BOX SCORE

Kennebunk 9 Falmouth 8

K- 5 4- 9
F- 2 6- 8

First half
24:21 K Sliwkowski (free position)
22:42 K Schwartzman (Sliwkowski)
17:08 F Adams (Stucker)
4:58 K Sliwkowski (free position)
2:59 K Sliwkowski (Maloney)
1:49 K Dumas (free position)
10.5 F Adams (unassisted)

Second half
21:16 F Ginevan (Fishman)
18:20 F Adams (unassisted)
17:30 F Ginevan (Taylor)
16:17 K Sliwkowski (unassisted)
13:07 K Maloney (unassisted)
12:37 K Sliwkowski (free position)
11:25 K Sliwkowski (Schwartzman)
10:29 F Clement (unassisted)
7:55 F Scribner (Blakeman)
7:46 F Clement (unassisted)

Goals:
K- Sliwkowski 6, Dumas, Maloney, Schwartzman 1
F- Adams 3, Clement, Ginevan 2, Scribner 1

Assists:
K- Maloney, Schwartzman, Sliwkowski 1
F- Blakeman, Fishman, Stucker, Taylor 1

Draws (Kennebunk, 11-7)
K- Schwartzman 11 of 18
F- Barry 5 of 10, Clement 2 of 8

Ground balls:
K- 31
F- 26

Turnovers:
K- 18
F- 12

Shots:
K- 24
F- 20

Shots on cage:
K- 20
F- 14

Saves:
K (Hansen) 6
F (Riley) 11

PORTLAND—Only one thing could keep Falmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team from a third consecutive Class A state championship.

Possibly the best team in state history.

But even the undefeated, juggernaut Kennebunk Rams needed every ounce of skill, will and heart to hold on for dear life and send Falmouth to defeat.

Friday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Falmouth and Kennebunk produced a memorable state final, one that helped make up for the loss of the 2020 season, a game that featured ebbs and flows, terrific individual play and stellar efforts from players expected and unexpected.

And ultimately, the Rams did just enough to eke out an inspirational victory.

When sophomore sensation Ruby Sliwkowski scored on a free position just 39 seconds in and senior standout Lily Schwartzman added a goal two minutes later, it appeared Kennebunk might be on its way to a decisive victory.

But Falmouth sophomore Patty Riley kept her team in the game with some clutch saves and junior Whitney Adams, who has excelled in the postseason, scored to cut the deficit to 2-1.

But after being held scoreless for nearly 18 minutes, the Rams roared to life late in the first half, as Sliwkowski scored on another free position, Sliwkowski finished a feed from senior Skylar Maloney, then junior Sydney Dumas scored on a free position in a three-minute span to stretch the lead to four.

But Falmouth got a little life just before the break, as Adams scored unassisted to snap a nearly 17-minute drought and pull her team within 5-2.

Falmouth then roared out of the gate to start the second half, as sophomore star Sloane Ginevan scored her first goal, Adams scored unassisted and with 17:30 to play, Ginevan scored again to tie it, 5-5.

But with 16:17 remaining, Sliwkowski scored unassisted to put Kennebunk on top for good and after Maloney added a goal, Sliwkowski scored her fifth and sixth goals to give the Rams a seemingly commanding 9-5 advantage.

But Falmouth refused to buckle and behind goals from senior standout Evan Clement, junior Molly Scribner and Clement again, it pulled back within one.

Then, with just under five minutes to go, both Clement and Ginevan had great looks to tie it, but Kennebunk junior Lily Hansen made the two biggest saves of her life to preserve the lead.

The Rams then ran out almost the remainder of the clock before getting to celebrate a 9-8 victory.

Sliwkowski scored six goals, two shy of the record, and Kennebunk did just enough to finish 16-0, end Falmouth’s fine season at 12-4 and capture the third championship in program history.

“We told this group that they were going to be special, but I didn’t know how special they’d become,” said longtime Rams coach Annie Barker. “The sky was the limit. I think this I the best team I’ve had. They love each other. They want to be together all the time. It really is a family.”

“We couldn’t have come any closer,” said Falmouth coach Ashley Pullen. “As it often is in a game like this, it’s one bounce, one save, one post, one possession that makes all the difference. We gave it everything we had and just came up a tiny bit short.”

Coronation

Falmouth and Kennebunk have seemingly been on a championship game collision course ever since Falmouth beat the Rams, 5-3, in the 2019 Class A state final.

Neither team got to enjoy as much as a single practice in 2020, but both have produced their share of highlights this spring.

