Falmouth girls go overtime for win at Yarmouth
YARMOUTH—Even though the Falmouth girls' soccer team entered Saturday's game at Yarmouth as the favorite, the Yachtsmen soon learned why records and perceived strength gets thrown out the window when longtime rivals do battle.
The up-and-coming Clippers played the defending Class B state champions toe-to-toe for 80 minutes and forced overtime, but there, 2 minutes, 7 seconds into the extra session, Falmouth got the game's lone goal when junior Angela Mallis fed classmate Alex Bernier to help the Yachtsmen improve to 5-0-1 on the season, dropping Yarmouth to 2-6 in the process.
"It was a great game," said Bernier, moments after scoring her first overtime goal. "It was really fun. Yarmouth always shows up to play. I knew they'd bring their game. As did we, luckily."
Falmouth peaked late a year ago and won yet another Class B state championship, its sixth in a decade. While there was plenty of roster turnover and yet another coaching change (Wally LeBlanc), the Yachtsmen haven't missed a beat in 2011.
Falmouth blanked host Poland (7-0) and visiting Lake Region (9-0) to start the season. After a 6-1 win at Wells, the Yachtsmen rallied to tie visiting Cape Elizabeth, 1-1. Last Friday, in its last action, Falmouth held off visiting rival York, 1-0.
Yarmouth, meanwhile, turned heads a year ago, winning its first 11 games behind a dynamic senior core, but the Clippers were upset at home in the semifinals by Falmouth, 1-0. This year's team was decimated by graduation, the transfer to McAuley by goalkeeping sensation Olivia Smith and so far this autumn, by injury.
Regardless, Yarmouth has hung tough throughout. After a 4-0 loss at Cape Elizabeth to start the year, the Clippers dropped 2-1 home decisions to York and Greely, before being upset, 3-2, at Fryeburg. Yarmouth got in the win column at Freeport, 2-1, and held off visiting Lake Region by the same score. Thursday night, the Clippers suffered a 5-1 loss at Greely.
While Falmouth has won a half-dozen titles to Yarmouth's one over the past decade, the teams' games are almost always right down to the wire.
Since 2001, the rivals tied five times and four other meetings (including the 2005 Western Class B Final) went into overtime. The Yachtsmen had won 13 of the 19 games that didn't wind up deadlocked, including playoff wins in 2002, 2005, 2006 and last year (the Clippers knocked Falmouth out in 2003, en route to their lone championship this century).
A year ago, Yarmouth enjoyed an early-season 3-2 home win over Falmouth. The teams then played to a scoreless tie at Falmouth. The Yachtsmen scored an early goal on Abbey Cavalero's corner kick in the semifinals and held on to eliminate the Clippers, 1-0.
Saturday, undermanned Yarmouth, playing for assistant coach Rod Corey (head coach Rich Smith, the only coach the Clippers have ever known, was in Georgia visiting his son who had a 36-hour leave from the military), rose to the occasion, but just couldn't finish.
Yarmouth got the first good chance of the game, in the fifth minute.
On a corner kick (the Clippers had two to Falmouth's one on the day), junior Tess Merrill lofted a ball into the box that fell untouched. Junior Olivia Conrad got to it and fired a shot, but it was right at Yachtsmen junior goalkeeper Caroline Lucas, who turned it aside.
Yarmouth's defense held Falmouth in check until the 22nd minute, when senior Sarah Hogan broke into the box, only to be denied by Yarmouth senior captain Jeanna Lowery. A minute later, Mallis fired a left-footed blast from 30-yards out, but Clippers freshman goalkeeper Shannon Fallon (who has filled in admirably for injured junior Claire King) made the save.
In the second half, each team had looks, but the game remained scoreless.
With 27 minutes to go, Merrill sent a cross to senior captain Mo McNaboe, but it was broken up at the last minute.
With 16:57 to play, a long shot from Yachtsmen junior Caitlin Bucksbaum (who moved from North Carolina, joined the team this fall and has made a huge impact) was punched away at the last second by Fallon, setting up a corner kick. On Falmouth's lone corner of the afternoon, Hogan, after eluding a pair of defenders, had a look, but shot high.
A little over a minute later, Falmouth junior Cassie Darrow also shot high.
With 12:34 to go in regulation, Hogan crossed to Bernier, but her header was snared by Fallon.
With 4:27 showing, the hosts had their last chance. Senior Ricki Pierce played a long ball up the right sideline to Merrill, who got past her defender. As Merrill played the ball ahead, Lucas raced out and for a second, it appeared Merrill might get to the ball first, but Lucas broke up the play and the teams would go to overtime.
In OT, the Yachtsmen finally pounced.
The winning goal came quickly as Mallis controlled the ball on the left flank, waited for Bernier to make her run, then delivered a perfect pass. With Fallon coming out to challenge, all Bernier had to do was poke the ball past her and she did just that, into the net and Falmouth had prevailed, 1-0.
"Going into overtime, we didn't change anything," Bernier said. "We had a good talk and Wally said have fun and go to goal. I saw Angela and the ball she made was just perfect. When she looked up, we made eye contact and I went in. I actually didn't know if I could score. I was worried about the keeper. When I saw it roll in, it was nice. It felt good. I was so happy for the team that we got the win. We have new faces and a new coach. It's a new team. We're completely different from last year. Only three or four people came back from last year. Adding Caitlin helps a ton."
"We'll take it," added LeBlanc. "It's a nice result. It's a fantastic Yarmouth team. They played really intelligent. They possessed the ball on us and made us work hard. It was great competition. It brought out our errors and allowed us to make adjustments. We learn from these experiences. We wanted to carry the play more. We tried to get our two center-midfielders, Cassie and Caitlin, involved more. I felt in the first half, their center-midfielders and their outside backs stepping up did a great job possessing the ball so we couldn't get touches. If we don't get touches, we can't serve it. The whole idea was to start getting better touches and put high pressure. We finally got one. Alex had a great finish. I'm really pleased. It's difficult with a new coach and a lot of new players. We're starting from scratch. Everyone's adjusting to learn."
While Yarmouth left the field in disappointment, there's little question the Clippers made a statement with their strong effort and that better days are ahead for this squad.
"The girls played very well," Corey said. "I'm extremely well of how they played today. I'm sure Coach Smith will be bummed he missed this game. They've been thinking about this game. Obviously, the Yarmouth-Falmouth rivalry goes deep. They were focused and ready for the game. When you play a good team like Falmouth, you won't get many good opportunities. We tried to capitalize on the ones that came through, but it didn't happen.
"It was definitely a team effort. We didn't do any man marking. There was a lot of communication in the back. The midfielders did a nice job coming back to support too. I'm very proud of how Shannon played. It's very hard for a keeper to step in, especially as a freshman. She did a great job today and made some outstanding saves."
Yarmouth (12th in the Western Class B Heal Points standings, where 11 teams qualify for the playoffs) still needs some big wins to reach the postseason. The Clippers are home with Gray-New Gloucester Monday and visit Wells Thursday. Home games with Poland and North Yarmouth Academy and trips to Falmouth and York still loom.
"We're halfway through and we've had a tough first half, but it seems like things are coming together," Corey said.
As for the Yachtsmen (third behind Morse and York in the Heals, as of Sunday morning), they visit Greely Monday, host Fryeburg Wednesday and meet Greely again at home on Friday. Games at Freeport, York and Cape Elizabeth and home tilts with Gray-New Gloucester and Yarmouth also remain.
So far, this team is looking good in its bid to win another championship.
"It's a long season," LeBlanc said. "There are still a lot of big games coming up."