South Portland senior Meghan Graff and Falmouth freshman Caroline Cohen battle for possession during the Yachtsmen’s 1-0 win Saturday.
Falmouth’s girls’ soccer team celebrates at the conclusion of its 1-0 home win over South Portland Saturday morning.
FALMOUTH—Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and while Saturday morning’s 1-0 home victory wasn’t beautiful in the classic sense, to Falmouth’s girls’ soccer team, vanquishing South Portland and getting back in the win column was a thing of beauty indeed.
The Yachtsmen, after dropping five games in a row, hosted a surging Red Riots team for the first team and after a relatively uneventful, scoreless first half played in chilly conditions, Falmouth made the play it needed to prevail in the second half.
With 29:53 to go, off a free kick from the side by senior playmaker Cali Wiberg, freshman Devin Quinn headed the ball into the net and the Yachtsmen had a 1-0 lead.
Falmouth’s defense smothered South Portland the rest of the way and the goal stood up.
The Yachtsmen ended their skid, improved to 3-6 and dropped the Red Riots to 3-3-3 in the process.
“We played really well today,” said Falmouth coach Andrew Pelletier. “I thought the first half was the best half we played all year. We shut them down almost the whole way.”
Both teams came into Saturday’s tilt looking for an elusive win.
After starting with losses at Windham (2-0) and Cheverus (2-1), the Red Riots played host Marshwood to a scoreless tie, won at home over Thornton Academy (3-2), then settled for a 2-2 tie against visiting Kennebunk. After settling for a scoreless draw at Portland, South Portland handled visiting Massabesic (8-0) and Biddeford (4-1).
Falmouth opened with a 2-1 loss at Scarborough, then defeated visiting Sanford (3-1) and Maine Girls’ Academy (9-0) before losing at Noble (2-1) and Cheverus (2-0), at home to Marshwood (2-0), at Gorham (3-0) and at Portland (3-2).
Saturday morning, under drizzly, 49-degree skies, in the first-ever meeting between the programs, the Yachtsmen had the better of possession most of the way, but it took the hosts awhile to find the net.
In the third minute, Falmouth earned a free kick, but Wiberg fired a shot just high.
After South Portland sophomore goalkeeper Maria Buck beat Yachtsmen freshman Lexi Bugbee to junior Madison Wolf’s cross, Wiberg set up senior Amelia Waite for a shot which Buck stopped.
Later in the half, Wiberg had a couple other free kicks veer off target and the Red Riots’ best chance saw junior Julia Banks have a rush broken up by Falmouth sophomore goalkeeper Claire Winkeler.
South Portland came out strong in the second half, but a left-footed bid from sophomore Hattie Tetzlaff was bobbed and saved by Winkeler and another shot by Tetzlaff got past Winkeler, but rolled just wide.
After Waite had a shot blocked, the Yachtsmen earned a free kick which led to the game’s lone tally.
With 29:53 on the clock, Wiberg served the ball in from the side and it found the head of Quinn, who redirected the ball past Buck into the goal for a 1-0 Falmouth advantage.
“I take blame for us not scoring in the first half,” Wiberg said. “My free kicks weren’t that good. I sent one in at head height and Devin had a great finish. I was aiming for the back and post and Devin intercepted it and it was perfect.”
“Cali is our truest leader,” Pelletier said. “She leads by example. She’s a quality player. We have the best freshman class in the state. They’re finally understanding what they’re doing. They’re adjusting.”
South Portland coach Jeff Selser wasn’t happy with the goal.
“I will say I was frustrated with the free kick,” Selser said. “I don’t think it was a foul at all and their player shoved our goalie and that was the only goal of the game.”
The Red Riots had a corner kick, but couldn’t convert, and that’s as close as they would get to an equalizer.
Falmouth got looks from Wolf, who forced Buck to make a sprawling save, and sophomore Kelly Yoon, who missed just wide, but couldn’t extend its lead.
The Yachtsmen defense then slammed the door and brought the curtain down on the 1-0 victory.
“We needed this win badly,” said Wiberg. “We need to get out of our rut. We played well against Portland, but we couldn’t win and that was frustrating. This was a necessity going forward for playoff standing.
“Our defense was amazing today. They didn’t let any balls through. It was slick, but we were sturdy on our feet. We have to play as a team, not as individuals. We played for Claire. We stepped up our defense and found more urgency.”
Falmouth had a 6-2 edge in shots on frame and a 5-2 advantage in corner kicks. Winkeler made two saves.
Buck stopped five shots for the Red Riots, but they couldn’t generate any offense.
“I’m not upset with my team,” Selser said. ” Both teams were flat and slow in the first half. It was a cold morning. I thought the second half was much better. We had excellent possession of the ball in the second half, but we didn’t score any goals. We’ve had a potent offense this year, but some days, we’re just not firing. We recycled the ball well, but we couldn’t get in position to get off a good shot. Credit to Falmouth’s back four. They stayed compact. We rely on the through ball and we couldn’t do that today.”
Both teams need some victories to lock up a playoff spot.
South Portland, which is ranked 10th in the Class A South Heal Points standings at press time, looks to respond Wednesday at Westbrook, then welcomes Maine Girls’ Academy Saturday. After hosting Noble and going to Bonny Eagle, the Red Riots close at home versus Deering.
“We’ll bounce right back,” Selser said. “We’re still in the hunt. I’d love to get homefield advantage. We have tough games coming up, but those teams aren’t out of our reach at all.”
Falmouth, now 11th in the region, plays at Massabesic Wednesday and hosts Windham Friday. After welcoming Westbrook, the Yachtsmen close the regular season with games at Thornton Academy and Kennebunk.
“As long as we’re healthy, we can play with anybody,” Pelletier said. “We’ll get better and hopefully we’ll make the playoffs and then I like our chances.”