PORTLAND—Short-handed and given virtually no chance, Yarmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team nearly defied all of the naysayers Monday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium when the Clippers gave seemingly invincible Kennebunk everything it could handle and more in the Class A state final.

Yarmouth held an early lead, was tied at halftime and only trailed by a goal midway through the second half and even after the Rams apparently put it away when they went up by four goals with 3:05 to play, the Clippers answered with two quick scores to make things most interesting.

But ultimately, despite a heroic attempt, Yarmouth couldn’t win the most improbable championship in program history and as a result, unbeatable Kennebunk once again stands atop the pinnacle.

Early goals from juniors Brooke Boone and Neena Panozzo gave the Clippers the lead, but the Rams, who last lost a game the year prior to the pandemic, rode the singular brilliance of senior Ruby Sliwkowski, who scored three first half goals, to a 5-5 tie at the break.

Kennebunk wasn’t able to pull away in the second half either, as junior Aine Powers tied the score, 6-6, and after junior Mara Muse scored on a free position, then set up another goal, junior Sonja Bell cut the deficit to 8-7.

Panozzo then had a look to tie the score, but Rams’ senior goalie extraordinaire Lizzie Hayes made the save.


Sliwkowski then added three more goals to make it 12-8 and seal the deal, or so everyone on hand thought, but Yarmouth refused to buckle and a pair of Boone goals made things most interesting.

The Clippers even got the ball back with a chance to cut the deficit to one, but they couldn’t muster a shot and Kennebunk was able to hold for a scintillating 12-10 victory.

Sliwkowski capped her nonpareil career with seven goals, Hayes made a dozen saves and the Rams finished the season 17-0 with their state-record 49th consecutive victory, won their third consecutive Class A state title and the fifth championship in program history and in the process, ended valiant Yarmouth’s campaign at 13-5.

“It’s an honor to get here and I cherish it every time I’m here,” said longtime Clippers coach Dorothy Holt. “This one was special because it was a lot of work. Class A is a lot of work. You don’t get easy games, but the challenge is fun.”

“This means more,” said longtime Kennebunk coach Annie Barker. “We had to dig deep. Dorothy prepared them and they believed and they came to play. I didn’t think it would be that close, but (Yarmouth) played a great game. They’re never going to go away. You have to hand it to them.”

Perfection delayed, not denied


Kennebunk has long been a premier power in girls’ lacrosse, but what the Rams have done since play resumed in 2021, following the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID, has been simply breathtaking and unlikely to be replicated.

It’s no coincidence that Kennebunk’s transcendence has corresponded with Sliwkowski’s time in a Rams uniform. She and her classmates haven’t just won games, they’ve won them decisively, while setting scoring records along the way.

This spring, Kennebunk had to navigate a tough early slate, but lopsided wins over eventual champion Greely, powerhouse Falmouth and Yarmouth extended its win streak to 37 games, exceeding the previous state mark set by Waynflete between 2004 and 2006 and matched by Brunswick from 2008-10 (see sidebar for links to previous stories). The Rams won their 14 regular season contests by a composite 224-45 margin.

Kennebunk had no trouble advancing in the earlier rounds of the tournament, ousting No. 9 Cheverus (18-0) in the state quarterfinals and beating No. 4 Marshwood (15-3) in last Wednesday’s semifinals.

Yarmouth has an even longer and richer history in girls’ lacrosse, playing in every state final since 2013 and after capturing the 2021 Class B crown, moving up a year ago and getting to the season’s final day before falling short against Kennebunk, 11-8 (see sidebar for previous state game results for both programs and prior Clippers vs. Rams postseason results).

This spring, to say Yarmouth was young would be an epic understatement, as the roster boasted just two seniors, Sadie Carnes and Sara Wentzell. As a result, the Clippers took their lumps at times, losing twice to Greely and once apiece to Falmouth and Kennebunk, but Yarmouth quietly came of age and was ready for a run when the postseason began.


After holding off No. 14 Cape Elizabeth (14-10) in the state preliminary round, the Clippers ousted No. 11 Gorham (11-6) in the quarterfinals before shocking Falmouth (a team which beat them by 11 goals in the regular season), 8-5, in last Wednesday’s semifinals.

In the teams’ regular season meeting April 28, Sliwkowski had five goals and six assists, while junior Ivy Armentrout scored four times. Junior Lauren Keaney had three goals for the Clippers.

In addition to last year’s contest Kennebunk and Yarmouth played memorable state finals in 2002, 2007, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Monday, after Rams senior Grace Archer did an excellent job with the national anthem, the Clippers, who were without several players, including Carnes, who lost out on an opportunity to play after the contest was rescheduled, sought their first championship at the Class A level and their ninth all-time, but instead, the Rams left no doubt that they’ll be the team that all others will measure themselves against in the future as they took care of business.