Especially Kennebunk, which won its 12 regular season games by a composite 184-46 margin to tally nearly 236 Heal Points, an enormously high number (see sidebar, for links to previous game stories).

Only once were the Rams seriously tested, on April 30, when they had to rally to beat visiting Yarmouth, the top-ranked team in Class B, 10-8. Kennebunk trailed Falmouth early in the second half in the teams’ contest May 25, then erupted for 10-goals down the stretch to prevail, 17-11. The Rams reached double figures in every game and on nine occasions, held the opposition to three goals or less.

As the top seed in Class A South, Kennebunk made quick work of eighth-ranked Bonny Eagle (19-3) in the quarterfinals, fifth-seeded Thornton Academy (18-2) in the semifinals and second-ranked Scarborough (13-2) in the regional final Tuesday night.

Falmouth, meanwhile, suffered losses at Windham and Yarmouth and at home against Kennebunk, but won its other nine contests to earn the top seed in Class A North.

Falmouth had no trouble in its first two playoff outings, blanking No. 8 Edward Little (13-0) in the quarterfinals, then eliminating fourth-seeded Lewiston, 14-3, in the semifinals, but in Tuesday’s regional final, against No. 2 Windham, Falmouth got taken to overtime before Clement’s heroics produced a 13-12 victory to send her team to the state game for the third consecutive season.

In the teams’ regular season meeting, Falmouth led, 8-7, with just over 19 minutes to play before an 8-1 Kennebunk run broke it open and produced a 17-11 victory. Sliwkowski scored six times and Schwartzman added five goals for the Rams, while Ginevan paced Falmouth with a half-dozen goals.

Kennebunk had beaten Falmouth in five of six prior playoff meetings (see sidebar), but Falmouth’s win in the 2019 Class A state game was the most recent.

Friday, on a 73-degree evening, in front of a large and vocal crowd, Falmouth hoped to improve to 3-0 all-time in state finals (see sidebar), but instead, in their ninth all-time appearance, the Rams capped arguably the finest season in memory with their third championship.

But it took all 3,000 seconds to secure it.

Kennebunk achieved its goal of getting off to a fast start, as Schwartzman won the opening draw and eventually the ball came to Sliwkowski, who earned a free position and 39 seconds in, beat Riley for a quick 1-0 lead.

“I was nervous,” said Sliwkowski, who certainly didn’t show it. “My other sports (field hockey and basketball) haven’t been that successful, so this was my first state game. The first draw and the first goal set the tone of the game.”

Falmouth tried to answer, but sophomore Lucy Taylor’s shot was saved by Hansen.

The Rams then returned to the attack and with 22:42 left in the first half, in transition, Sliwkowski passed to Schwartzman, who fired a shot that Riley got a piece of, but couldn’t keep out of the net and just like that, Kennebunk was up two.

Dumas then had a chance to extend the lead further, but her shot hit the post.

Schwartzman then missed wide and a free position opportunity for senior Emily Archibald was wiped out by a false start.

With 17:08 remaining, Falmouth broke through, as promising freshman Peaches Stucker fed Adams for a shot that Hansen couldn’t stop, cutting the deficit to 2-1.

Senior Abby Blakeman had a look to tie it, but missed just wide.

Riley then stopped shots from Dumas, Archibald, freshman Keara Battagliese and Sliwkowski.

After Ginevan missed just wide after a rush, Kennebunk then returned to its scoring ways.

With 4:58 left in the half, Sliwkowski was awarded another free position and she finished to snap a 17-minute, 44-second drought.

With 2:59 to go, Maloney was given a free position, but she passed up the shot and instead fed an open Sliwkowski, who finished to make it 4-1.

“We trust each other,” said Sliwkowski. “Skylar and I work well together. She’s so unselfish.”

A minute later, Dumas earned a free position and scored to extend the lead further.

But Falmouth regained a little momentum with just 10.5 seconds on the clock, as Adams scored unassisted after a pretty fake to cut the deficit to 5-2 heading to the break.

In the first half, Schwartzman won 6 of 8 draws and the Rams enjoyed a commanding 14-3 advantage in shots on frame, but Riley’s nine saves kept the game within reach.

Falmouth then got right back in it at the start of the second half.

After Hansen denied Stucker and Clement, senior Avi Fishman set up Ginevan for a goal with 21:16 to play.

Fishman then hit the post, but with 14:20 left, Adams scored unassisted to make it a one-goal contest.

Then, with 17:30 to play, Taylor set up Ginevan for a goal and just like that, the score was tied, 5-5.

