Falmouth’s playoff run ends in Gorham

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Falmouth sophomore Delaney Goodell heads the ball during Monday’s Class A South semifinal at Gorham. The Yachtsmen lost, 2-0.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

GORHAM—Falmouth’s girls’ soccer team overcame injuries and a slow start and produced a season to remember, but despite a valiant effort Monday afternoon, the Yachtsmen’s title chase came to a disappointing end.

Visiting top-ranked, undefeated, defending regional champion Gorham, fourth-ranked Falmouth showed it belonged, but the Yachtsmen never could find the net.

Gorham had the better of play most of the first half and finally broke through in the 35th minute when senior Narissa Libby’s free kick landed at the feet of senior Jenna Cowan, who sent the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead.

Falmouth had the better of the play in the second half, but the Rams defense and senior goalkeeper Emma Smith didn’t allow any great scoring chances and with 14 seconds to go, the hosts iced it when senior Tiril Wiig scored.

Gorham’s 2-0 victory improved its record to 15-0-1, sent the Rams on to the Class A South Final to battle second-ranked Scarborough Wednesday at 5 p.m., and ended the Yachtsmen’s win streak at eight games and their season at 11-5.

“Everyone is giving us our best game and that’s what we expected,” said Gorham coach Jeanne Zarrilli. ” We’re usually technical, but I was happy to see that we were also gutsy tonight.”

“This has been by far the best experience I’ve had coaching,” said Falmouth coach Andrew Pelletier. “This is my first four-year group. It’s a sad way to go out.”

Season of growth

Falmouth began the 2016 season injury-laden and facing a brutal schedule. The year started with a controversial overtime loss to visiting Greely and by the midway point, the Yachtsmen were only 3-4. They then got healthy and flipped the switch and won their final seven games to finish 10-4 and fourth in Class A South (see sidebar, below, for previous game stories).

Last Wednesday, Falmouth hosted No. 5 Marshwood in the quarterfinals and rallied from an early deficit to tie matters on a goal from junior Lauren Wendland before winning it on junior Amelia Waite’s overtime goal.

Gorham won the region a year ago and this fall, had just one blemish, a 0-0 home tie against second-ranked Scarborough. The Rams outscored their foes, 54-6, and as the top seed, got a mighty scare in last week’s quarterfinals, having to go to double overtime to survive No. 8 Kennebunk, 2-1.

The Rams and Yachtsmen don’t play in the regular season, but had met three prior times in the playoffs. In the 2002 Western B quarterfinals, Falmouth prevailed, 1-0. The Yachtsmen won again, 2-0, in the 2003 quarterfinals. Gorham got a measure of revenge in the most recent meeting, a 3-2 victory in the 2004 semifinals.

This semifinal was supposed to be played Saturday, but bad weather moved it back 48 hours.

Monday, on a chilly (47 degrees with a 10 mile-per-hour wind) afternoon, Gorham lived up to its top seed billing.

Falmouth had the first chance, as it earned a free kick less than a minute in, but junior Cali Wiberg’s boot was grabbed by Smith.

Gorham then had a couple corner kicks which didn’t result in a shot. Cowan’s cross to sophomore Molly Duff was sent just wide and junior Alexis Fotter shot just wide as well.

With 15:46 to play in the half, senior Meghan Perrin ripped a low shot that Falmouth senior goalkeeper Adelaide Cooke had to go to her knees to stop.

After a Perrin serve into the box was cleared by Yachtsmen freshman back Gabrielle Esmond, a Perrin free kick was cleared away.

With 10:24 to go bef0re halftime, Falmouth senior Mia Cooney sent a shot on goal but Smith made the save.

Finally, with 5:26 left, Gorham got the jump.

On a set piece, Libby sent the ball in from about 30 yards out. It landed near the left post where Cowan was waiting to send it past Cooke for a 1-0 lead.

“Little Jenna Cowan is a four-year senior captain and she doesn’t get a lot of attention, but she sneaks into little holes,” said Zarrilli. “That was a Jenna Cowan specialty goal. It was nice to see her get that because she’s a great kid who works really hard.”

“We came out a little nervous, but after we settled in, I thought we controlled possession,” Pelletier said. “We eliminated their good chances, but you can’t make a mistake on a set piece. We didn’t defend it well enough. When that happens, you’ll always give up a goal against a good team.”

