra Schwartzman, who this time didn’t miss, and the deficit was just one with 3:40 to go.

Then, with 1:20 left before the break, Sandford set up Bush for a goal and the game was tied again, 3-3.

After not trailing for the first 500 minutes of its season, Kennebunk was behind for 11 minutes, 46 seconds in the first half, but responded like the champion it hopes to become.

“Coming into the game, we were all pretty nervous,” Schwartzman said. “We knew on both sides that this was a big game. We have to work on keeping our composure.”

“We learned a lot about ourselves today,” said Rams coach Annie Barker. “It’s the first time we’ve been down in a game.”

In the first half, Bush won four of seven draws and Kennebunk enjoyed an 11-4 shots advantage, but Budri made four big saves.

You can only slow the Rams’ juggernaut for so long, however, and Kennebunk got some separation 25 seconds into the second half.

Bush got possession to start the half and the ball came to Schwartzman, who froze a defender in her tracks, then beat Budri to give the visitors their first lead, 4-3.

With 21:27 to play in regulation, Sandler got in the scoring column with a free position goal.

After Bush was robbed by Budri and Sandford shot high, Kennebunk made it 6-3 with 10:55 left, as Sandford set up Sandler for what appeared to be a backbreaking tally.

Except the Yachtsmen can score quickly and weren’t about to quit.

After Kudas denied Falmouth freshman Christina Oakes at one end and Budri saved a Bush shot at the other, Falmouth snapped a season-high 23 minute, 49 second scoring drought and the Rams’ 5-0 run when Sarazin set up Bernier with 5:19 left.

Bush won the ensuing draw, but the Rams turned the ball over and the Yachtsmen made them pay when Sarazin earned a free position and converted it with 4:01 to play, cutting the deficit to a mere goal.

Barker called timeout, trying to stem the tide, but Bell won the draw and with 3:46 remaining, in transition, she fed Stucker in front, Stucker tickled the twine and just like that, the game was tied, 6-6.

“We beat ourselves in the first half and much of the second half, but we flipped the switch and got the jitters out,” Johnson said.

The rest of regulation was a Keystone Kops routine, as the teams traded off turning the ball over, each giving it away four times, and the game would go to overtime deadlocked, 6-6.

In a new rule this spring, girls’ lacrosse overtime is decided by “sudden victory,” not two three-minute sessions as was the case for so many years.

That amped up the pressure and the drama.

Bush won the opening draw and a minute into OT, she got the ball right in front with a chance to end it, but Budri made her biggest save.

The Rams kept possession and ran the clock down, but they couldn’t get another shot off and the game went to a second extra session.

Where Bush again won the draw.

“Draw controls are huge and they beat us,” Johnson said. “That was big in this game.”

Kennebunk set up near the Falmouth goal and then the game came to a sudden conclusion.

At 5:17 p.m., after 97 minutes of palpitating lacrosse, Sandford found a cutting Schwartzman and Schwartzman’s shot eluded Budri, rattled home and the Rams got to celebrate their 7-6 victory.

“We got it down there and passed the ball around,” Schwartzman said. “It could have been any of us. I happened to be able to get open and find the space. Liv saw me and trusted me to pass the ball to and I found the goal. It feels great, but I’m just happy we got the win as a team. It’s more stressful now that it’s sudden death. It was exciting.

“You never have it won until the buzzer sounds. A three-goal lead was decent, but it wasn’t good enough. It’s never over, but I was confident going in overtime. I trust every girl on the team. We have the skill, it was just a question of the mental game and we ended up coming out on top. That’s because we trust each other. We dug deep.”

“The girls found a way,” Barker said. “I said to them after the first half, ‘Let’s start from scratch,’ and we came out on fire. Then we let (Falmouth) back in and they got momentum. In overtime, we had to get possession of the ball and it was huge for us. It’s sure nice to have Jenny and Kyra in our corner.”

Schwartzman finished with three goals, while Sandler scored twice and Bush and Sandford had one goal apiece. Sandford had three assists and Bush and Schwartzman both had one.

