Yarmouth senior Abby Hill plays the ball as Cape Elizabeth junior Leah Lindenau defends. Hill scored two goals to help Yarmouth to a 4-1 season-opening victory.

CAPE ELIZABETH—Prior to this unorthodox field hockey season, the concept of a fourth quarter scoring explosion simply didn’t exist.

That’s because prior to this season, teams played two, 30-minute halves, while this fall, there are four 15-minute quarters.

And Saturday afternoon at Hannaford Field, the Yarmouth Clippers saved their best for the final 15 minutes.

The Clippers and host Cape Elizabeth were tied, 1-1, entering the fourth period, but there, senior Lizzie Guertler, who scored the first Yarmouth goal, twice set up classmate Abby Hill for goals and in the final minute, senior Anna Pires rattled the cage as well and the Clippers welcomed new coach Molly Saunders with the gift of a 4-1 victory.

“We just want to play our hardest,” Guertler said. “That hasn’t changed. We want to win and play our best. The seniors want to go out and do well.”

New challenges

Much has changed since Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth last took the field nearly a year ago, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic looming over everything. The fall sports season was delayed and field hockey eventually got the go-ahead to play, but the season will be abbreviated without playoffs.

On the field, the biggest change this year is going from halves to quarters. Sanitation and safety remain a paramount concern, with players being discouraged from picking up the ball, which is commonplace prior to a penalty corner or after a goal.

The Capers won their final three games last fall to make the playoffs, then finished 7-8 after a 1-0 loss to Lake Region in the Class B South quarterfinals.

The Clippers, meanwhile, went 6-8-1, falling, 2-0, to Fryeburg Academy in its Class B South quarterfinal round game. This season, Yarmouth is coached by Saunders, who is from New Hampshire and previously coached at the University of New England. She inherits a senior-rich squad, which features 15 players in their final year.

The teams split a year ago, with Yarmouth winning, 2-1, at Cape Elizabeth and the Capers earning a 2-1 victory at the Clippers.

Saturday, prior to the game, Cape Elizabeth held its Senior Day ceremonies (many schools are choosing to hold it at the start of the season rather than at the end, due to concerns about being able to finish the schedule).

Then, the teams took the field and produced some offense, even if most of it held off until the fourth period.

Yarmouth had a great chance to score off the opening whistle, when it got possession in the Capers’ zone and Guertler managed a shot, but it was kicked aside by Cape Elizabeth freshman goalie Zoe Burgard.

The Clippers earned four penalty corners in the first quarter, but couldn’t convert on any of them and after 15 minutes, the game remained scoreless.

Each team then got on the scoreboard in the second period.

With 6:45 to go in the half, off a corner, the Capers struck first, as sophomore Grace Gray’s shot was rebounded home by junior Carmen Erickson as Yarmouth junior goalie Cassie Walsh couldn’t make the stop.

That lead only held up for a little over three minutes, however, after Hill set up a corner with a nice steal and rush. With 3:28 remaining before the break, Guertler deflected home senior Claudia Coolidge’s shot to make the score 1-1, which it remained entering the half.

“Claudia shot it in and I just had the extra tip to get it in the goal,” Guertler said. “Without her, I wouldn’t have scored.”

“Lizzie is one of our leaders,” said Saunders. “She’s played for a long time. I enjoy having her on the team.”

In the first half, Cape Elizabeth held a 3-2 edge in shots on goal, while Yarmouth had five penalty corners to the Capers’ two.

Neither team managed a shot on goal in the third quarter (the Clippers had four corners, but couldn’t take advantage) and the game would be decided in the final stanza.

The go-ahead goal came just 58 seconds into the fourth, as Guertler got the ball to Hill, who fired it past Burgard to put Yarmouth on top to stay, 2-1.

“Abby’s always in the right spot,” Guertler said. “We’re very used to playing together. We have really good communication.”

The Clippers then got some breathing room with 4:18 on the clock, as in transition, Guertler got the ball to Hill in front and Hill wouldn’t be denied, scoring for a 3-1 advantage.

“We just had to get the feel of the turf and get used to playing again,” Saunders said.

Cape Elizabeth couldn’t muster a shot down the stretch and with 16.8 seconds to play, Pires, from junior Cat Jordan, delivered the coup de grace, accounting for the 4-1 final score.

“It’s been a long time, so it was nice to play,” Guertler said. “The past two weeks, we’ve focused on staying together as a team and making the most of what we have and the time we have together. It’s been great having (Saunders) as a new coach. She’s let us show her what Yarmouth’s all about and she’s come in and brought new stuff which has made us better.”

“There are definitely a lot of obstacles, but our girls have come together and have followed the guidelines well,” said Saunders. “We’re just so grateful to be out here playing again. Typically in a preseason, you get two to three (practice) sessions a day for two weeks and we’ve had probably eight practices total. It’s been something to get used to, but we’re learning and looking forward to having a fun year.”

The Clippers finished with a 5-3 shots advantage, took nine penalty corners to the Capers’ three and got a pair of saves from Walsh.

Cape Elizabeth got one save from Burgard and couldn’t generate any offensive chances in the second half.

“It’s been challenging, but it was awesome to get out and play,” said Capers coach Maura Bisogni. “We’re trying to honor our seniors. They’ve come out and played to win and played hard for three years.”

Game two

Cape Elizabeth returns to action Wednesday at Greely.

“We’re a little rusty and we’re transitioning into playing field hockey and trying to win,” Bisogni said. “That’s the challenge.”

Yarmouth, meanwhile, is also back in action Wednesday, at Falmouth.

“Winning is definitely a plus, but right now, we’re just looking to make memories,” Saunders said. “We have 15 seniors. Giving them something to remember the rest of their lives is my goal.”

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

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