BOX SCORE

Kennebunk 11 Falmouth 6

F- 3 3- 6
K- 3 8- 11

First half
22:40 F Ginevan (Stucker)
19:05 K Battagliese (Sliwkowski)
18:27 K Armentrout (Battagliese)
16:29 K Armentrout (free position)
7:19 F Ginevan (Stucker)
5:27 F Adams (Ginevan)

Second half
24:16 K Notine (Sliwkowski)
23:13 K Sliwkowski (unassisted)
22:20 K Sliwkowski (unassisted)
21:53 K Sliwkowski (free position)
18:38 K Sliwkowski (free position)
14:56 F Ginevan (Adams)
9:45 K Sliwkowski (unassisted)
6:52 F Stucker (Clement)
4:44 K Armentrout (Sliwkowski)
2:23 K Sliwkowski (free position)
7.1 F Ginevan (free position)

Goals:
F- Ginevan 4, Adams, Stucker 1
K- Sliwkowski 6, Armentrout 3, Battagliese, Notine 1

Assists:
F- Stucker 2, Adams, Clement, Ginevan 1
K- Sliwkowski 3, Battagliese 1

Draws (Kennebunk, 10-9)
F- Ginevan 8 of 16, Barry 1 of 2, Stucker 0 of 1
K- Notine 5 of 12, Sliwkowski 5 of 7

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Ground balls:
F- 21
K- 31

Turnovers:
F- 18
K- 16

Shots:
F- 13
K- 20

Shots on cage:
F- 11
K- 16

Saves:
F (Riley) 5
K (Hayes) 5

KENNEBUNK—It’s a new season.

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With new faces, but the same old dominance.

Kennebunk’s girls’ lacrosse team remains the team to beat in Class A this spring, something that the Falmouth Navigators found out much to their chagrin Tuesday afternoon on the Rams’ grass field.

Falmouth, which already had a game under its belt, took an early lead on a goal from junior standout Sloane Ginevan, but Kennebunk, playing its first countable contest, answered, as sophomore Keara Battagliese tied it, then sophomore Ivy Armentrout scored consecutive goals for a 3-1 advantage.

The Navigators would answer late in the half, as Ginevan and senior Whitney Adams scored to make it 3-3 at the break, but the second half belonged to the Rams.

More specifically to their nonpareil junior Ruby Sliwkowski.

A mere 44 seconds into the second half, Sliwkowski set up sophomore Sophia Notine for a goal and Kennebunk was ahead to stay.

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Sliwkowski then put on a show all over the field, winning ground balls off draws, forcing turnovers and scoring four goals in under five minutes to break it open.

After Ginevan answered for Falmouth, Sliwkowski scored again and after sophomore Peaches Stucker pulled the Navigators within 9-5 with 6:52 to play, Sliwkowski set up Armentrout for her third goal, then Sliwkowski scored her sixth to end all doubt and while Ginevan scored once more in the final seconds, the Rams rolled to an 11-6 victory.

Sliwkowski led the way with six goals, three assists and a game-high 14 ground balls as Kennebunk won its 17th consecutive game over two seasons and dropped Falmouth to 1-1 in the process.

“We tried a few different strategies to contain Ruby today, but things got away from us in the second half,” said Navigators coach Ashley Pullen. “She’s a great player. She’s really tough.”

Cream of the crop 

Falmouth and Kennebunk have combined to win the last three Class A state titles, with the then-Yachtsmen taking the crown in 2018 and 2019 (beating the Rams in the process) and Kennebunk ascending to the pinnacle last year, by holding off Falmouth in a thriller, 9-8.

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The Rams graduated standout and All-American Lily Schwartzman, who is now playing at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, but plenty of talent returns for Kennebunk to still be considered the favorite.

The Navigators, meanwhile, graduated a star of their own in Eva Clement, but also remain top-notch, as evidenced by Friday’s season-opening victory over visiting Yarmouth, the reigning Class B champion, 10-8.

Last year, Kennebunk beat Falmouth twice, also prevailing in the regular season, 17-11.

Tuesday, on a 50-degree, overcast (but dry) afternoon, Falmouth looked for its first win over the Rams since the 2019 state final (5-3), but instead, Kennebunk started its season on a high note, as Sliwkowski simply proved unstoppable.

The Rams were a little jittery at the start and the Navigators struck first with 22:40 to play in the first half, as Stucker fed Ginevan, who shot the ball past Kennebunk junior goalie Elizabeth Hayes.

It took the Rams four minutes to register their first shot, a bid from Battagliese, which sailed high.

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Armentrout then had a shot saved by Falmouth junior goalie Patty Riley, but with 19:05 remaining in the half, Sliwkowski set up Battagliese for a shot which found the net to tie it, 1-1.

Thirty-eight seconds later, Armentrout gave the Rams their first lead, with Battagliese getting the assist.

With 16:29 on the clock, Armentrout earned a free position and beat Riley for a 3-1 advantage.

After Adams fired a shot off the crossbar for the Navigators, Riley saved a shot from Notine, but with 7:26 to play before halftime, after play was stopped for a Kennebunk yellow card, Stucker set up for a free position, passed up the shot and fed Ginevan instead, and Ginevan finished with 7:19 to go to snap a 15 minute, 21 second scoring drought.

