Cape Elizabeth senior captains Tori McGrath, left, and Grace Gillian show off the Gold Ball after Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over Presque Isle in the Class B state final.
Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal photos.
More photos below.
HAMPDEN—A day of immense frustration ended in utter exhilaration for junior Karli Chapin and her Cape Elizabeth girls’ soccer teammates.
The undefeated Capers controlled play against Presque Isle for much of the Class B state final at Hampden Academy Saturday afternoon, but after hitting the crossbar on four separate occasions in the first 40 minutes alone, Cape Elizabeth went into the half scoreless.
Then, when the Wildcats staggered the Capers less than nine minutes into the second half, on a goal from junior Clara Kohlbacher, potential defeat was staring the favorites in the face.
But Chapin didn’t let Cape Elizabeth’s title dream go unfulfilled.
First, she soared above the crowd as only she can to head home freshman sensation Maggie Cochran’s feed with 19:53 remaining.
Then, after the Capers couldn’t win it in regulation, the contest went to overtime and 11 minutes, 14 seconds into the first of a possible two “sudden victory” extra sessions, Chapin struck again, this time with her right foot, as she took a pass from Cochran and swept a shot past Presque Isle senior goalkeeper Savannah Rodriguez and into the goal to win it, 2-1.
Cape Elizabeth finished a franchise-best 18-0, ended the Wildcats’ season at 14-2-2 and won its first Gold Ball in five years and seventh overall in unforgettable fashion.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Chapin. “We worked so hard all season. I’m really proud of my team. We’re really close. It’s really special to have this moment. We wanted to see each other do well, score goals and make big plays. Our unselfishness got us here.”
After losing by a goal to eventual champion Yarmouth in last year’s regional final, Cape Elizabeth had a single focus, getting back to the big stage this season and winning it all.
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, but the road got a lot tougher from there, as they had to rally from an early deficit to down No. 4 Yarmouth, 2-1, in the semifinals, then score twice late to knock off upset-minded, third-ranked York, 2-0, in Wednesday’s regional final.
Presque Isle, which suffered a 9-0 loss to Yarmouth in the state game in 2017, went 11-1-2 this fall, losing only to Fort Kent and tying Caribou and Hermon. As the top seed in Class B North, the Wildcats advanced by virtue of wins over No. 8 Brewer (3-0 in the quarterfinals), fourth-seeded Medomak Valley (1-0 in the semifinals) and third-ranked Winslow (2-0 in the regional final).
Presque Isle was seeking its first Gold Ball in four all-time state game appearances, while Cape Elizabeth was after its first since 2013 and its seventh in nine all-time tries on the big stage.
Saturday, the game began under comfortable 56 degree skies, but the winds picked up and rain fell sporadically as the Capers, for much of the contest, couldn’t finish before managing to do so when it mattered the most.
The tone was set a minute in, when Chapin took a shot which Rodriguez saved.
In the third minute, Cape Elizabeth came within inches of getting the jump when Chapin got her head on senior Prezli Piscopo’s corner kick, but sent the ball off the crossbar.
After Maggie Cochran just missed, Piscopo had a long free kick saved, Piscopo shot high, Cochran just missed wide and Cochran and senior Tori McGrath both had shots saved, the frame again got the best of the Capers.
This time, with 13:31 remaining in the half, on a corner kick, the Wildcats cleared the ball out to freshman Emily Supple, who ripped a shot over Rodriguez, but again, it rang off the post.
The frustration continued with 9:17 on the clock, as Cochran set up Chapin for another header which hit the crossbar once more.
With 8:24 left, Cochran ripped a shot that kissed the top of the crossbar.
“We hit the crossbar more times today than some teams do in a season,” Cape Elizabeth first-year coach Graham Forsyth lamented.
Late in the half, Piscopo’s corner found Chapin’s head, but the ball clanked off the football goalpost, Rodriguez dove to rob junior Liv Cochran, Piscopo missed just high and a Chapin shot was denied by Rodriguez.
In the first 40 minutes. the Capers had a 7-0 edge in corner kicks and a 17-1 advantage in shots, including 10-1 on frame, but they had nothing to show for it as 10 Rodriguez saves and plenty of bounces off the crossbar kept the game 0-0.
“Hitting the post and not finishing was frustrating, but Graham just told us to keep attacking the whole game,” said Chapin.
“We dominated, but today we couldn’t finish in the final third,” Forsyth said. “We created a lot of shots on goal.”
The beginning of the second half was more of the same, as Chapin was robbed in front and Rodriguez denied Maggie Cochran.
Presque Isle then began to generate some offense, as Capers senior Grace Gillian broke up a rush by Wildcats senior scoring machine Madison Michaud, who has over 100 goals in her career.
“It was hard marking (Michaud),” said Gillian. “She had some good speed and could have gotten by us, but (sophomore) Sami Olson and I communicated.”
Presque Isle then earned a free kick and junior Allison Himes sent the ball in to Cape Elizabeth freshman goalkeeper Elise Branch, but Branch couldn’t hold it and Kohlbacher raced in and banged home the rebound for a stunning 1-0 lead.
Cape Elizabeth didn’t hang its heads and pushed for the equalizer, but it took awhile to produce it.
Supple had a long shot saved, Gillian headed a corner kick over the bar, Supple had a shot blocked, Liv Cochran had a shot saved and a long free kick from Gillian was cleared at the last second.
Then, with 19:53 to go, the Capers were finally rewarded for their hard work.
