Waynflete girls on brink of return trip to Class C Final; Cheverus denied by Gorham again, Portland eliminated by Greely
The defending Class C state champion Waynflete Flyers girls' soccer team got its biggest test out of the way right out of the gate and is now on the brink of a return trip to the state final.
Last Tuesday, the Flyers held off rival and nemesis North Yarmouth Academy, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. Friday, Waynflete eliminated Sacopee, 5-0, to set up a date in the regional final Wednesday afternoon at Georges Valley.
In Western A, Cheverus and Portland's runs both ended with one-goal losses in the quarterfinals.
The Stags, for the fourth time in five seasons, were eliminated in painful fashion by Gorham, this time, 2-1, in overtime.
The Bulldogs gave perennial power Greely all it could handle, but a second half goal was the difference in a 1-0 setback.
Normally, when a Waynflete-North Yarmouth Academy girls' soccer playoff game ends, medals and plaques are awarded.
That wasn't the case last week, but the Flyers still had plenty of reason to celebrate after holding off their nemesis for a second year in a row.
Due to the vagaries of the Heal Points system, Waynflete (after a stellar 13-1 regular season) and NYA (11-2-1) finished fourth and fifth respectively in the standings, meaning the teams that have combined for the past six Class C championships would do battle much sooner than expected.
Back on Sept. 22, in Portland, Waynflete eked out a 1-0 win over NYA on a Woodhouse goal in the second overtime. Eleven days later, in Yarmouth, the Panthers got a big-time measure of revenge with a 4-0 romp.
The teams never met in the postseason until 2005, but have squared off annually since. That first year, NYA won 3-1 at Waynflete in the semifinals. In 2006, the Panthers enjoyed a 1-0 regional final win at home over the Flyers. The next year, with Waynflete a heavy favorite, then-sophomore Courtney Dumont's overtime goal sparked NYA to a 1-0 win and an eventual fifth straight state title. Finally, last year, the Flyers got over the hump with a 2-0 home win in the regional final and they went on to win a first-ever Class C crown.
This time around, after dodging a few early bullets off the foot and head of Dumont, Waynflete went up 1-0 when junior Lydia Stegemann scored (from senior Caitlin Britos).
"I saw it coming across and no one was there so I shot it," Stegemann said. "Coach told us we had to come out early and take a lot of shots, no matter where we were, to keep them on their heels. I saw it, shot it and it worked. It felt great. It was really important to get a lead. That was crucial to help us win the game."
With 19:12 left in regulation, the Flyers got some breathing room when senior standout Morgan Woodhouse doubled the lead.
Woodhouse got the ball on the left side of the box, eluded one defender, dribbled around a second, then turned and launched a perfect shot into the net for a 2-0 advantage.
"I knew I'd be guarded pretty tight," Woodhouse said. "Any shot I could get off I had to aim for the net. I struck it pretty hard and it went in. Coming in, we treated it like the Western Maine Final. We came with the same enthusiasm. We knew we'd have to beat them eventually."
In the 71st minute, Dumont finally struck, cutting the lead in half, but the Flyers were able to hold on and win, 2-1.
"It was quite a battle, all it shaped up to be," said first-year Waynflete coach Todd Dominski. "I told the girls it wasn't going to be 1-0. If we got up or down early, we knew we'd have to get more than one. This is a great confidence builder."
The Flyers moved on to host No. 8 Sacopee, which had upset top-ranked St. Dom's in its quarterfinal. Waynflete easily handled Sacopee twice this fall, 9-1 at home Oct. 1 and 5-0 on the road Oct. 19. Last year, the Flyers eliminated Sacopee, 4-0, in the quarterfinals.
Friday, Waynflete got a first half goal from Britos, but didn't open it up until the second stanza, when Woodhouse scored twice and senior Sasha Timpson and sophomore Becky Smith struck once to account for the 5-0 victory.
"It was a tight first half," Dominski said. "We scored within the first two minutes but sat back after that. Sacopee carried play most of the first half, but could not score. We were able to get our feet under us for the second half and put the game away."
That win will send the Flyers to No. 2 Georges Valley (13-0-2) in the regional final. The teams didn't square off this year. The lone prior playoff meeting came a year ago, a 3-0 Waynflete triumph in the semifinals.
"I do not know much about Georges Valley," Dominski said. "I am going to work the girls hard the next two days to make sure they are ready to play on Wednesday."
The Class C championship game will be played Saturday at either Scarborough High School or Hampden Academy.
Cheverus is only in its eighth varsity season and it now has had half of them ruined by powerhouse Gorham, the four-time defending regional champion.
The Stags tied the visiting Rams 1-1, way back on Sept. 5 in the regular season opener. Cheverus went on to post an 8-2-4 mark and earn the No. 5 seed for the playoffs. Gorham finished fourth.
In the 2005 regional final, the Rams beat the Stags, 3-0. The next year, in the semis, Gorham won 5-2. Two years ago, Cheverus took the Rams to overtime, but ultimately fell, 2-1. Last week proved to be more of the same.
The Stags took the lead early in the second half on a goal from freshman Eden Monsen, but midway through the half, Gorham (as it always seems to do) answered and forced overtime. The game would go to a second 15-minute extra session before the Rams finally struck, ending Cheverus' season at 8-3-4.
"The game was well played by both sides," said Cheverus coach Dan LaVallee. "The first half I thought we had the better of the game, but chances for either team were few and far between. Once we got our goal in the second half, I thought we were in pretty good shape, but they really stepped it up and took the game to us. They had the better of the chances and we were under quite a bit of pressure. It was their great midfield against our great defense. The overtimes were even with both sides having chances and then we had a communication mistake and the Gorham girl just tapped it in. We were unlucky because I liked our PK chances but that's the way the ball bounces, literally."
The Stags will try again next fall.
"We graduate six solid seniors, but we have real quality coming back so I think we will be strong again next year," LaVallee said. "Most of the senior starters were wide players, so we will need some speed to fill those slots, but if we get a freshman class next September like this year, we will be in very good shape."
Portland closed the regular season on fire, winning its final five games to go 8-4-2, good for the No. 6 seed in the region, setting up a trip to No. 3 Greely. The Rangers beat the Bulldogs twice in previous playoff matchups (1-0 in the 1993 regional final and 1-0 and the 1998 preliminary round).
Early on, it appeared as if it was only a matter of time before the hosts got on the scoreboard. Greely had the better of the chances, but Portland freshman goalkeeper Mishale Nabi and her teammates held strong.
The Bulldogs nearly scored first in the second half when with 21:08 to go, senior Nancy McAdam fired a blast on the dead run that Greely senior goalkeeper Jamie Moody saved with her fingertips. Five minutes later, the Rangers scored after a failed clear and made it hold up, ending Portland's season at 8-5-2 with a 1-0 decision.
"We wanted to come up and play 80 minutes and we did," said Bulldogs coach Dave Levasseur. "(The Rangers) have the technical skills and played a strong game, but my girls never gave up. We just didn't catch any luck. We had a couple chances, I thought. We couldn't convert on corners (five attempts) at all, which has been a strength this year. Mishale played a great game in goal. Their goal was the right place at the right time. That's what good teams do. I'm happy for the kids in the sense that we played them toe-to-toe. To do that up here is tough.
"This was actually the first time this year that we had our true starting lineup. It's been a great group of seniors. Eight of them have been with me since they were freshmen. They had a nice high school career. Now they're off to bigger and better things."
Despite the graduation hit, Portland should once again be in contention in 2010.
"Three freshmen started tonight and did well," Levasseur said. "Robin Bernsten, Ashley Frank and Mishale are all defenders. That's something to build on for next year."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com