But it wasn’t close to as easy as many predicted.

On the heels of Wednesday’s upset win at Falmouth, Yarmouth came in with confidence and a nothing-to-lose attitude and it paid immediate dividends as Boone’s free position goal 73 seconds in produced an early lead.


Not surprisingly, Sliwkowski answered with 22:36 left in the first half, scoring unassisted past Clippers freshman goalie Grace Keaney, to tie the score.

Undaunted, Yarmouth went right back on top when Panozzo scored for the first time, unassisted, beating Hayes with 19:48 remaining.

That would be the Clippers’ highwater mark, as after Hayes denied Panozzo on a free position, the Rams tied it up with 16:29 left in the half, as Sliwkowski converted a free position.

With 14:16 to go, Sliwkowski scored unassisted and Kennebunk was up for the first time.

Yarmouth rallied to make it 3-3 with 9;23 left, as Lauren Keaney set up Panozzo, but 37 seconds later, Sliwkowski set up freshman Camdyn Keenan to put the Rams back in front.

Again, the Clippers answered, as after Hayes robbed Boone, Powers found Panozzo for the tying tally with 7:43 remaining.


Kennebunk went ahead again when Muse scored, from Keenan, with 5:17 on the clock, but with 4:02 to go, Powers again set up Panozzo for the tying goal.

After Hayes robbed Lauren Keaney, Grace Keaney did the same to Rams junior Ella Highbarger and the contest was deadlocked, 5-5, at the half.

The second half would be equally as dramatic, but Kennebunk wouldn’t be denied its date with destiny.

Early in the half, Grace Keaney robbed Keenan, then Powers tried to put Yarmouth on top, but Hayes made the save.

With 22:20 to play, Sliwkowski’s unassisted goal gave the Rams the lead, but 19 seconds later, Powers converted a free position shot while being upended and the Clippers forged the game’s sixth and final tie, causing Barker to call timeout.

After Grace Keaney robbed Sliwkowski, Muse scored on a free position with 19:50 on the clock and at last, the Rams had the lead for good.


Fifty-two seconds later, Muse got the ball in front to junior Sophia Notine, who scored a highlight-reel, no-look, backhanded goal for a little breathing room.

Hayes preserved the lead by denying Powers, Boone and Panozzo, but with 12:42 on the clock, Bell scooped up a ground ball, rolled the crease and finished to make it a one-goal game, 8-7.

With 10:33 left, Panozzo earned a free position and somehow, Yarmouth was on the brink of unthinkably tying it up, but Hayes stood tall and made the save and the Clippers would never have another chance to draw even.

“Lizzie had the game of her life,” Sliwkowski said. “No surprise to me because she’s awesome.”

With 10:02 to go, Sliwkowski spun around a defender, got some space, then found the net.

Still, Yarmouth wouldn’t quit, as with 6:34 on the clock, Bell found Powers to cut the deficit to 9-8.


The Clippers couldn’t get possession back, however, as Highbarger won the ensuing draw and with 5:56 left, Sliwkowski again spun through the defense before finishing.

Kennebunk got the ball once more and after Barker called timeout with 4:26 left, Notine exploded into the offensive zone and finished unassisted for a three-goal lead.

When Sliwkowski scored her seventh goal of the game and her 90th of her sensational season with 3:05 on the clock, the Rams could sense it, but Yarmouth had one final push.

With 2:13 remaining, Boone scored unassisted after a long run.

Then, with 1:22 to go, Boone scored unassisted again and just like that, the Clippers were within two.

Lauren Keaney won the ensuing draw, but with 23 seconds left, Yarmouth turned the ball over.


All that was left was for Kennebunk to run out the clock and at 5:06 p.m., the Rams were able to celebrate an exhausting and exhilarating 12-10 victory.

“The physicality of this game was insane,” said Sliwkowski. “Kudos to the refs for letting us play. This was a real lacrosse game. The girls going on to play in college needed this. This outcome only happened because we played physical games in the preseason. We played Weymouth, Bedford and Portsmouth. Those games made a difference. At halftime, we got together, took a deep breath and we channeled back to those games in April. We came in too comfortable. We had to play our game. We had the 0-0 mentality. It was up-and-down until the end. I’m so glad it ended on this note because it showed our true colors. I’m not surprised because I respect (Yarmouth) a lot. They came to play even being down players.”

“Knowing it was my last lacrosse game, the emotions were so high, but I knew had to put them aside and I’m so glad to leave a three-time champ with this team,” Hayes said. “These are the games we play and practice for. The back-and-forth scoring for the majority of the game was intense. It means so much to me. This team has been my family for four years. I know we didn’t have a season my freshman year, but we had a group chat together and we planned for the upcoming years.”

