Cape Elizabeth junior Annaliese Rudberg tries to protect the ball from Kennebunk senior Lily Schwartzman during the Rams’ 13-2 victory Tuesday. Michael Hoffer / For The Forecaster

BOX SCORE

Kennebunk 13 Cape Elizabeth 2

K- 6 7- 13
CE- 1 1- 2

First half
22:09 K Sliwkowski (unassisted)
21:04 K Schwartzman (Archibald)
20:50 K Maloney (Archibald)
15:08 K Sliwkowski (unassisted)
12:07 K Sliwkowski (free position)
4:49 CE Graham (McDonald)
1:11 K Gassman (free position)

Second half
23:28 K Maloney (Sliwkowski)
15:05 K Archibald (unassisted)
14:50 K Schwartzman (Sliwkowski)
12:31 K Sliwkowski (free position)
10:16 K Schwartzman (Sliwkowski)
5:40 CE Graham (unassisted)
3:12 K Schwartzman (Archibald)
51.9 K Archibald (unassisted)

Goals:
K- Schwartzman, Sliwkowski 4, Archibald, Maloney 2, Gassman 1
CE- Graham 2

Assists:
K- Archibald, Sliwkowski 3
CE- McDonald 1

Draws (Cape Elizabeth, 10-7)
K- Schwartzman 6 of 12, Gassman 1 of 4, Archibald 0 of 1
CE- McDonald 9 of 12, Leiss 0 of 4, Gagne 1 of 1

Ground balls:
K- 33
CE- 33

Turnovers:
K- 16
CE- 20

Shots:
K- 24
CE- 10

Shots on cage:
K- 18
CE- 7

Saves:
K (Hansen) 5
CE (Branch) 5

CAPE ELIZABETH—The only problem with having a secret weapon is that eventually the secret gets out.

Or in the case of Ruby Sliwkowski, that secret gets out fast.

Like her.

Sliwkowski, a Kennebunk sophomore who you’re going to hear a lot about the next three seasons, played in her first varsity game Tuesday afternoon at Hannaford Field, displaying poise, dazzling speed and a tremendous finishing touch, as her three first half goals helped the Rams open up a 6-1 halftime lead over two-time reigning Class B champion Cape Elizabeth.

Sliwkowski went on to score four times and assisted on three other goals and that, combined with the brilliance of established senior stars Lily Schwartzman (four goals) and Emily Archibald (two goals, three assists), paced Kennebunk to a 13-2 victory in its season opener.

The Rams showed why many view them as the team to beat this year in Class A, while in the process, they dropped the Capers to 0-2 on the young season.

“You can’t teach what (Ruby) has,” said longtime Kennebunk coach Annie Barker. “She’s a solid player and a great kid. I guess that secret is out.”

Ruby’s Tuesday

Cape Elizabeth and Kennebunk have consistently been among the state’s best girls’ lacrosse programs in recent seasons.

The Rams got to the Class A state final in 2019, but lost to Falmouth, 5-3.

The Capers won dramatic Class B championships in both 2018 and 2019, edging Yarmouth in overtime on both occasions. Cape Elizabeth opened its 2021 campaign Monday with a hard-fought 13-12 loss at York.

While both teams have a lot of new faces following the lost season of 2020, there’s little doubt that Cape Elizabeth and Kennebunk will be in the hunt for their respective championships.

In the team’s last meeting, two years ago, the host Rams won a low-scoring affair, 5-3.

Tuesday, on a breezy yet comfortable afternoon, especially for Cape Elizabeth in mid-April, which saw the temperature fluctuate from the high 50s into the 60s, the Capers sought their first victory over Kennebunk since June 18, 2014 (an 8-7 overtime victory in the Western B Final) and their first at home over the Rams this century, but instead, Kennebunk made it seven straight in the series.

In impressive fashion.

Sliwkowski first made her presence felt seconds after Schwartzman won the opening draw, leaving the Cape Elizabeth defense in her wake before firing a shot on Capers junior goalie Elise Branch, but Branch made the save.

After Branch robbed Schwartzman, Sliwkowski put the Rams on top to stay, scoring unassisted with 22:09 to play in the 25-minute first half.

Just over a minute later, with 21:04 on the clock, Schwartzman scored for the first time, taking a feed from Archibald before finishing to make it 2-0.

A mere 14 seconds after that. Archibald found senior Skylar Maloney for Kennebunk’s third goal and the tone was set.

Cape Elizabeth tried to answer, but Rams junior goalie Lily Hansen stuffed a shot from junior Sadie Smith.

With 15:08 remaining in the half, Sliwkowski scored for the second time, finishing after weaving through the defense.

Then, with 12:07 on the clock, Sliwkowski converted a free position and the lead was 5-0.

While Sliwkowski appeared to be playing with ice-water in her veins, she did admit that she had some butterflies at the start.

“I actually was nervous,” Sliwkowski said. “This was my first game since eighth grade, but once I stepped on the field, I was in game mode. That first goal settled me down. Today went super-well. I’ve been waiting for this for what feels like forever. I’m so happy to be back playing. Putting on a Kennebunk uniform means everything to me.”