Falmouth then tied it with 5:27 on the clock, as Ginevan threw a high pass to Adams, who made a terrific play to catch the ball, then shoot it past Hayes.

Late in the half, Riley denied Sliwkowski and the game went to halftime deadlocked, 3-3.

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The Rams had a 9-4 shots advantage in the first half (6-4 on cage), but three Riley saves kept the Navigators even.

Kennebunk then flipped the switch.

Nodine won the opening draw to Sliwkowski and after working the ball around, Sliwkowski fed Nodine for the go-ahead goal and the Rams were on their way.

“We spend 15 to 20 minutes each day in practice on draw controls because lacrosse is a possession game and if you win possession, you have so much more of a chance to score,” Sliwkowski said.

With 23:13 left in the game, Sliwkowski scored for the first time, making a nice move on a defender to get free before scoring unassisted to make it 5-3.

A mere 53 seconds later, Sliwkowski scored unassisted again and with 21:53 on the clock, Sliwkowski was awarded a free position and scored for a four-goal advantage, forcing Pullen to call timeout.

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“I think we’re a second half team,” said Sliwkowski. “At halftime, we were like, ‘It’s go time.’ We just put the gas pedal down. I was 100 percent frustrated in the first half because they have great defense. We couldn’t come from the top anymore, we had to come from behind and that’s where all our goals came. The biggest thing about this team is we’re so quick to adjust and being able to shift quickly was the difference.”

Out of the timeout, Ginevan had a great look to get her team back in the contest, but Hayes stopped her cold.

Then, at the other end, with 18:38 left, Sliwkowski scored for the fourth time, again on a free position.

Ginevan ended the run with 14:56 to play, from Adams, but after Hayes saved a shot from Stucker, Sliwkowski spun around a defender and squeezed a shot between Riley and the post for a 9-4 advantage.

To its credit, Falmouth fought hard to the end and Stucker scored (from freshman Maisy Clement) with 6:52 remaining, but with 4:44 on the clock, Sliwkowski set up Armentrout for a goal and with 2:23 to go, Sliwkowski scored for the final time, on a free position.

Ginevan added a free position goal with 7.1 seconds to play, but Kennebunk ran out the clock from there and celebrated its season-opening 11-6 victory.

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“We had 10 or 12 girls every Tuesday and Thursday playing together from September until April, so we hit the ground running today,” said Sliwkowski. “This is the first game we’ve played in these uniforms and it’s awesome. We didn’t even play that well. We still have a lot to work on.”

“We had some first-game jitters, but we just had to pull it together,” said longtime Rams coach Annie Barker. “At halftime, Ruby said it’s our time to do it, so just go. The draw worked in our favor and she came up with the ball and once we had the ball, we knew we could do something with it. We had to keep rolling the crease and eventually it would open up for us.”

Sliwkowski put on an offensive show with six goals and three assists.

“I play field hockey and basketball too, but for me, it’s lacrosse 24/7,” Sliwkowski said. “Lacrosse season really started for us (last) June 19th after the state game. We don’t stop talking about it.”

“Ruby’s probably going to be one of the best kids that comes out of this program and she’s only a junior,” Barker said. “When we need someone to turn it on, she can turn it on.”

Armentrout added three goals, while Battagliese (one assist) and Notine each scored once.

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Hayes made five saves.

The Rams had a 10-9 edge in the draw circle, a 31-21 advantage in ground balls (Sliwkowski had a game-high 14, while Armentrout and sophomore Celia Keenan each collected four), out-shot the Navigators, 20-13 (16-11 on cage), and overcame 16 turnovers.

Falmouth’s effort was paced by Ginevan, who scored four goals and also had an assist, while grabbing a team-high eight ground balls.

Adams and Stucker both scored once.

Stucker had two assists, while Adams and Clement added one apiece.

Riley made five saves.

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The Navigators committed 18 turnovers.

“It’s good to have a learning experience this early in the season,” said Pullen. “I’m proud of the girls for playing the full 50 minutes and for not hanging their heads and giving up. I definitely give Kennebunk a lot of credit. They’re a talented team, they’re well-coached. They execute fundamentals really well and they’re scrappy. They want the ball and that turns into possessions for them which turns into goals for them.”

Potential rematch

If Falmouth and Kennebunk play again, it would be June 18 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in the state final.

“Getting another shot at (Kennebunk) is certainly on our minds, especially given this outcome,” Pullen said. “We don’t have any control over the rest of their season, but we plan to do everything in our power to potentially see them again. We’d love the opportunity to match up against them.”

Both teams have plenty of work to do in the meantime.

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The Rams are back in action Friday, at Yarmouth.

“We have a huge mountain to climb,” said Sliwkowski. “We’re huge on the fundamentals and the repetition of the small things will help us. We have a very positive atmosphere, so I’m super-excited. I still find myself trying to draw-and-dump with Lily, but she’s gone. Other girls are filling their role and I’m excited about that. With our coaching and a lot of practice, I think we can be as fast and as good as last year.”

“The things we made mistakes on today are fixable,” Barker said. “A lot of these girls hadn’t played a full varsity game before. I like what I have to work with. We just have to keep on growing.”

The Navigators look to get back on track Friday, when they host Biddeford.

“We’ll look to have a couple high-tempo, high-intensity practices,” said Pullen. “We’ve talked about having pride in our program and having confidence in our abilities and doing a better job of tapping into the potential we have.”

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

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