YORK—Coming into the 2009 season, consensus held that the Falmouth girls’ soccer team, the reigning Class B state champion, was the squad to beat.
But Wednesday afternoon, the Yachtsmen ran into a team just slightly better, the York Wildcats, who ended Falmouth’s season with an impressive 80-minute display, scoring twice in the second half to win, 2-0.
With the victory, York advanced to meet Winslow in the Class B state final. The Yachtsmen ended the year with a mark of 11-2-4.
“We got outplayed by a better team today,” said first-year Falmouth coach Jon Shardlow.
Not quite deja vu
A year ago, the Yachtsmen lost the regular season finale at York, dropped to the No. 2 seed for the playoffs, then returned to York for the regional final and won 1-0 en route to a state title.
This fall, Falmouth and the Wildcats met Oct. 19 in York in the last game of the regular year with the No. 1 seed on the line and the Wildcats won, 1-0 (the Yachtsmen beat York 1-0 in Falmouth on Sept. 26). The Yachtsmen advanced and set up a rematch by virtue of an 8-0 home win over No. 7 Jay/Livermore Falls in the quarterfinals and a 2-0 victory over No. 3 Maranacook in the semifinal round. The Wildcats were riding high after a 4-1 semifinal round win over Yarmouth.
Falmouth and York are no strangers in the postseason. Since the Yachtsmen joined Class B a decade ago, the schools had squared off eight times prior to Wednesday with Falmouth holding a 5-3 advantage.
This time around, the Wildcats, led by their sensational senior Emma Clark, perhaps the best player in the state, had the majority of the scoring chances, but couldn’t put it in the net in the first half.
In the 11th minute, Clark weaved her way through the defense, then fired a shot while falling down, but it went wide. Two minutes later, the Yachtsmen had their best chance of the half when senior Sarah Girouard had a rush broken up at the last minute.
With 22:27 to go in the first half, Clark’s cross was punched away by Falmouth senior goalkeeper Elizabeth Estabrook and freshman Kayla Swasey’s rebound went high. Four minutes later, Clark took a free kick, but fired it way high. With 14:57 to go, Clark served the ball in on a corner kick. Junior Emily Mitchell was in position to head it home, but whiffed. Senior Lindsay Weigel’s rebound bid was blocked by a Yachtsmen defender. Four minutes later, Weigel sent a pass to senior Elizabeth Cartier, but her header was just high. Then with 2:48 left before halftime, Swasey’s cross was broken up.
Falmouth had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks in the first 40 minutes, but York had far more chances. Regardless, the game was scoreless at the break.
The Wildcats continued to push for the first goal as the second half commenced.
Just 24 seconds in, Mitchell’s cross hit the top of the crossbar. A minute later, after a great individual effort, Clark fed senior Ashley Taylor all alone in front, but Taylor shot wide of the open net. After Yachtsmen junior Jess DiPhillipo had a good look saved by York sophomore goalkeeper Carly Lee at the other end, Clark rushed in and shot high.
The goal finally came with 21:31 to go in regulation. Clark got it started by lofting a shot into the box. After Falmouth wasn’t able to clear the ball, freshman Alexa Bando swooped in and scored into an open net for a 1-0 advantage.
In the 64th minute, the Wildcats almost doubled their lead, but Mitchell shot high. The Yachtsmen then began to pressure, but couldn’t get a good look. With 14:01 to go, on a corner kick, Falmouth sent the ball through the box which went untouched, leading to another corner (each team had seven for the game), which was cleared.
York delivered the coup de grace with 4:38 to go. Senior Kayla Weston did the honors, scoring on a rebound off a corner. Naturally, the assist went to Clark.
“(Emma) did a very nice job controlling the midfield for them and she distributed well,” Shardlow said. “She created matchup problems for us. She created opportunities for them and they were able to capitalize.”
Estabrook made one final big save as time wound down, denying Bando on a breakaway, but Falmouth never could find the net and its season ended with the 2-0 setback.
“We had chances,” Shardlow said. “We came in with a different formation, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to put the ball in the net.”
The Yachtsmen finished with double-digit victories for the sixth year in a row and managed to beat or tie all of their top foes.
“You can’t characterize a season by 80 minutes,” Shardlow said. “It doesn’t do this team justice. Looking at the whole picture, I think we had a fantastic season. We didn’t get as far as a we hoped to.”
The Yachtsmen say farewell to 12 seniors who won state titles and were part of a 38-game unbeaten streak. Of course, this program never rebuilds, just comes back the next year as strong as ever, and that will again be the case next fall as several underclassmen who saw plenty of playing time will return. They’ll be joined by the next generation of stars who hope to culminate the 2010 campaign with a championship.
“We always reload,” Shardlow said. “We hope to get back to a similar position next year and hopefully move on.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org