Falmouth overcomes, wins Class B girls' soccer crown

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FALMOUTH—It may not have been the smoothest ride, but ultimately the Yachtsmen got where they wanted to be.

Senior Jess DiPhilippo drilled home a penalty kick with 15 minutes left in the second half to lift Falmouth to a 1-0 win over Caribou in Saturday’s Class B state girls’ soccer state championship game, played on the Yachtsmen’s home turf before a large, evenly divided crowd.

It was the sixth state title for Falmouth since 2001 as the West continued its dominance. No Eastern Maine school has won the Class B girls championship since 2000.

While the Yachtsmen entered the season considered a top contender, becoming champion involved overcoming plenty of adversity.

Falmouth (12-5-1) had an early season coaching change and lost four straight games at one point to drop to 6-5, but peaked at the right time. The Yachtsmen broke their losing streak with a scoreless draw against then-undefeated Yarmouth, closed the regular season with two shutout victories, then, from the fourth seed, rolled through the Western Maine tournament without surrendering a goal. The Yachtsmen defeated No. 5 Lisbon (4-0), No. 1 Yarmouth (1-0) and No. 2 York (1-0, on junior Annie Criscione’s game winner Wednesday) en route to the Western Maine crown. York was the defending Class B champion.

“We’ve had some bumps in the road to overcome, but we’ve always come back in a positive way,” said Falmouth coach John Meek, who took over as head coach five games into the season after Jon Shardlow abruptly resigned. Meek is Falmouth’s sixth coach since the start of the decade.

Meek said that while the results would suggest the tie with Yarmouth was the turning point of the season, there were signs before then that the team was capable of going far.

“If you look at the results, you can say the Yarmouth game was a big turning point, but I’ve got to say in terms of performances, we played games where we felt that we were unlucky not to come away with something,” Meek said, alluding to one-goal home losses to York and Cape Elizabeth. “For some time now, there’s been a growing belief that we can overcome the adversity, and we’ve been gradually building some momentum heading into this game.”

Caribou (14-3-1) partially nullified Falmouth’s homefield advantage by bringing a large and vocal crowd down from The County. The Vikings also were able to dictate the game’s early tempo — showing no ill effects from their long journey south — but Falmouth’s superiority came through in the second half, when the Yachtsmen dominated possession and produced numerous scoring opportunities before DiPhilippo finally broke the deadlock.

Midway through the second half, Falmouth had three straight corner kicks, each by DiPhilippo, from the right corner. The first two were knocked out of bounds, then the Caribou defense was able to clear the third after it caromed around the goal box.

Moments later, Falmouth had a golden opportunity as Criscione sent a cross to freshman Mary Kowalski, who put a shot on goal from five yards out. Caribou goalie Morgan Swan was just able to get a hand on it to send it wide.

Falmouth kept the pressure on and Caribou finally cracked following a corner kick, again from DiPhilippo. The Vikings were unable to clear and junior defender Jamie Martin had no choice but to use her hands to stop a ball headed for the net. She was assessed an automatic red card for a handball in the goal box and ejected. Falmouth was awarded a penalty kick — the first of the season for the Yachtsmen — that DiPhilippo delivered on.

She sent a hard, low shot to the right side of the net. Swan guessed right and got a hand on it to deflect it, put the shot had enough on it to slip inside the post.

“I don’t really get nervous that much, so I guess I was the perfect person to take it,” DiPhilippo said. “I always aim for the right, so I was set on going that way. I just cleared my mind, relaxed and took it.”

The Falmouth goal celebration got excessive when DiPhilippo went over and bowed to the crowd, earning a yellow card. She was later assessed a red card in the game’s final minute after getting a second yellow when she and Caribou sophomore Ginger Kieffer were both carded for shoving.

After taking the lead, the Yachtsmen continued to press and nearly added another score with 12:18 to play, but Kowalski’s shot from in close traveled just wide.

Caribou’s only real chance at the equalizer came on junior Paige Small’s direct kick from 30 yards out that sailed high. It was one of the few times in the second half that Falmouth senior goalie Elizabeth Estabrook saw the action approach her.

“We definitely picked it up in the second half,” Estabrook said. “We were playing their game in the first half, then we had to adjust to our game for the second.”

Estabrook said Caribou played a different style than they’d seen from teams like York and Yarmouth, advancing on the wings, rather than through the middle, and relying more on quick counter attacks than possession offense. In the first half, this resulted in some good scoring chances for the Vikings.

Two-and-a-half minutes into the game, Caribou senior Jenna Selander rocketed a shot from the left side that Estabrook was able to turn away. Nine minutes in, Caribou sophomore Olivia Sleeper pushed the ball up the right wing and sent a cross to senior Lydia Kieffer, who put a touch on it and sent it on net, but Estabrook dove to make the save. Estabrook was up to the challenge again with 24:30 left in the first half, as Martin got off a shot from a difficult angle on the right side. Estabrook had to go to the ground to scoop it up.

“She made some great saves,” DiPhilippo said. “She’s always on top of her game. She’s really quick to the ball and is always in the right spot.”

Falmouth had a few good chances in the first half, as well.

Seven minutes in, senior Allie Lycan dribbled up the left side, then across the middle of the field, creating space to rip a shot from 20 yards out that Swan was able to get in front of. With 27 minutes left, DiPhilippo’s blast from 15 yards went high. Just over a minute later, DiPhilippo’s throughball set up freshman Megan Miller, who got by a defender and the goalie, but couldn’t find the angle to put a shot on net.

“I had no idea what to expect from Caribou because they’re from so far away,” DiPhilippo said. “They came out really tough. We let them take control in the first half. We weren’t really playing our game. But then in the second half, we buckled down.”

Falmouth will graduate 10 seniors, eight of them starters.

Falmouth junior Cassidy Gaudette goes up for a header on Saturday.

Falmouth senior Jamie Sabo passes the ball forward as Caribou junior Katie Keaton chases after her.

Falmouth senior Jessie L’Heureux and Caribou senior Laura Collins react as they collide while attempting to gain control of the ball.

The Falmouth girls’ soccer players walk off the field Saturday as Class B state champs.

Falmouth senior captains Allie Lycan (left) and Jamie Sabo smile as they hold the Class B championship gold ball.

The Falmouth girls’ soccer players hoist the Class B gold ball.

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Falmouth senior Jess DiPhilippo is mobbed by teammates after converting a penalty kick for the lone goal in Falmouth’s 1-0 win over Caribou in Saturday’s Class B girls’ soccer championship.

More photos below.

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