Falmouth wasn’t able to take the lead, however, as after Riley denied Dumas, Sliwkowski put her team ahead for good with 16:17 remaining, getting a step on the defense and finishing unassisted.

Falmouth tried to tie it, but with 14:17 left, Stucker’s shot resulted in a dangerous propelling call, forcing her to sit for two minutes.

The Rams immediately took advantage, as with 13:07 remaining, after a nice curl move, Maloney scored unassisted to make it 7-5.

Maloney was pushed to the ground on her shot and as a result, there was no ensuing draw.

Kennebunk got the ball and 30 seconds later, scored again, as Sliwkowski converted a free position for the third time.

Pullen called timeout, but it didn’t help, as with 11:25 to play, Schwartzman found Sliwkowski, who scored her sixth goal and gave the Rams a 9-5 lead.

“We told the girls at halftime to take better shots,” Barker said. “I don’t think we were taking great shots. We weren’t moving as quickly as we normally do on offense. That’s part of coming here. We started skip passing and that’s when it opened up for us.”

But Kennebunk’s championship wasn’t secured quite yet.

A mere 56 seconds later, Clement scored for the first time, unassisted.

The Rams were able to run several minutes off the clock before Schwartzman was denied by Riley.

Then, at the other end, Blakeman found Scribner for a goal with 7:55 left.

Junior Kinsey Barry won the ensuing draw for Falmouth and nine seconds later, Clement scored unassisted to make things very interesting.

“We had Kinsey take draws in the second half and put Eva and Sloane on the circle,” said Pullen. “We felt having their height and scrappiness was helpful.”

Falmouth then pushed for the equalizer, but Fishman missed wide on a free position.

Falmouth got the ball back, then took the two final shots of its season, each of which could have tied it up were it not for Hansen coming up huge.

With 4:56 remaining, Clement was awarded a free position, but Hansen saved the shot.

Ginevan pounced on the rebound and five seconds later, Hansen denied her as well to keep her team on top.

“My coach told me what to do,” Hansen said. “I knew who their shooters were and I did what I knew how to do. We’re a family. I remembered all my teammates were behind me.”

Barker called timeout with 4:30 to play and Kennebunk implemented its highly effective stall.

Even though Sliwkowski had to leave the game at one point with a cramp in her calf, the Rams were able to run around and play keep-away for nearly the rest of the game.

“We were prepared to stall,” Schwartzman said. “Our coaches prepare us for every possible situation. We knew something like this could happen. We knew what we had to do to come out with a win.”

Kennebunk finally turned the ball over with 6 seconds left, but Falmouth had no time to answer and at 6:33 p.m., the horn sounded and the Rams got to celebrate their palpitating 9-8 victory.

“It was pure joy when I heard the horn,” Sliwkowski said. “I’ve never felt anything like that and I hope there will be more times to come. It was a tough game. We just had to keep the gas pedal down.”

“This means so much, especially after COVID,” Hansen said. “It’s the one normal thing we had all year. We knew it would be a close game. Falmouth’s a great team. It was a little closer than we thought, but we just played our best. We kept our composure. We knew if played our game and were patient, we could win it.”

“It was not easy, but we didn’t expect it to be easy,” Schwartzman said. “We knew there would be ups-and-downs. We knew we wouldn’t blow them out. We were prepared for anything. I think we expected it to be a difficult game. The biggest thing for us was controlling what we knew how to control. To really earn it validates all the work we’ve done. We had an undefeated season. We came up big in a lot of games. Our mindset coming into this game was to do it again.”

“It was fun to come to practice every single day this year,” Barker added. “We missed each other on the weekends. That’s what kind of team this was.”

A star is born

Sliwkowski, who was called Kennebunk’s “secret weapon” back in April, was revealed to the world Friday to be one of the state’s special talents, one who is only getting started.

She scored six times (two goals shy of the state game record set by Cape Elizabeth’s Abby McInerney in 2014), had one assist, played a huge role getting possession off the draw and is unstoppable due to her speed.

“I knew this was my last game with my senior best friends and I wanted to give all I’ve got with nothing to lose and that’s what I did,” said Sliwkowski.

“The way Ruby sees the field and the grace and speed and poise she plays with as such a young player is a clue to how good she’ll be in the future,” Schwartzman said. “I knew she’d be great the first day I played with her this winter. She’s something special, whether it’s her game sense, her stick sense, her field sense, her feet alone. I knew she was going to be huge. Did I know how huge? No. Does it surprise me? Not at all. She has the personality and skill to be as good as she can be. It’s no surprise she came up big for us in a game like this.”

