Falmouth senior Caitlyn Camelio jumps for joy and is mobbed by her teammates after her seventh goal gives the Yachtsmen a late lead in Friday’s epic Class A North semifinal against Cheverus. Falmouth advanced with an 11-10 victory.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.


Class A North semifinal

Falmouth 11 Cheverus 10

C- 3 7- 10
F- 5 6- 11

First half
17:52 F Camelio (free position)
16:41 F Camelio (Oakes)
16:11 F Fishman (Camelio)
14:27 C Flaherty (unassisted)
13:55 F Camelio (unassisted)
13:14 F Camelio (free position)
2:19 C O’Mara (free position)
24.1 C O’Mara (Keating)

Second half
24:42 C Mazur (unassisted)
24:30 F Camelio (unassisted)
23:55 F Camelio (free position)
23:12 F Sarazin (free position)
19:18 F Fishman (Hamilton)
17:45 C Mazur (free position)
14:45 C O’Mara (Mazur)
14:23 C Booth (MacDonald)
10:29 C Booth (MacDonald)
8:09 C Black (free position)
4:40 F Clement (free position)
3:09 C Mazur (unassisted)
2:06 F Camelio (free position)

C- Mazur, O’Mara 3, Booth 2, Black, Flaherty 1
F- Camelio 7, Fishman 2, Clement, Sarazin 1

C- MacDonald 2, Keating, Mazur 1
F- Camelio, Hamilton, Oakes 1

Draws (Falmouth, 14-8)
C- Mazur 8 of 21, Booth 0 of 1
F- Sarazin 13 of 21, Clement 1 of 1

Ground balls:
C- 26
F- 38

C- 17
F- 16

C- 16
F- 29

Shots on cage:
C- 14
F- 24

C (Cawley) 13
F (Dubinsky) 4

FALMOUTH—Its five-goal lead was gone and its repeat title hopes were hanging by a thread, but Falmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team refused to buckle in an unforgettable Class A North semifinal against Cheverus Friday evening.

And the Yachtsmen would find a way to prevail.

Thanks in large part to a spectacular effort from a transcendent player, senior Caitlyn Camelio.

Hosting No. 5 Cheverus, the top-ranked, defending Class A champion Yachtsmen appeared en route to a decisive win when they went up by four goals in the first half and again when they led by five in the second half, but the valiant Stags, led by a special talent of their own, senior Zoe Mazur, would rally and make things very, very interesting.

Falmouth jumped to a quick 3-0 lead behind a pair of goals from Camelio and another from sophomore Avi Fishman and after junior Aisling Flaherty got Cheverus on the board, Camelio scored twice more for a seemingly safe 5-1 advantage.

The Stags would rally late in the half, getting two goals from fabulous freshman Riley O’Mara and when Mazur scored 18 seconds into the second half, Cheverus was only down one, but Camelio scored twice, senior Kayla Sarazin scored on a free position and Fishman scored with 19:18 to play for a 9-4 lead.

No one outside of the Stags’ sideline and their cheering section expected them to rally, but they would do so with a flourish, scoring five times in just over nine minutes to shock the partisan crowd.

Mazur got things started with a free position goal, O’Mara added a goal and senior Bella Booth scored twice, before senior Annesley Black’s free position goal with 8:09 on the clock forged an improbable 9-9 tie.

Sophomore Eva Clement put the Yachtsmen back on top with a free position goal with 4:40 remaining, but Mazur made it 10-10 with 3:09 left.

Cheverus could never grab the lead, however, and with 2:06 to go, Camelio earned a free position and buried it and Falmouth was able to milk most of the remaining clock and held on for a scintillating 11-10 victory.

Camelio, who is bound for the University of Michigan, had a game for the ages with seven goals and the Yachtsmen improved to 12-1, ended the Stags’ campaign at 9-5 and advanced to host either No. 2 Windham (11-1) or No. 3 Portland (11-2) in the Class A North Final Wednesday of next week, at a time to be announced.

“It’s exhilarating and a relief,” Camelio said. “It was scary, but we never gave up. It was a great game. It was great competition. They’re a great team and Zoe is amazing. Props to her, but we rallied and we never gave up. That’s always the motto for our team.”

Tougher than expected

Falmouth has gotten plenty of attention this spring, while Cheverus has impressed as well under first-year coach Lauren Lessard.

The Stags started with a 9-8 home win over Waynflete, then won at Scarborough (14-7) and Lewiston (11-7) before falling at home to Kennebunk (13-8) and at Windham (11-8). Cheverus got back in the win column at Sanford (16-5), then fell at home to Falmouth (14-7). After handling visiting Deering (18-2), the Stags fell at home to Portland (7-6), but they downed host York (15-9), visiting Marshwood (11-10, in overtime) and host South Portland (20-9) to close the regular campaign.