“It’s great to have someone as talented as (Ruby) on the field,” Schwartzman said. “We’re happy to have her. We have a new sophomore class and a new freshman class this year. There’s a different vibe, but the old working with the new has worked really well.”

The hosts finally broke through with 4:49 to play in the first half, as senior Charlotte Graham finished a feed from junior Claire McDonald.

A minute later, Graham looked to pull the Capers even closer, but her shot was saved by Hansen.

Then, with 1:11 left before halftime, senior Danielle Gassman scored on a free position and Kennebunk took a commanding 6-1 advantage to halftime.

In the first half, the Rams won five of eight draws and took 11 shots to Cape Elizabeth’s three.

Cape Elizabeth senior Katie Haines races up the sideline as Kennebunk freshmen Ivy Armentrout (13) and Keara Battagliese give chase.

The second half would be more of the same, as Kennebunk kept the pressure on.

With 23:28 to play, in transition, Sliwkowski set up Maloney for her second goal and a 7-1 lead.

“We just know each other really well and we know what works,” Sliwkowski said. “We know how to take the (one-on-ones) and if it’s not there, we know who to dish it to.”

The Capers looked to answer, but McDonald had a shot saved by Hansen, a free position shot from senior Hannah Johnson was also denied and McDonald had a shot get past Hansen, but it rang off the crossbar.

The Rams then returned to their scoring ways, as Archibald scored unassisted with 15:05 left, Sliwkowski found Schwartzman in transition off the ensuing draw for a goal 15 seconds later and with 12:31 to play, Sliwkowski converted a free position to make it 10-1.

Kennebunk was able to induce the 10-goal-lead, mercy rule running clock with 10:16 to go, as Sliwkowki fed Schwartzman for a goal, but with 5:40 remaining, Graham got a goal back for Cape Elizabeth to make it 11-2.

The Rams weren’t done, however, as with 3:12 to go, Archibald set up Schwartzman for a goal and with 51.9 seconds left, Archibald added one final goal to bring the curtain down on Kennebunk’s 13-2 victory.

“We wanted to come out and make a statement,” Barker said. “Our goal was a quick start and to build on it. We have a good, solid, veteran squad back. It’s great to have Emily back (Archibald played as a freshman, but not as a sophomore). We’re starting five freshmen, but they played really well today. It feels great to be out here again for the kids. They want to come to practice and play. We’re having fun.”

The Rams got four goals apiece from Schwartzman and Sliwkowski (three assists). Archibald (three assists) and Maloney both added two goals and Gassman finished with one.

Hansen made five saves.

Kennebunk got a game-high six ground balls from Gassman and five from Sliwkowski, enjoyed a 24-10 shots advantage (18-7 on cage) and only turned the ball over 16 times, not bad for a team which missed several days of practice and started eight players Tuesday who were new to varsity.

Cape Elizabeth got two goals from Graham and an assist from McDonald, who also won 9 of her 12 draw opportunities (the Capers won that category, 10-7).

Branch made five saves, McDonald and junior Annaliese Rudberg each had a team-high five ground balls and Cape Elizabeth turned the ball over 20 times.

“Kennebunk’s always been a great program,” said Capers coach Alex Spark. “I know a handful of those girls who have played Manieiax (premier lacrosse) since they were little. They’re talented. Despite the loss, it was still a fun game to watch.

“Our legs were tired, but no excuses. We came out and fought hard, but Kennebunk was quicker than us, cleaner with their sticks and they got the shots off that they wanted.

“I was so proud of my defense and goalie. Our slides and help were there. To play that well against a team of that caliber makes me feel great.”

Long way to go

Kennebunk plays its home opener Thursday versus Marshwood. Next week brings a trip to Biddeford Tuesday, followed by a home showdown versus Yarmouth April 30.

“It was definitely hard last year and that’s made us more hungry and prepared coming into this year,” Schwartzman said. “The upperclassmen want it so badly because we lost last year and the underclassmen are ready to come in and make their mark on the program and on Maine lacrosse. We’re going to make the most of the time we have together. It’s definitely early, but we’re working well together to be the best team we can be. We’re just here to play and here to win.”

“Our transition still has issues and we’re still working on that,” Barker said. “The younger kids need game reps. We can’t wait to watch this team grow and see where we can go. I think we’ll keep cleaning it up and getting stronger.”

Cape Elizabeth will try again for that elusive first victory Thursday, but it won’t come easily, as Windham, which just knocked off two-time Class A champion Falmouth Monday, pays a visit. Next Wednesday, the Capers host Yarmouth in the rivals’ first encounter since the 2019 Class B state final.

“We’ll only get better,” said Spark. “We have to play the best to be the best. Our program’s goal is always to be our best at the end. If we get better from this game going forward, that’s OK. Even with a result we don’t want, the girls are happy to play and I’m happy to be coaching.”

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

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