“(Ruby’s) just a solid kid,” Barker added. “Anybody would want to coach her. What’s going to happen down the road for her? It’s exciting to think about.”

Schwartzman was held in check, scoring once and assisting on another goal, but the state’s best player was the focal point of Falmouth’s defense and made her presence felt in the draw circle (winning 11 of 18), on 50-50 balls (she came up with five of them) and her leadership skills simply can’t be quantified.

Schwartzman graduates as not only the youngest of three sensational sisters, but as a player who is simply irreplaceable.

“I finally got (a championship) of my own like my sisters (Kyra and Hallie),” said Lily Schwartzman, whose father, Joe, is a volunteer assistant with the program. “I can go home tonight with that under my belt. Our biggest thing coming into this game was to play as a family and that’s exactly what we did. We were stripped of last season, so to go undefeated and to come out with a championship win feels pretty nice. After losing last season, losing to Falmouth in 2019 and losing in the regional final freshman year, we’ve waited to get one under our belts. This reaffirms what we’ve worked for all year, to play on June 18th and get a win on June 18th.”

“It’s been fun to have all three of the (Schwartzman girls),” Barker said. “It’s been fun to watch Lily grow from middle school to now and watch her grow into the best player in the state.”

Dumas and Maloney also scored goals and Maloney added an assist.

Hansen made six huge saves.

“Lily was the difference,” Sliwkowski said. “She was the reason we won. She came up huge in clutch times. She’s a big reason we won the state title.”

“She made the biggest saves of her life and single-handedly gave us this (title),” Schwartzman said. “She was huge in the goal. The way she played is reflective of how much work she’s put in. She came up huge for us when we needed her.”

“(Lily) did a great job,” Barker added. “She’s a little older and I think that helped.”

Kennebunk finished with a 31-26 advantage on ground balls (senior captain Neely Connor had a game-high six), out-shot Falmouth, 24-20 (20-14 on frame), and overcame 18 turnovers.

Back for more

Whether or not this Kennebunk team was the best all-time will make for fun discussions, but the fact of the matter is that the Rams were only tested twice, got the job done on both of those occasions and finished with 193 goals scored and 54 against, with 16 victories and zero defeats.

Kennebunk will be hard-hit by graduation, but anyone expecting the Rams to not be in contention for another crown in 2022 will be disappointed.

“There are nine seniors on this team, but I think with someone as talented as Ruby coming back, who knows what Kennebunk lacrosse can be in the future?” Schwartzman said. “We’ve been a successful program and I don’t see that slowing down in the years to come.”

“Our coaching staff is still here and we’ll go for another one next year,” said Sliwkowski.

An effort to remember

Falmouth got three goals from Adams, two apiece from Clement and Ginevan and one from Scribner.

Blakeman, Fishman, Stucker and Taylor all had one assist.

Riley impressed by making 11 saves.

“Patty was huge for us in goal,” Pullen said. “She had an amazing game and she was a big part of us being in it until the very end.”

Adams led the team with five ground balls.

Falmouth committed just a dozen turnovers.

“I was really proud of the way the girls played,” said Pullen. “I think we did a good job of containing their big threats. We kept the damage to a minimum. Anytime you hold a team like Kennebunk to nine goals, I feel like our defense did their job. If we had the ball a little bit more, our attack could have done their job too, but we didn’t win enough draws or ground balls. I would say we’re a team that learns from our mistakes. We used the first game against (Kennebunk) as a learning opportunity. We knew we could come back from our wins over Scarborough and Windham.

“It’s amazing to think back to the beginning of the season. We had four players with varsity experience and two goalies without any high school varsity experience at all. We’re lucky we have a lot of athleticism. You can teach skills but you can’t teach speed or power. Even though we only had four players who were part of our previous championship, knowing you’re a part of a program with a winning tradition is a huge edge mentally. That was a big part of getting us where we got. These girls have a lot of fight in them and a lot of pride and they worked hard.”

Falmouth has to bid adieu to Blakeman, Clement, Fishman, Olivia Nichols and defensive standout C.C. Cohen, whose contributions to the program won’t soon be forgotten.

“It will be hard to say goodbye to the seniors,” Pullen said. “They’re irreplaceable. I’m kind of in denial that I have to say goodbye to them. I’m excited C.C. and Eva will continue their careers at the college level.”

Falmouth has a lot of talent coming back in 2022 and will once again be in the hunt for a championship.

“We’ll have returning bodies who know different strategies,” said Pullen. “I’m definitely excited about the future of the program. There’s nothing like a second-place finish to fuel the fire.”

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

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