Wednesday, Cheverus pulled away to down No. 4 Oxford Hills in the quarterfinals, 19-8.

As for Falmouth, after opening with a 10-2 win at Biddeford, the Yachtsmen edged visiting Kennebunk, 8-7, in an overtime thriller. Wins at Messalonskee (16-7) and at home over Marshwood (14-1) followed before Falmouth was upset at Windham, 7-6. The Yachtsmen then got back on track with a 10-2 victory at Waynflete and after that came decisive wins over visiting Scarborough (14-3), visiting Lewiston (10-0), host Cheverus (14-7), visiting Bonny Eagle (17-2) and host Thornton Academy (14-4). Falmouth then closed with a dramatic 8-5 home victory over Massabesic in a state final rematch and leapfrogged Windham for the top seed in Class A North and with it, a bye into the semifinal round.

In the regular season encounter, May 20, Camelio scored five times in the Yachtsmen’s win.

Falmouth also beat Cheverus in last year’s Class A North semifinal, 17-5, in the teams’ lone prior playoff meeting, en route to the championship.

Friday, on a beautiful 68 degree evening, the Stags capped their season in heroic fashion, but the Yachtsmen had the last laugh, showing why they’re defending champions and why they hope to win it all again.

Sarazin, who has gone virtually unchallenged in the draw circle this spring, won the game’s first opportunity and nearly opened the scoring 27 seconds in, but her shot was saved by Stags sophomore goalie Neve Cawley, who also robbed senior Christina Oakes and Sarazin again to keep the game scoreless.

Camelio was able to break the ice with 17:52 left in the first half, when she finished a free position.

With 16:41 to go, Camelio finished a feed from Oakes to double the lead.

When Sarazin won the ensuing draw and Camelio set up Fishman for a goal 30 seconds later, Falmouth had a quick 3-0 advantage and Lessard had to call timeout.

Cheverus would respond, on an unassisted goal by Flaherty with 14:27 on the clock, but 32 seconds later, Camelio put home a rebound and with 13:14 remaining before halftime, Camelio’s free position made it 5-1 Yachtsmen.

“My teammates and I worked well and I got open,” Camelio said.

But just when it appeared Falmouth was on the verge of running away and hiding, Cawley robbed junior Emily Hamilton and Clement’s apparent goal landed on the outside of the net.

The Stags then closed the half with two goals to get right back in it.

With 2:19 to go, O’Mara beat Yachtsmen junior goalie Hannah Dubinsky with a free position shot.

Then, with 24.1 seconds on the clock, senior Margaret Keating eschewed a shot on a free position and instead, fed O’Maray, who finished to pull Cheverus within 5-3 at the break.

Sarazin won six of nine draws and Falmouth had a commanding 16-5 edge in shots in the first half, but seven Cawley saves kept the Stags in the game.

And they would stay in it.

Right until the very end.

Mazur won the opening draw of the second half, then 18 seconds in, she beat Dubinsky and just like that, Cheverus only trailed by one, 5-4.

The Yachtsmen would respond and in just over five minutes, they’d score four times to open up a five-goal advantage.

Off the ensuing draw, Sarazin won the ball to Oakes, who raced in and shot only to have Cawley save it, but Camelio pounced on the rebound and despite being fouled, finished with 24:30 left in regulation.

Falmouth then added another goal 35 seconds later, as Camelio finished a free position.

Sarazin then scored on a free position with 23:12 left and the Yachtsmen’s lead grew to 8-4, forcing Lessard to call her final timeout.

It didn’t pay immediate dividends, as Fishman scored (from Hamilton) with 19:18 to go, but Cheverus would embark on a stirring rally.

The comeback began with 17:45 remaining, as Mazur finished a free position.

Three minutes later, Mazur threaded the needle to O’Mara, who made a catch in traffic, then beat Dubinsky to make it 9-6.

Mazur won the ensuing draw and with 14:23 showing, senior Terryn MacDonald set up Booth, forcing Pullen to call timeout.

It didn’t help, as with 10:29 to go, the MacDonald-to-Booth tandem produced another goal and just like that, the Stags only trailed by one.

And with 8:09 remaining, Black’s free position completed the rally and made it 9-9.

Cawley kept the game tied by denying Oakes, then with 6:21 on the clock, Cheverus had its lone chance to go on top, but Dubinsky came up huge, robbing Mazur.

Falmouth then transitioned to offense and with 4:40 to play, Clement’s free position gave the hosts a 10-9 lead.

It wouldn’t last.

After Mazur missed just high, the Yachtsmen had a chance to transition to offense, only to turn the ball over and Mazur was at the right place at the right time, pouncing on a loose ball in front of the goal and she fired it past Dubinsky to tie the game again, 10-10, with 3:09 left.

