YARMOUTH—Just weeks after its season was at a crossroads, the Falmouth girls’ soccer team will take part in the Western Class B Final.
That’s because the fourth-ranked Yachtsmen have peaked at the right time and Saturday afternoon stunned host Yarmouth, the top seed, 1-0 in the semifinals.
Falmouth dodged several bullets and got the lone goal of the game when senior Abbey Cavalero scored on a rebound of her own shot off a corner kick in the ninth minute. The Yachtsmen held on for dear life down the stretch and improved to 10-5-1, while ending the Clippers’ superb campaign at 12-3-1.
“At the end of the day, successes aren’t always about things going right all the way through,” said Falmouth coach John Meek. “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.”
Yarmouth earned the top seed in Western B for the first time in seven years (which was also the last time the Clippers won the championship). After starting 11-0, Yarmouth went 0-2-1 down the stretch to wind up 11-2-1. After a sluggish start, the Clippers eliminated No. 8 Gray-New Gloucester in last Tuesday’s quarterfinals, behind second half goals from seniors Becca Bell, Danielle Torres and Devin Simsarian and sophomore Mo Mcnaboe.
Falmouth, despite an in-season coaching change, wound up fourth in the region with an 8-5-1 mark. Falmouth beat No. 5 Lisbon, 4-0, in its quarterfinal, behind goals from Cavalero, seniors Rachel Bauer and Jessie L’Heureux and sophomore Alex Bernier to set up the semifinal round showdown.
The rivals 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).
Saturday, the Yachtsmen found a way.
In the third minute, the hosts had a great chance to take the lead, but Simsarian shot high over the open cage with Falmouth senior goalkeeper Elizabeth Estabrook out of position.
Five minutes later, sophomore Tess Merrill (from Torres) had a good look, but Estabrook made the stop.
Falmouth got its first chance at the other end and struck for a 1-0 lead.
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,” 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.”
With over 71 minutes remaining, Falmouth had to hang on and that’s exactly what the Yachtsmen did.
The Clippers certainly had many, many chances.
Just two minutes after the goal, Mcnaboe broke in, but Estabrook got to the ball first and sent it out of bounds, leading to a corner kick. With 25:21 to play in the first half, Mcnaboe again raced for a loose ball in the box, but Estabrook beat her to it.
Yarmouth kept the pressure on in the second half and with 29:01 to play appeared to draw even when Bell scored, but the goal was waved off as the Clippers were ruled off-side.
With 24:28 to play, Yarmouth senior Natalie Salmon passed to Mcnaboe, who shot just wide. Three minutes later, a long throw-in reached the head of Mcnaboe, but her bid led to a sprawling Estabrook (five saves) stop. With 19:28 left, Simsarian attempted to cross the ball to Merrill, but Estabrook again got to the ball first. With 12:17 to play, Merrill had a great look in the box, but her shot went just wide.
The hosts had one final chance on a Torres rush in the final minute, but Cavalero, fittingly, cleared the ball out of harm’s way and Falmouth was able to run out the clock and make its 1-0 upset win official.
“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. “The first game was a goal difference and the second one there were no goals. 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. The back line’s done a phenomenal job. We weathered the storm and shut the door tighter and tighter.”
Not to be
The Clippers outshot the Yachtsmen, 11-6, and had six corner kicks to just three for the visitors, but couldn’t find the net.
“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. We managed to keep some great players in check for Falmouth. Our flat back four played a awesome game limiting Falmouth to very few good chances. Our midfield hustled and ran through every ball. Our forwards challenged their defense for the entire game. In goal, my fantastic freshman was terrific all game and all season. 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. Falmouth is a talented team and they will do well in the Western Maine final.”
The Clippers have suffered their share of tough playoff losses in recent years, but this one was devastating. 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 can not 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, has 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.
Now, however, the Yachtsmen are on a roll and are playing with nothing to lose. Don’t be surprised if they find a way to keep their run going.
“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.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Yarmouth senior Danielle Torres gets up a little higher than Falmouth senior Jamie Sabo as they battle for possession in the midfield.
Yarmouth senior Jeanna Lowery fights off Falmouth freshman Mary Kowalski.
Falmouth senior Caitlin Costello keeps a close eye on Yarmouth’s dangerous sophomore Tess Merrill and the ball during second half action Saturday.
Yarmouth senior Becca Bell and Falmouth senior Jamie Sabo fight for a header.
Falmouth senior Caitlin Costello braces for impact as Yarmouth senior Courtney Barker fires a shot.
Yarmouth senior Devin Simsarian leans backwards to play the ball in the second half. Despite the efforts of Simsarian and her teammates, they fell short, 1-0.
Falmouth senior goalkeeper Elizabeth Estabrook is mobbed by her joyous teammates after the Yachtsmen upset top-ranked Yarmouth in Saturday’s semifinals, 1-0.
More photos below.