Cape Elizabeth senior Karli Chapin soars above the crowd to head the ball during the Capers’ 2-1 win over two-time defending state champion Yarmouth in Monday’s Class B South semifinal.
Brianna Soukup / Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
CAPE ELIZABETH—It isn’t easy being the undefeated top-seed in the playoffs.
Yarmouth’s girls’ soccer team learned that lesson a year ago when Cape Elizabeth gave it fits in the regional final before the Clippers were ultimately able to prevail.
The tables were turned when the top-ranked Capers welcomed No. 4 Yarmouth, the two-time defending Class B state champion, to Hannaford Field Monday afternoon, but as the Clippers did last fall, Cape Elizabeth managed to figure it out, avoid an upset and move a step closer to a coveted Gold Ball.
The Capers came out lethargic and Yarmouth took advantage, as junior Adriana Whitlock finished senior Liv Feeley’s free kick in the 11th minute for a quick 1-0 lead.
The Clippers held Cape Elizabeth off the board until 11:19 remained in the first half when senior standout Prezli Piscopo took a perfect pass from junior Karli Chapin and tied things up.
The Capers then rode that momentum into the second half and with 26:22 to play, freshman standout Maggie Cochran, best known for her ability to set up teammates, scored the decisive goal.
Cape Elizabeth held off a couple late Yarmouth forays and survived and advanced, 2-1.
The Capers improved to 16-0, ended the Clippers’ two-year title reign and their season at 10-6 and advanced to host either No. 3 York (11-3-1) or 10th-ranked Greely (8-7-1) in the Class B South Final Wednesday at 4 p.m.
“I really laid into the girls at halftime because they didn’t show up at the start,” said Cape Elizabeth first-year coach Graham Forsyth. “I reminded them that we set out a plan when I got the job and they hadn’t lived up what they had done all season. I told them to get back to that and there was no doubt in my mind that they’d be fine.”
After Yarmouth dominated the state a year ago en route to a decisive win in the state final to cap an undefeated season, Cape Elizabeth is hoping to follow the same script this fall.
The Capers won their 14 regular season games by a composite 50-2 margin. As the top seed in Class B South, they handled No. 9 Gray-New Gloucester, 3-0, in the quarterfinals last Wednesday.
The Clippers, meanwhile, were mortal this season, finishing 9-5 and fourth in the region. In last week’s quarterfinal round, Yarmouth avenged a regular season loss with a 3-2 home victory over No. 5 Freeport.
Cape Elizabeth won both regular season meetings, 1-0, at home, on Chapin’s goal in the second overtime, and 3-0, in Yarmouth, behind two goals from Chapin and another from senior Tori McGrath.
The Clippers had won two of three prior playoff meetings, including last year’s 1-0 victory in the regional final, on a goal from then-sophomore Ehryn Groothoff.
The teams were supposed to play Saturday, but rain pushed the game back to Monday afternoon where the rain held off and with the temperature reading 49 degrees at kickoff, the rivals put on a memorable show.
Yarmouth got the first chance, in the third minute, as Feeley served up a long free kick which Groothoff sent just wide of the goal.
In the seventh minute, the Capers had a corner kick, which Piscopo served in front, but Clippers junior goalkeeper Hope Olson punched it away.
Yarmouth then went back on offense and in the 11th minute, took the lead.
The goal was set up by another long Feeley serve and this time, in traffic, Whitlock managed to get to the ball and head it past Cape Elizabeth freshman goalkeeper Elise Branch for a stunning 1-0 lead.
“(That goal) got (the Capers) thinking,” said Clippers coach Chris Coleman. “We knew we were dangerous on set pieces and wanted to make one count and we did early. If we got into halftime 1-0, it could have been a different story.”
Yarmouth wasn’t able to do that.
After Chapin sent a header wide, Clippers junior back Ella Caruso cleared a loose ball from the box and Chapin had a shot saved by Olson, the hosts pulled even.
With 11:19 to go in the half, after a turnover, Chapin got the ball, drew two defenders, then passed to Piscopo in the box to her left. Piscopo then managed to beat Olson just inside the far post to make it 1-1.
“That goal was really important because normally, when we get scored on, we keep our heads down and that wasn’t an option today,” said Piscopo. “Every time we score, it hypes us up.
“I saw (Karli) with two defenders, but she had a gap behind her and I tried to get there as quickly as possible. It was an awkward angle. I couldn’t shoot with the inside of my foot or with my laces or with my left foot. I had to shoot with the outside of my right foot, but thankfully it worked.”
“We had bad touches and bad shots, but once we got the goal, we dominated the ball,” Forsyth said. “If we had come into halftime at 1-0, no way we would have gotten back in the game. That’s how big that goal was.
“It came from a mistake. They mis-kicked the ball and you can rely on Prezli in that situation. It wasn’t the cleanest of strikes, but anything on goal from her, you have a chance. It was a really big finish. She needed a bit of a wakeup call. I took her off and gave her a rest, then she was fine. You know what you’re getting from Prezli. She shows up when you need her.”
The game would go to the break deadlocked. Cape Elizabeth had a 3-2 edge in shots and a 4-0 advantage on corner kicks.
“Chris is one of the best coaches I’ve ever seen,” Forsyth said. “(Yarmouth) had a game-plan and when they scored, they changed their shape. I’m not sure we would have broken them down if we hadn’t scored before halftime.”