“For these kids, I wanted it to happen,” Barker added. “Ruby said at halftime, ‘We just have to play hard 25 more minutes.'”

Sliwkowski, who has cemented her legend as the finest girls’ lacrosse player Maine has produced, bowed out with seven goals, an assist and a team-high four ground balls (an honor she shared with Armentrout). Sliwkowski will play at Brown University in Providence next year and will never be forgotten for her time in a Kennebunk uniform.

“There’s a ton of emotion,” said Sliwkowski. “I don’t think our record really hit me until the end. We’ve done something no one else will likely do and if they do, kudos. This is something we’ll always have. It’s legendary. We’ve left our legacy. In 2016, (assistant coach Joe Bush’s) daughter was my coach. All the sixth graders got to play on the seventh grade team. We looked up to the varsity girls. From there, he took me, (senior captain) Matilda (Bordas), Grace Archer and me under his wing until we won three championships.”


“Ruby just does it when she needs to do it,” said Barker. “I’ve never coached a player like her. She’s not only a good player, she’s very smart. You can’t teach all of that.”

Muse and Notine added two goals apiece, while Keenan had one.

Keenan and Muse also had assists.

Hayes, who plans to take a gap year next year and might not quite be done with lacrosse, made a dozen saves in her swan song.

“I was so excited after every save,” Hayes said. “After every goal, I had to put it behind me and get ready for the next shot. I knew goals would go in and I had to brush it off. I was shaking, but I knew the defense would get it done. I rely on them for everything. They’re amazing.”

“Lizzie made some big saves,” Barker said. “That’s what we expect from her. Mentally, she’s so tough. She’s a good, solid goalie.”


Kennebunk overcame 18 turnovers.

The Rams will unquestionably be hard-hit by graduation, but anyone thinking the 2024 squad won’t have the pieces in place to win it all again might find themselves surprised and disappointed.

“I’m excited to see what comes next because the future is bright,” Sliwkowski said. “I’m so excited to come back and watch next year.”

“Our freshmen killed it this year,” Hayes said. “Brielle Thompson, a freshman goalie, has come up big in varsity games and I know she’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”

“The nice thing is everyone is ready for next year,” Barker added. “We’ll come back. It might not be as easy, but we’ll be here. The plan is to be here again on the final day.”

Clippers Pride


Yarmouth got four goals from Panozzo, three from Boone, two from Powers and one from Bell.

Powers also had a pair of assists, while Bell and Lauren Keaney each set up a goal.

Grace Keaney made six big saves.

“I’m super-proud of how Grace played today,” Holt said.

The Clippers had a 13-11 edge in draws, a 30-20 advantage in ground balls (Powers had a game-high 11) and put 22 shots on cage to the Rams’ 18. Yarmouth turned the ball over 15 times, but played admirably from start to finish.

“I’m very proud of our team and how far we’ve come from the start of the season until now,” Wentzell said. “It definitely took a team effort today. We’ve worked really hard in practice. We moved people to different places and we played a great game. We’re a whole new team from when we played Kennebunk before. They just came out a little stronger in the second half.”


“Their goalie stood on her head and that’s what it took to win this game,” said Holt. “It was not easy for them. It took our whole team to play them. We’ve worked on things and our team executed. We had to get the right mindset. We were playing for the players who couldn’t be here. We earned the right to be here and it shows. We worked on transition, how to slow the ball down. When to look, when to drop, when not to drop. Our defense got confident. They knew they could do it. We wanted to play our game, not their game. We played our game today and just came up a little short. I think we had them on their heels.

“We don’t have a superstar. Our bench players play as hard as our starters and that’s what got us here. Hard work and belief in each other pays off. (Assistant coach) Jill (Thomas) and I reflected the other night how incredible this team is. I don’t remember a team I’ve had or played against that came as far as this team did.”

Carnes and Wentzell are the lone players to depart, but their impact will long be felt.

“It was super-fun having a young team this year,” said Wentzell. “Sadie and I won states sophomore year. We brought that experience with us.”

“It’s hard to lead when you have a lot of underclassmen, but those two were phenomenal,” said Holt. “They lived and died for Yarmouth lacrosse. They’re full-on team players. It broke Sadie’s heart that she couldn’t be here today.”

Unlike this spring, when the Clippers needed most of the season to hit their stride, they’ll be a force from the start in 2024 and could capture the only prize that has thus far eluded them.

The Class A championship.

“I’m looking forward to their season next year and I’ll be following them,” said Wentzell.

“We have good players coming back and we have our feeder system as well,” Holt added. “We just hope we keep progressing.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net.

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