“We have a core group of seniors, but Zoe is phenomenal,” Lessard said. “She’s a great midfielder, defender, attack. We put her on the best girl in each game. She thrives and is the momentum of our team. Her shots are unbelievable. Her speed is incredible. She’s great on draw controls. She’s capable of going D1.”

Falmouth managed to get the ball back and after Sarazin, who won the draw, was robbed by Cawley, Camelio earned a free position.

With 2:06 on the clock, Camelio took the biggest free position of her young career so far and she raced in, faked, then fired past Cawley for an 11-10 lead.

“I didn’t let myself get into my head,” Camelio said. “I take a deep breath and I go. I try to move the goalie and it worked in my favor.”

“Caitlyn is amazing,” Falmouth coach Ashley Pullen said. “It’s a privilege to coach a player of her caliber. To know you have her in your corner when you need a goal or turnover is great. She’s the one you want with the game on the line.”

Cheverus still had hope, but couldn’t get the ball back, as Sarazin won the draw and after Fishman scooped up a contested ground ball to keep possession, the Yachtsmen ran the clock down to 8.4 seconds before Cawley robbed Camelio to give the Stags a final chance.

Cheverus couldn’t transition the ball into the offensive zone, however, and Sarazin scooped up one final ground ball and at 7:37 p.m., Falmouth was able to exhale and celebrate its grueling and palpitating 11-10 victory.

“We’ve practiced the stall a ton and we pulled it off for almost two minutes,” Camelio said. “At the timeout, we said, ‘We have eight seniors and this could be our last game ever. We have another game on this turf, so let’s get to it.'”

“We’ve worked on stalls all season long and we did a good job with it at the end,” Pullen said. “It was a great game. Games like this, as intense and emotionally draining as they are, they’re exhilarating too. I’d rather have a game like this than have it lopsided because it’s sweeter when you have to earn it.

“Cheverus was amazing. I can’t say enough about their effort. They battled back. They made us pay for our errors. Zoe is a great player and we knew that. We tried to prepare for her, but you can only prepare so much. She put her team on her back. They rallied around her. She did a great job on the draws.”

Camelio had a game for the ages at the most optimal time, scoring seven times and adding an assist for good measure.

Fishman had two goals and Clement and Sarazin both scored once.

Hamilton and Oakes had assists.

Dubinsky made four saves.

The Yachtsmen had a 14-8 advantage in draws, a 38-26 edge on ground balls (Sarazin collected nine and Camelio six), a 29-16 shots advantage (24-14 on cage) and overcame 16 turnovers.

Simply valiant

Cheverus’ offense was paced by Mazur and O’Mara, who both scored three times. Booth had two goals, while Black and Flaherty tickled the twine once apiece.

MacDonald had two assists and Keating and Mazur added one apiece.

Cawley made 13 big saves.

Mazur had a game-high 12 ground balls.

The Stags committed 17 turnovers.

“It’s disappointing, but we’re really proud,” Mazur said. “We came together so well. In the beginning, it was rocky, but we put all of our hearts out there. We’re kind of a second half team. Our coach gets the inspirational speeches going and we pump each other up. We were the underdogs and we had nothing to lose and that’s what drove us. We proved ourselves.”

“I can’t even say the word disappointed,” Lessard said. “I’m so proud of these girls. This was my first year as a head coach at 23 years old and I couldn’t ask for anything more. We played a team of veterans who have been together, with an awesome feeder system, and we came in as a group of everyone being from everywhere. The girls played their hearts out and fought for every ball. I fired them up in timeouts. They have the knowledge. It’s just getting them on the same page. As a player, I knew I needed that, so I pump them up.

“No one is hanging their heads. We know where we were last year. I had a good feeling when I woke up this morning and they did too. They’re happy more than anything.”

Cheverus graduates nine seniors and while their absence will be felt, the Stags return plenty of talent and should only get better in 2020.

“The future’s bright,” Lessard said. “We have a great group of seniors. Our underclassmen and freshmen coming in will put in the work in the offseason and we’ll be there next year once again.”

Home sweet home

Considering that a week ago, Falmouth didn’t think it would even have homefield advantage, the Yachtsmen are thrilled to be hosting the regional final Wednesday.

Falmouth knows nothing will come easily, but it’s hard to pick against this squad’s championship heart.

“We have to come back even hungrier,” Camelio said. “This was too close for comfort. We’ll have good practices and come out strong.”

“Windham and Portland are both great teams,” Pullen said. “Whoever we end up facing, it’ll be a battle. We’re focused on Wednesday and Wednesday only. It’s huge to be able to play here.”

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

Falmouth sophomore Avi Fishman is defended by junior Sarah Cummings.

Cheverus senior Zoe Mazur, who was spectacular all game, drives on Falmouth senior Natalie Birkel.

Cheverus senior Bella Booth tries to slow Falmouth senior Caitlyn Camelio.

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