The Capers then came out for the second half, carried play and eventually were rewarded with the go-ahead strike.
After Olson got to a cross from junior Liv Cochran a split second before Chapin could reach it, Liv Cochran eluded a defender and forced Olson to dive to make the save with sophomore Gabrielle Thibodeau clearing the rebound.
With 27:44 to play, senior Grace Gillian got her head on a free kick from Piscopo, but sent it just wide.
Cape Elizabeth’s next chance resulted in the decisive goal.
With 26:22 on the clock, Maggie Cochran got the ball from McGrath, turned and lofted a shot from 25-yards out just over the outstretched hands of Olson and into the net to make it 2-1.
“I was hoping that goal was coming,” Cochran said. “We had a lot of chances. I found a gap in front of me and decided to dribble into it. From there, I shot it as hard as I could. It felt good and I had a feeling it was going in. It felt amazing to score in this huge game.”
“For me, Maggie is the best player in the state,” Forsyth said. “She’s so dynamic, she can play both ways, she has a good final product. She has nine goals and 21 assists. Those numbers are ridiculous for a freshman. The consistency for someone so young is remarkable. I’m pleased for her. I’ve tried to get her to be more unselfish, but she’s such a nice girl. She’d rather set someone else up.”
Yarmouth hoped to answer, but Feeley missed wide on a free kick and sophomore Parker Harnett sent a long shot on goal which resulted in an easy save for Branch.
With 6:57 left in regulation, another long Harnett shot was wide of the mark, but Branch tipped it out, setting up a corner kick opportunity.
Feeley then found Thibodeau in the box, but Thibodeau headed the ball over the crossbar.
After Groothoff was just wide with her left foot, the Clippers got one final chance, but with 23.2 seconds showing, junior Hannah Dwyer’s promising blast sailed just wide.
Cape Elizabeth ran out the clock from there and celebrated its 2-1 victory.
“There were nerves at the start because Yarmouth is such a huge competitor of ours,” said Cochran. “We just told each other to relax.”
“It’s a lot of pressure because every team we play is the underdog and we have everything to lose and they have everything to gain,” Piscopo said. “It was stressful at the end. Coach told us to relax when we had the ball, but they came at us with so much pressure. It was hard to keep possession. In the last 30 seconds, we kicked it as hard as we could.”
“The girls are very set on the target of winning the championship,” Forsyth added. “The way they played in the second half, I couldn’t ask for more.”
Cape Elizabeth had an 8-4 shots advantage and took five corners to the Clippers’ one. Branch made three saves.
Yarmouth got six saves from Olson and put forth a valiant effort, but its run as champion came to an end.
“We gave them everything we had tonight,” Coleman said. “They’re a quality team and we had to make things as difficult as we could and we did. We weren’t good enough with the football tonight, but defensively, we were outstanding and our work rate was superb. We were Cape Elizabeth last year and we’ll be that again. I hope they go on and win it. I know a lot of the girls and I know how much it means to them and their coach.
“With the injuries we’ve had and some of the results we had, I think it’s important to acknowledge how far we came. We were 6-5 and we got here. It’s a great group of girls who fought for each other.”
Yarmouth graduates Feeley, Caitlin Hewitt and Kara Murray, but returns everyone else in 2019, so expect the Clippers to be a top contender again next year.
“The seniors are so respected,” Coleman said. “Liv Feeley has been outstanding, game after game. I’ve known her for a long time and she’s come so far how emotionally she led the team and how she played. It’s sad for her not to finish on a high note, but she had two great years winning it. Caitlin and Kara have sewn the seed for others to come through.
“We have a big freshman class coming in, something we didn’t have last year. That will give us a little bit more. We’ll put ourselves in the mix and give it another shot.”
Wednesday figures to bring another tough challenge to the Capers, who will know their foe, whoever it is (Greely and York meet in their weather-delayed semifinal Tuesday afternoon), very well.
Cape Elizabeth and Greely played in the season opener, a 2-1 Capers’ win, Aug. 31 and again Sept. 25, a 5-1 home victory for Cape Elizabeth. The teams have played a whopping 19 previous times in the postseason with the Rangers holding an 10-9 lead. Last year, Cape Elizabeth won, 3-2, at Greely in the semifinals.
Cape Elizabeth and York played twice this fall, with the Capers taking both: 5-0 in York Sept. 8 and 2-0 at home Sept. 27. The teams met just once before in the playoffs, a 3-2 (double-overtime) victory for the Wildcats in the 2015 Class B South semifinals.
“We’ve been doing a lot of team bonding and it’s brought us closer together and is getting us even more hyped up to win a championship,” Piscopo said.
“It’s so exciting to almost be in the finals,” Maggie Cochran said. “We’ll have to keep working hard to get there.”
“Cape-Yarmouth games mean so much, so I hope we got our nerves out of the way,” Forsyth added. “We beat Greely and York twice each, but they’ll always play us tough.”
Yarmouth sophomore Parker Harnett and Cape Elizabeth senior Riley Dall chase the ball.
Yarmouth junior Adriana Whitlock is congratulated by her teammates after scoring the game’s first goal.
Cape Elizabeth senior Prezli Piscopo, with Yarmouth junior Ella Caruso breathing down her neck, beats Clippers junior goalie Hope Olson to tie the game in the first half.
2017 Class B South Final
Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 0
2016 Class B South semifinals
Yarmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 1
2014 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 1 Yarmouth 0