BOX SCORE

Cape Elizabeth 14 North Yarmouth Academy 7

CE- 10 4- 14
NYA- 3 4- 7

First half
24:24 NYA Sharp (Tran)
21:11 CE Woods (McDonald)
20:55 CE Smith (McDonald)
20:29 CE Gagne (Woods)
20:19 NYA Holt (unassisted)
19:41 CE Woods (McDonald)
13:39 CE Smith (free position)
12:51 CE Rudberg (free position)
7:51 NYA Tran (free position)
6:43 CE Rudberg (McDonald)
4:15 CE McDonald (Rudberg)
3:21 CE McDonald (Hooper)
2:24 CE Smith (Gagne)

Second half
21:49 CE McDonald (Gagne)
17:51 CE Altenburg (Campbell)
14:36 CE Gagne (unassisted)
10:47 CE Clark (unassisted)
8:13 NYA Holt (unassisted)
3:36 NYA Holt (unassisted)
2:56 NYA McKenny (Tran)
57.6 NYA Holt (unassisted)

Goals:
CE- McDonald, Smith 3, Gagne, Rudberg, Woods 2, Altenburg, Clark 1
NYA- Holt 4, McKenney, Sharp, Tran 1

Assists:
CE- McDonald 4, Gagne 2, Campbell, Hooper, Rudberg, Woods 1
NYA- Tran 2

Draws (NYA, 12-11)
CE- Rudberg 6 of 10, McDonald 5 of 9, Woods 0 of 3, Strunk 0 of 1
NYA- Holt 11 of 21, Tran 1 of 2

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Ground balls:
CE- 33
NYA- 40

Turnovers:
CE- 21
NYA- 20

Shots:
CE- 19
NYA- 25

Shots on cage:
CE- 17
NYA- 17

Saves:
CE (Branch) 10
NYA (Merrill) 3

YARMOUTH—When Cape Elizabeth’s girls’ lacrosse team gets its offense going, look out.

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As goals are plentiful and wins are sure to follow.

The Capers, in their first year at Class A, took a few games to hit their stride this spring, but much to the chagrin of the opposition, they’ve gotten there and Thursday afternoon, at a rainy Lewis Field, Cape Elizabeth continued to surge at the expense of host North Yarmouth Academy.

The Panthers scored the game’s first goal, but in a 42-second span, the Capers went ahead to stay behind goals from sophomore Kaitlyn Woods, senior Ellie Gagne and senior Sadie Smith.

NYA stayed as close as 4-2 and 6-3, but late in the first half, Cape Elizabeth broke it open, as senior Annaliese Rudberg scored once, senior Claire McDonald added two goals and Smith struck again to make it 10-3 at the break.

Second half goals from McDonald, sophomore Phoebe Altenburg, Gagne and sophomore Laura Clark induced a mercy rule running clock and while the Panthers scored the game’s final four goals, the Capers were able to cruise home with a 14-7 victory.

McDonald had three goals and four assists, Smith also scored three times and Cape Elizabeth evened its record at 4-4, dropping NYA to 5-4 in the process.

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“There was a lot of scoring today from a lot of girls,” McDonald said. “I think we’re trying to hype up more before the games and that’s made a difference, especially with such a young team. More girls are able to step up now. At the beginning, we didn’t have that, but now, it’s materialized.”

Interclass test

Cape Elizabeth has enjoyed plenty of success in recent seasons and this season, after moving up, they started slowly before hitting their stride.

Cape Elizabeth opened with a 12-9 home victory over Gorham, then lost to visiting Yarmouth (12-5), at Massabesic (8-4) and at reigning Class A champion Kennebunk (14-4). The Capers began their turnaround with a 15-10 home win over visiting Scarborough, then beat host Lewiston (14-2) before dropping a thrilling, back-and-forth 17-16 decision at York Monday.

NYA’s season began in dramatic style with a 10-9 overtime home win over reigning Class C champion Waynflete. The Panthers then lost at home to Freeport (12-6) and at home to Greely (10-5). After beating visiting St. Dom’s (11-1), NYA fell at home to York (20-4), but then downed host Lake Region (10-9), host Gray-New Gloucester/Poland (12-1) and host Gardiner (17-10).

The teams didn’t meet a year ago. The last meeting came May 21, 2019 (a 19-3 victory for visiting Cape Elizabeth, which was en route to a second straight Class B championship).

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Thursday, with rain falling throughout, the Panthers looked to beat the Capers for the first time since May 22, 2010 (12-6 at home during their most recent state title season), but instead, Cape Elizabeth made it five straight in the series.

Just 36 seconds in, in transition, NYA got the jump, as Tran set up Sharp for a quick 1-0 lead, but that would be the Panthers’ highwater mark.

With 21:11 to play in the first half, the Capers drew even, as McDonald set up Woods for a shot which NYA junior goalie Jessica Merrill couldn’t stop.

Sixteen seconds later, after a McDonald draw win, McDonald set up Smith to put Cape Elizabeth on top to stay.

The Capers weren’t done, as with 20:29 on the clock, Woods fed Gagne to make it 3-1.

The Panthers quickly answered, as Holt won the ensuing draw, raced in and beat Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Elise Branch unassisted, but with 19;41 left, McDonald threaded the needle and found Woods for a 4-2 advantage.