Maggie Cochran took a step to elude a defender, then floated the ball in front, where again Chapin got her head on the ball, but this time, she kept it under the bar and the ball got past Rodriguez to tie the score, 1-1.
“We knew we were capable of coming back and winning,” Chapin said. “It was a cross and I was just trying to keep it down so I wouldn’t hit the crossbar again. I was just trying to redirect it away from the goalie.”
“Karli has come up clutch for us so many times,” Gillian said. “I didn’t have a doubt in my mind, but I felt uneasy. Once we scored, we got really fired up,”
“Karli just knows where to be,” Forsyth added. “She always seems to find herself in the right position. She’s hard to defend against. Her head is a magnet.”
The rest of regulation featured near-misses for both squads.
After Branch saved a long shot from Kohlbacher, Rodriguez denied Cape Elizabeth sophomore Laura Ryer and saved a long shot from Maggie Cochran.
With 13:20 left, off a corner kick, Gillian fired a one-timer which forced Rodriguez to leap and save.
The Wildcats then earned a pair of corner kicks of their own, but couldn’t convert.
Down the stretch, Supple just missed with her left foot, Piscopo had a shot that got through Rodriguez, but hit the post, Supple was denied and Liv Cochran missed just high.
The contest would go to overtime, which in the playoffs consists of two, 15-minute, “sudden victory” sessions and if no one scores, the title is decided on penalty kicks.
Those wouldn’t be necessary.
As was the case in regulation, the Capers needed several looks before finally bringing the curtain down on the season in style.
Chapin almost won it a minute into OT, but sent a header high.
Seconds later, Piscopo set up Chapin for a shot which Rodriguez saved.
With 12:25 left in overtime, senior Riley Dall hit a shot with her left foot and it deflected off a Presque Isle defender’s head, forcing Rodriguez to dive and tip it out for a corner.
After Chapin had a shot saved by Rodriguez, then missed just wide, Gillian had a chance to end it, but sent a header just high.
And then, suddenly, it ended.
The winning play began innocently enough, as Maggie Cochran crossed a low ball to Chapin and Chapin, almost nonchalantly, one-timed the ball on frame and it got past Rodriguez and found the net with 3:46 remaining in OT.
“Their goalie is very good, so I just had to get it away from her,” said Chapin, who also played a huge role in Cape Elizabeth’s girls’ lacrosse title run back in June. “We kept attacking the whole game. We knew we’d get one more if we kept our heads up and we stayed positive.”
“I wasn’t surprised it was Karli,” Piscopo said. “Her foot and head are a magnet to the ball. She’s always in front of the ball and we can always count on her to put it in. I had no doubt she could score.”
“That’s her 22nd goal this year,” Forsyth added. “She’s composed. We can count on her.”
At 4:57 p.m., the Capers erupted in joy and a huge celebration broke out.
“Relief came right away and exhilaration right after that,” said Gillian. “It’s an unbelievable feeling I don’t think I’ll get from anything else. It’s a feeling I can’t describe. We put in 110 percent work out there. I couldn’t ask for more from a team. I knew our team was strong enough to come out with the win. The seniors have played together our entire lives. This year, it means so much. It’s a perfect way to end it.”
“It just feels so good,” said Piscopo, who will play for Southern New Hampshire University next year. “We’ve come so far and worked so hard. We didn’t come all this way to lose. Thankfully, our hard work paid off.”
“The girls fought when things didn’t go their way,” Forsyth added. “We trust the girls and they trust us. We didn’t change the game plan. We had the heart and desire and they wanted it so bad since the first session of summer. We kept trying when things didn’t go our way. The girls were excellent all year. I could rely on them. It was a very good relationship.”
Cape Elizabeth finished with a 22-4 advantage in shots on frame and a 14-2 edge in corner kicks. Branch made three saves.
Presque Isle got 20 saves from Rodriguez as it fell just short.
“(Rodriguez) made a lot of big saves today,” Forsyth said.
Cape Elizabeth will be hard-hit by graduation, as it has to say goodbye to Dall, Gillian, McGrath, Piscopo, Maggie Pierce and Corinne Wight.
The Capers return plenty of talent, however, including Maggie Cochran and Chapin, and they’ll be hungry to look to repeat for the first time since 1996-97.
“We’ll have the same mindset next season and we’ll try to get the same thing done,” Chapin said.
“We have good sophomores and juniors and freshmen coming back next year, so we’ll be tough,” Forsyth said.
Cape Elizabeth senior Grace Gillian (12) and junior Karli Chapin go for the ball on a corner kick.
Somewhere at the bottom of this pile is junior Karli Chapin, who is mobbed by her teammates after scoring in overtime to give Cape Elizabeth the championship.
Cape Elizabeth senior Prezli Piscopo exults in the postgame celebration.
Cape Elizabeth junior Liv Cochran, left, and senior Grace Gillian kiss the Capers’ new prize.
Waterville 1 Cape Elizabeth 0 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 2 Waterville 1 (4-2 PKs)
Cape Elizabeth 2 Waterville 1 (2 OT)
Cape Elizabeth 2 Waterville 1
Cape Elizabeth 1 Brunswick 0 (4 OT)
Mt. Ararat 4 Cape Elizabeth 1
Cape Elizabeth 2 Mt. Ararat 1
Cape Elizabeth 3 Caribou 0
Yarmouth 9 Presque Isle 0
Falmouth 1 Presque Isle 0
Falmouth 2 Presque Isle 0