Yarmouth senior Ari Rustad and NYA/Waynflete sophomore Tilsley Kelly battle for possession early in the Clippers’ 4-1 victory Thursday. Hoffer photo.

YARMOUTH—Sophie Smith was the breakout star of the “Battle of Yarmouth” Thursday afternoon at Lewis Field.

The Clippers took on the NYA/Waynflete co-op team and appeared primed to roll to victory when sophomore Chloe Bibula scored in the first quarter and Smith, also a sophomore, added a second period goal, but just before halftime, the hosts got back in the game when freshman Emma Bowden scored on a rebound.

After a scoreless third quarter, which saw Yarmouth senior goalie Cassie Walsh make three key saves to preserve the lead, Smith, after tremendous individual moves, scored twice more to break it open and the Clippers went on to a 4-1 victory.

Smith had a hat trick as Yarmouth improved to 7-2-1 on the season and in the process, dropped NYA/Waynflete to 3-4.

“I’m surprised we’ve done this well,” said Smith. “We have six seniors, then we had all of us sophomores who just started playing a few years ago. Everyone has the best attitude. It’s a great team.”

Short trip

Yarmouth High School and North Yarmouth Academy are located basically a long hit from each other and for a time, the schools had a pretty intense field hockey rivalry before the Clippers moved up to Class B.

This season, both squads have enjoyed success.

NYA/Waynflete, in its first competitive year as a co-op program, dropped its first two outings this fall, 3-1 to visiting St. Dom’s and 2-1 to visiting Greely, before downing host Wells and Sacopee Valley by 3-1 scores and beating visiting Traip Academy, 5-0, before falling at St. Dom’s, 4-1.

Yarmouth, meanwhile, opened with a 4-3 home loss to St. Dom’s, then turned things around with a 2-1 home win over Freeport, and blanked host Greely (1-0), host Wells (3-0) and visiting Gray-New Gloucester (4-0), before edging visiting Poland, 2-1, in double-overtime. After a 1-1 home tie versus Cape Elizabeth, the Clippers fell at home to York (5-0) and won at Poland, again in OT, 1-0.

Yarmouth had never met the new NYA/Waynflete incarnation, but the Clippers and Panthers produced some memorable games back when NYA was a stand-alone program. The most recent meeting came in 2019, a 5-0 road win for Yarmouth.

Thursday, on the final day of September, a chilly one (55 degrees) that featured rain for much of the game, the Clippers made the most of their scoring opportunities to prevail.

NYA/Waynflete had the first good chance, but senior captain Emilia McKenney missed just wide.

With 6:22 to go in the first quarter, Yarmouth struck first, as senior Cat Jordan played a long pass into the circle where Bibula managed to get the ball away from a defender before shooting past senior Elli Howerton-Lynch for a 1-0 lead.

After Walsh denied a game-tying bid from McKenney early in the second quarter, the Clippers doubled their advantage, thanks to a terrific individual effort from Smith, who went nearly coast-to-coast, eluding several defenders along the way, before shooting the ball into the cage.

“The only thing going through my head was just beating (the defenders), running faster and doing a wide dodge,” Smith said. “I definitely need to work on getting more moves, but I just want to score.”

NYA/Waynflete then awakened and after McKenney and Bowden missed just wide, got on the board with 1:08 to go before halftime, as off a penalty corner, McKenney had a shot saved by Walsh, but Bowden was waiting to bang home the rebound to cut the deficit to 2-1.

In the first half, NYA/Waynflete had a 6-4 edge in shots on cage and a 6-4 advantage in penalty corners, but five Walsh saves kept Yarmouth on top.

NYA/Waynflete had its chances to pull even in the third period, as McKenney had a good look, which was saved by Walsh, then Bowden forced Walsh to dive to save her shot.

Howerton-Lynch was doing her part to keep her team in the game, robbing Jordan, then Bibula on the rebound, as well as denying shots from senior Ari Rustad and Smith.

The Clippers then finally got some breathing room in the fourth quarter.

After Rustad had a shot saved off a penalty corner, Smith got the ball back, then beat the defense and sent the ball past Howerton-Lynch with a backhanded shot for a 3-1 lead.

“Sophie had some good stick skills getting inside the circle and moving around the defense,” Yarmouth coach Molly Saunders said. “I would just like to see the shot get off sooner.”

Any remaining doubt was dashed for good with 4:35 on the clock, when Smith scored unassisted, after another impressive rush.

NYA/Waynflete hoped to get a goal back in the final minute, but McKenney’s shot off a penalty corner was swept aside by Jordan and Yarmouth was able to celebrate its 4-1 victory.

“We’ve come a long way and I’m impressed with how well the girls are playing,” Saunders said. “NYA gave us a battle. They passed well and their forwards and mids have some good stick stills and dodges.”

Smith led the way with her three goals. A soccer player until the eighth grade, Smith has fallen in love with field hockey and you can bet that the Clippers are thankful she’s on the field.

“I started playing in the eighth grade and I love field hockey,” said Smith. “I played ice hockey, so (field hockey) just clicked for me. I have awesome teammates. They’re really supportive all the time. Ari and Cat are just the best. Being able to play with them is an awesome experience. I’m sad they’re going to leave next year. Both coaches, Molly and Kallie (former Yarmouth High standout Kallie Hutchinson), are really experienced. They’re the best coaches I’ve ever had.”

Yarmouth finished with a 13-10 edge in shots and got nine saves from Walsh. Each team took seven penalty corners.

NYA/Waynflete got nine saves from Howerton-Lynch, but couldn’t get the ball in the cage often enough to emerge victorious.

“We were anticipating it being a really good game and it was,” said NYA/Waynflete coach Annika King. “We had some great moments and some great opportunities. Yarmouth came ready to play and they showed it. We were excited to have opportunities. The girls didn’t let up and tried to work the field as best they could. We have a wide variety of athletes who are ready to go in any position.”

October challenges

NYA/Waynflete looks to right its ship when it goes to Sacopee Valley Saturday. Next week, the squad hosts Traip Academy and Wells. A home game versus Sacopee Valley and trips to St. Dom’s, Wells and Traip Academy close the regular season schedule.

“I’m feeling confident and ready to move forward and put some games behind us and come out with fire and energy,” King said. “It will be nice to have some games back-and-back and keep us energized and focused.”

Yarmouth has just four games left and only one of those is at home. The Clippers have a key test at Fryeburg Academy Friday, then visit Lake Region Tuesday and go to Freeport Thursday of next week, before hosting Fryeburg Academy in the finale Oct. 11.

“We just have to keep working hard,” Smith said. “Playoffs are a big deal and when you get there it’s really nerve-wracking. We’ll have to work on not getting stressed out. We need to stay focused and positive.”

“We’re still working on a lot of things,” Saunders said. “We’re a very young team, so there are a lot of little kinks we’re trying to iron out before playoffs. We just need more play. Game management is our biggest thing as a young team.

“We have as good a shot as anyone this year, so we’re excited.

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

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