The Yachtsmen had a chance to answer in the final minute of the half, but their lone corner kick of the first 40 minutes was caught by Smith.

Gorham had a 2-1 edge in shots and a 2-1 corner kick advantage in the first half.

Falmouth came out fired up for the second half and pushed for the equalizer, but it never came.

Just 70 seconds in, Waite shot over the bar.

With 34:59 remaining in regulation, Smith beat Waite to a Wendland through ball.

With 26:21 to go, senior Lucy Mahoney shot wide.

Three minutes later, Wiberg took a free kick from midfield and it was headed on frame, but Smith made the save.

After the Rams had a goal by sophomore Caitlin Chasse waved off because she was offsides, the Yachtsmen went back on the attack.

With 12:30 left, a Wendland free kick was cleared.

With 11:55 to go, Falmouth got a corner kick, but a shot from Cooney was blocked out for another corner, which was punched away by Smith.

With 9:05 remaining, Waite shot wide.

With 7:35 left, a cross from Wolf to Wendland forced Smith to come out and sprawl to grab the ball.

Two minutes later, Wendland’s long shot was saved by Smith.

With 2:15 remaining, the Yachtsmen got their final chance, a corner kick, but a bid from senior Meg Dye was caught by Smith.

“Emma’s the best goalkeeper in the state,” Pelletier said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to coach her in the past. We knew we’d have to make her work. We did a better job in the second half, but everything was right to her.”

Gorham then put it away in the waning seconds.

Trying to run out the clock, the Rams got an opportunity to score and Wiig and sophomore Emma Forgues played give-and-go before Wiig sent a shot past Cooke, just inside the far post, for the clincher.

Gorham finished it off from there and prevailed, 2-0.

“We hadn’t seen Falmouth,” Zarrilli said. “We’d scouted them and I knew they were technical and fast. They were beating us in the midfield in the first half. We had to get organized in the middle and we did a good job of that. They shifted their formation in the second half, which I would have done too, so we shifted to defend a little more. I thought we defended well. They have good forwards and their attack is really strong. We talked about how to defend them and I thought my defense really stepped up tonight. Avery (Germond) is our sweeper. She’s big and strong. Avery is a first year varsity sophomore and I thought she did a phenomenal job sweeping the ball.”

The Rams had a 5-4 edge in shots on goal. Smith made four saves.

Falmouth had a 4-3 advantage in corner kicks and got three saves from Cooke as the season came to a close.

“The girls put everything into it,” Pelletier said. “We beat Greely, York, Kennebunk, Cape and Gray-New Gloucester, good teams. We got healthy and the young players bought in and understood their roles.”

On to Scarborough

Gorham and Scarborough (12-2-2) played 90 scoreless minutes Sept. 14 in Gorham. The powers will square off again Wednesday. The Red Storm hold a 3-2 all-time edge over the Rams in the playoffs with a 2-1 Gorham victory in last year’s semifinals the most recent.

“It’ll be a battle,” Zarrilli said. “We know them really well and they know us really well. Five years ago, we hosted them in a Western Maine Final and lost with 40 seconds to go. We hope it’s a different story. We know we can grind it out.”

On to 2017

Falmouth has to part with several key players.

“I have five of the best seniors I can imagine and a couple of the best captains I’ve had,” Pelletier said. “It will be tough to say goodbye to that group. Lucy, Mia, Meg and Adelaide have basically started since sophomore year. It’s a group who wanted to succeed and they had fun while they did it. It was a pleasure to coach them.”

Look out for the Yachtsmen next year.

“I have probably one of the best freshmen groups in the state coming,” Pelletier said. “I return seven starters and some good girls off the bench. I think the future is bright, but I’m not ready to think about it yet.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Falmouth junior Cali Wiberg throws the ball in from the sidelines.

Falmouth junior Amelia Waite is denied by Gorham senior goalkeeper Emma Smith.

Falmouth senior Mia Cooney drives the ball.

Falmouth junior Lauren Wendland is denied by Gorham senior goalkeeper Emma Smith.

Falmouth senior Lucy Mahoney gets past a Gorham defender.

Falmouth sophomore Madison Wolf fights Gorham sophomore Avery Germond for possession.

Gorham celebrates the victory.

Previous Falmouth stories

Season Preview

Greely 3 Falmouth 2 (OT)

Yarmouth 4 Falmouth 1

Yarmouth 4 Falmouth 0

Falmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 1

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.