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The Falmouth girls’ soccer team is certainly resilient.
After a tumultuous regular season which saw a coach step down (and another apparently leave, only to return) and on-the-field play result in a four-game losing streak, the Yachtsmen have definitely saved their best for last.
Falmouth, ranked fourth in Western B, defeated No. 5 Lisbon, 4-0, in the quarterfinals, then ended the stellar season of top-seed Yarmouth, 1-0, in Saturday’s semifinal to earn a date in the regional final Wednesday at nemesis York, the defending Class B state champion.
In Western A, Greely’s late-season surge continued with a palpitating 1-0, overtime win over Gorham in the quarterfinals, but the run ended for a second year in a row on the field of the Thornton Academy Golden Trojans, once again by a 2-1 margin.
Not finished yet
Falmouth and Yarmouth had dramatically different regular seasons.
The Yachtsmen wound up 8-5-1, good for fourth in the region. Falmouth beat No. 5 Lisbon in its quarterfinal, behind goals from seniors Rachel Bauer, Abbey Cavalero and Jessie L’Heureux and sophomore Alex Bernier.
The Clippers won their first 11 games this fall, then went 0-2-1 down the stretch, but still earned the top seed in Western B. After a slow start in the quarterfinals, against No. 8 Gray-New Gloucester, Yarmouth rolled behind second half goals from seniors Becca Bell, Danielle Torres and Devin Simsarian and sophomore Mo Mcnaboe.
Longtime rivals Falmouth and Yarmouth met twice in the regular season. The Clippers held on for a 3-2 home victory Sept. 11. The second meeting, Oct. 12, resulted in a scoreless draw. The teams had squared off four prior times in the postseason, with the Yachtsmen holding a 3-1 edge. The last encounter was in the 2006 regional final (a 2-1 Falmouth victory).
After Yarmouth had a great chance to take the lead in the third minute go by the wayside, the Yachtsmen got the game’s lone goal in the ninth minute. Off a corner kick, senior Jess DiPhillippo sent a corner kick right in front of the goal where Cavalero headed it right at Yarmouth freshman goalkeeper Olivia Smith. Smith (five saves) made the save, but knocked the ball right back to Cavalero in the process and the senior booted it home for the game’s lone goal.
“I just went in and it was a great cross from Jess,” Cavalero said. “I headed it in, she tipped it back to me and I went upper right corner. It was bang-bang.”
“(Abbey’s) a phenomenal player,” Falmouth coach John Meek said. “She’s a wonderful character who always gives 100 percent. She scored quite a few goals last year. She’s determined at both ends of the field.”
The hosts had several chances to pull even and had a goal waved off (Bell, due to an offsides call), but couldn’t get the equalizer as the Yachtsmen held on for the 1-0 triumph.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” said Cavalero. “They had a lot of shots and took it to us. We were pretty confident, I think. We knew we could hang with them.”
“It’s always going to be really close when we play Yarmouth,” added Meek. “It doesn’t matter what the regular season records are. It’ll always be close. We scored early and they had some opportunities. The girls have done everything we’ve asked to them to do as far as competing for 50-50s and putting pressure on Yarmouth, which is a phenomenal team. They had a great season.
“At the end of the day, successes aren’t always about things going right all the way through. Success starts when you pick yourselves up and they’ve done that many times. They know there’s a Plan B. We’ve bounced back and built a belief.”
The Clippers were devastated.
“We played our hearts out,” said Yarmouth coach Rich Smith. “I could not have asked for more effort and heart. We created some great scoring chances and we just missed some and Elizabeth made some great saves. Their goal was off a corner kick and a good bang-bang play. But we did respond and I thought for sure we were going to get one. I thought we were the better team, but we did not get the goals we needed.”
The Clippers have suffered their share of tough playoff losses in recent years, but this one was extra painful. Not just because of the result, but because it brings an end to the careers of some sensational seniors.
“It really was an amazing season with a sad ending,” said Smith. “Danielle Torres, Devin Simsarian, Natalie Salmon, Becca Bell and Courtney Barker are the best group of senior leaders I have ever had the privilege to coach. Their play, desire and determination are the new standard for how Yarmouth soccer players compete and achieve on and off the field.
“The main reason I wish we had a couple of more games, is so we could have one more week together. These seniors and this team are a model of everything that is right with high school athletics. Kids who can work hard in the classroom, excel on the soccer field, give selflessly to their community, handle success with humility and defeat with class. There are a lot of good teams out there, but I cannot imagine a better group of kids playing soccer anywhere in the state than my team. They had an incredible season and I am so proud to be their coach.”
As one of the state’s traditional powers, Yarmouth will reload in 2011 and will look to finish the job that this group started.
“We lose a lot right down the middle,” said Smith. “Courtney and the captains will be missed, but they were such great leaders that their effect will be felt for years to come. We have 11 great players coming back plus some excellent JV players who will move up. I think the underclassman have learned so much in terms of character and preparation that we will be tough team to beat next year. I know If I were coaching another team, I wouldn’t want to play us.”
Falmouth, meanwhile, had some revenge to serve. Last year, in the Western B Final, the Yachtsmen lost, 2-0, at York. Falmouth also dropped both regular season meetings with the Wildcats, 1-0, on the road Sept. 28 and 2-1 at home Oct. 5.
“I think our adrenaline’s up really high,” Cavalero said. “I think we can do it.”
“I don’t think we’re in a bad place,” added Meek. “Both games this year with them were one-goal games. I won’t argue with the result down there, but you could argue that we could have come away with a tie. They got a lucky break on a deflection to get the winning goal the second time. I’m confident we can compete and so are the girls.”
A year ago, Greely rode high into the semifinals at Thornton Academy and lost, 2-1. The 2010 campaign had a similar ending.
The Rangers, who were 2-3 at one point this fall, closed on a 7-0-2 surge to wind up 9-3-2 and third in Western A.
In the quarterfinals last Wednesday, Greely dodged several bullets before getting a goal from senior Kelly Burrell in overtime to advance, 1-0.
“I ran past the defender as the goalie was coming out,” Burrell said. “I hustled hard and hit it with the outside of my foot and hoped it would go in the far corner and it did.”
That sent the Rangers back to Saco Saturday. They quickly fell behind 2-0 in the first half, got a goal back courtesy junior Audrey Parolin, then overcame a scary injury to sophomore Sammi Toorish (the leading scorer in Class A this year) before falling just short again.
“We dominated the first half and controlled the majority of possession, but we made two bad mistakes,” said Greely coach Michael Kennedy. “We tried to recover, but when Sammi went down it was that much tougher. We gave it all we had.”
Greely had its 10-game unbeaten streak snapped and finished 10-4-2.
“It was a very successful year,” Kennedy said. “We went through some growing pains, then went on a 10-game streak. We outscored the opposition, 29-5, in that span. We developed a really good core of kids who will be around for awhile. Kelly will be hard to replace and we lose Maggie Johnson, but we return a similar team. We’ll be in good shape. Our next step is to go further. That’s our expectation next year. If we did it this year, it would have been icing on the cake.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org