Kudas made four saves.

Sandford had a game-high 10 ground balls.

Bush won 11 of 16 draws.

The Rams enjoyed a 21-9 shots advantage (14-10 on cage) and overcame 19 turnovers.

Building block

Falmouth’s offense was paced by two goals apiece from Sarazin and Stucker. Bell and Bernier both scored once. Bell had three assists, while Sarazin and Stucker had one apiece.

Budri made seven saves and got a big lift from her defense, which came of age.

“We played tough defense all year long,” Johnson said. “Our ride is tough and we have a very fast team. We body up and work on turning people with our feet. Mary has been stepping up. I attribute that to goalie coach Laura Bishop. She’s been amazing.”

Bell, Bernier and freshman Kayla Sarazin shared team honors with six ground balls apiece as the Yachtsmen held a 36-31 advantage.

Falmouth was hindered by 23 turnovers.

“We have so many young players, so it’s a learning curve,” Johnson said. ” Today, our defense was consistent and we beat ourselves with turnovers. We threw the ball out of bounds. It’s correctable.”

If there was any doubt that the Yachtsmen are committed to improvement, the sight of Bell, Oakes and Sarazin taking shooting practice 15 minutes after the game dispelled it.

From here on, Falmouth can play without pressure.

“I’m so pumped we don’t have the weight of a perfect season on our shoulders,” Johnson said.

See you June 15

It’s hard to envision a scenario where Falmouth and Kennebunk don’t meet in the regional final for the second straight year. Not that it will be easy for either team to get there.

The Rams will tune up for the playoffs by hosting NYA on Senior Night Wednesday. They’ll have a bye into the semifinals, then the road to the championship game will go through Kennebunk.

“It’s nice to have homefield advantage, that’s been our goal,” Schwartzman said. “We’re climbing a mountain. To have homefield advantage and to have our fans there means the world to us. The biggest thing is keeping our composure and playing a tougher mental game.”

“It’s important to have homefield,” Barker said. “We’ve played well at home, but we’ve played well on the road as well. It’ll be nice to have the Kennebunk fans there. We still have to improve on our mental game.”

The Yachtsmen (who will be second in Class B South) finish at home Wednesday as well with a much tougher test, as two-time defending Class B champion Yarmouth pays a visit. That will be an ideal tuneup for the postseason where Falmouth also has a bye into the semifinals.

It’s not the semifinals that the Yachtsmen are eyeing, however.

Falmouth wants another crack at Kennebunk on the big stage of the regional final.

“Kennebunk’s so good, so talented,” Johnson said. “We’ll get them on the flip side. This game got the first time jitters out and we know them now. It’s going to be a great competition if we see them again.”

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

Kennebunk senior Carly Sandler shoots on Falmouth junior goalie Mary Budri. Sandler scored twice in the win.

Falmouth freshman Kayla Sarazin carries the ball as Kennebunk senior Olivia Sandford (whose arm reads, “I’m not tired.”) defends.

Falmouth sophomore Chelsey Smithwick looks to pass as Kennebunk senior Cara Small defends.

Falmouth senior Nicole Budri defends Kennebunk senior Jenny Bush.

Falmouth junior Sydney Bell races past Kennebunk junior Marran Oakman en route to the goal.

Kennebunk senior Olivia Sandford shoots as Falmouth junior Gabby Farrell defends.

Kennebunk senior Kyra Schwartzman goes one-on-one with Falmouth junior goalie Mary Budri. Schwartzman ended the game with a goal in the second overtime.

Previous Falmouth-Kennebunk results

Falmouth 10 @ Kennebunk 8
Western B Final
Kennebunk 9 @ Falmouth 7

Kennebunk 9 @ Falmouth 8

Falmouth 14 @ Kennebunk 8

@ Falmouth 17 Kennebunk 10

@ Kennebunk 15 Falmouth 4

Western B semifinals
@ Kennebunk 11 Falmouth 7

Western B quarterfinals
@ Kennebunk 14 Falmouth 6

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