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NYA tried to respond, but Branch saved a Holt free position, then robbed Tran on the rebound.

Holt then had to sit for two minutes with a yellow card and the Capers took advantage, scoring twice, as Smith scored on a free position with 13:39 remaining and 48 seconds later, Rudberg scored her first goal, also on a free position, to extend the lead to 6-2.

After Merrill twice denied McDonald on free position shots, the Panthers got a goal back, as Tran converted a free position with 7:51 left, but they wouldn’t score again for a long, long time.

Cape Elizabeth closed the half strong, as McDonald set up Rudberg for a goal with 6:43 to go, then Rudberg then returned the favor and fed McDonald for her first goal with 4:15 on the clock.

A mere 54 seconds later, McDonald scored again, this time from freshman Libby Hooper.

Then, with 2:24 remaining, Gagne set up Smith for a shot which Merrill got a piece of, but couldn’t keep out of the cage and at the half, the Capers enjoyed a commanding 10-3 advantage.

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“Once we get momentum, we can score one goal after another,” McDonald said. “We realized we could hang out at the 8-(meter-line) and get a lot of girls open. Once we saw that, it was like, boom, boom.”

“We’ve found a lot of connections on the offensive end,” Cape Elizabeth coach Alex Spark said. “We have more than one pair of kids who like to work together. We’re lucky to have more than two, which helps us share the ball. It’s fun to watch us share the ball.”

Cape Elizabeth didn’t let up in the second half either.

After Branch stopped a shot by Holt, McDonald scored her third goal, from Gagne, with 21:49 left.

After Branch saved a shot from Tran, freshman Heather Campbell set up Altenburg for a 12-3 lead.

After Branch again denied Holt, Gagne scored after a turnover with 14:36 to go to run the clock.

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With 10:47 left, Clark scored unassisted for what proved to be the Capers’ final goal.

To its credit, NYA would fight hard and finish strong.

With 8:13 to play, Holt ended Cape Elizabeth’s 8-0 run and a 24 minute, 36 second scoring drought with an unassisted goal.

With 3:36 on the clock, Holt scored unassisted and after Tran set up McKenney for a goal with 2:56 to go, Holt scored unassisted one final time with 57 seconds remaining.

The Capers ran out the clock from there and celebrated their 14-7 victory.

“Sometimes the rain makes games fun,” said Spark. “The kids like playing in the rain and getting messy, so it was a fun game to watch. Our defense and offense are so much more organized and we have so much more knowledge than we did. We’re a totally different team now than we were at the beginning. ”

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McDonald and Smith both scored three times for Cape Elizabeth, while Gagne, Rudberg and Woods had two apiece. Altenburg and Clark added one goal apiece.

McDonald also had four assists, while Gagne had a pair and Campbell, Hooper, Rudberg and Woods each finished with one.

Branch made 10 saves.

Gagne had a team-high eight saves.

The Capers overcame 21 turnovers.

NYA’s offense was led by Holt, who had four goals. McKenney, Sharp and Tran (two assists) all scored once.

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Merrill made three saves.

Holt helped the Panthers hold a 12-11 edge in draws. NYA won the ground-ball battle, 40-33 (Holt had a game-high 13) and out-shot the Capers, 25-19. The Panthers committed 20 turnovers.

“Cape’s a great team and it was great to play them and get tested,” NYA first-year coach Molly Moss-Stokes said. “We fell short, but we know what we have to work on and what we have to get ready for. We played pass with the goalie a little too much. We need to pick our shots better. We weren’t throwing fakes or placing the ball at all. We were just rushing. We need to take that extra beat to place the shot. You can blame it on the rain, but both teams played in the same rain. We just missed connections. We didn’t really wait for the right opportunity on attack.”

Rivalry games

NYA (ranked first in the Class C Heal Points standings at press time) turns right around and has another tough game awaiting it Saturday morning, when it plays at Freeport. The Panthers cap the regular season with a home game versus Traip Academy Tuesday and a trip to Wells May 27.

“We’re looking forward to our last three big games, all in our conference,” Moss-Stokes said. “I think tomorrow, we’ll just regroup. We’ve had a lot of games in a row. We’ll talk about the things we need to do, rest our legs and prepare for Freeport.”

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Cape Elizabeth’s closing stretch is a gauntlet, as the Capers (sixth in Class A South at press time) welcome Greely, last year’s Class B runner-up, Friday, then play host to dangerous York Tuesday of next week, go to defending Class B champion Yarmouth May 27 before finishing up at home against Freeport June 1.

“We feel like we belong in Class A, 100 percent,” said McDonald. “Greely is playing really well. We look forward to playing them, especially at home.”

“We’re always so excited to see Greely,” Spark said. “Doesn’t matter if it’s Class A, Class B, playoffs, whatever, it’s always a competitive game. The girls get so excited for it. It’s a rivalry game we love. Coming off a win like we had, we’ll be in a good mental mindset.

“We have to keep moving in the direction we’ve been moving all season. We have a few more weeks to improve on little things, so we can be a new team when the playoffs start. We want to show up a whole new team in the playoffs. It’s all about finding more clicks moving forward. There’s still some time to climb the ladder, like we do every season. I’m super-happy with where we’re at compared to where we were at the beginning.”

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

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