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YARMOUTH—Greely’s boys’ soccer team has faced little adversity over the past month, but Wednesday afternoon in a Class B South quarterfinal, the Rangers’ very postseason existence was in jeopardy.
The third-seeded Rangers hosted No. 6 York in a game moved from Greely’s grass field to the turf at North Yarmouth Academy due to impending rain, and the Rangers couldn’t have asked for a better first half, as seniors Nick Pronovost and Jacob Nason and junior Hunter Graham all scored for a 3-0 lead.
Just when it appeared Greely would win with ease, the Wildcats roared back in the second half and drew within a goal after a fluky bounce, but the Rangers weren’t read to give in and slammed the door in the final 10 minute to survive and advance, 3-2.
Greely improved to 9-3-3, extended its unbeaten streak to 10 games, moved on to set up a semifinal round showdown against No. 2 Yarmouth (13-1-1), the defending state champion, in Saturday’s semifinal round at a time to be announced and in the process, ended York’s season at 6-8-2.
“It’s about winning and it’s about advancing,” said Rangers coach Mike Andreasen. “It was well in hand, but you can’t sit on leads against teams.”
Greely started 1-3-1, due in large part to injuries and a tough early schedule, then the Rangers flipped the switch and entering Tuesday’s contest, hadn’t lost a game in the month of October.
Greely’s 7-0-2 stretch to end the regular season gave it the No. 3 seed in Class B South.
York went 5-7-2 during the regular year to finish sixth, then downed No. 11 Leavitt, 3-0, in Saturday’s preliminary round.
The Rangers won both regular season meetings, 3-0 in York Oct. 3 and 7-1 at home in the finale, Oct. 20.
The only prior playoff encounter between the teams came two years ago in the semifinals, a 1-0 win for Greely en route to a Class B championship.
Wednesday, the Rangers appeared on their way to an easy win, but it got nervewracking down the stretch.
Greely threatened early, but Graham sent a blast just wide, Graham had a great look at an open net but shot just wide, Graham headed the ball wide and the Rangers earned a corner kick, but had nothing to show for it.
Greely kept pressuring and finally broke through with 31:33 to play in the first half when Pronovost banged home a rebound for a 1-0 lead.
“I was in the right spot at the right time and I was able to finish it,” Pronovost said.
With 16:47 left in the half, after a York turnover, Rangers senior captain Lucas Watt set up Nason for a goal which made it 2-0.
Greely didn’t let up and with 12:29 to go before the break, Pronovost set up Graham, who finished to make it 3-0.
“Nick’s played a lot of soccer,” Andreasen said. “He unfortunately broke his foot this summer and we rushed him back and he got hurt again. He was big tonight with a goal and an assist. Of my seniors, he’s kind of a quiet guy. Nick was just steady, not flashy.”
The Rangers hoped to open things up even more, but a low Nason shot was saved by Wildcats senior goalkeeper Ian Hovde, four corner kicks failed to result in a shot and as time expired, junior Dylan Fried’s header went just high.
Greely had a 13-1 shots advantage in the first half (6-0 on frame).
To its credit, York didn’t roll over and made things very interesting in the second half.
First, the Rangers pressed for a fourth goal, but Pronovost’s header was saved by Hovde, Nason had a blast saved and Graham and Melville both were off-target.
With 25:52 to go in regulation, the Wildcats finally broke through as senior Christopher D’Aquila passed ahead to open junior Ryan Webb, who beat Greely sophomore goalkeeper Brandon George to cut the deficit to two.
“We talked at halftime about it being 0-0, but they got the next goal,” Pronovost said.
The Rangers protected that lead until 10:09 remained, when York scored a most improbable second goal.
Senior Malcolm Hughes took a free kick from midfield and sent it right on target. It appeared George would make an easy save, but the ball slipped through his hands and into the net to cut the deficit to 3-2, making things very interesting.
“We wanted to come out strong, but we should’ve kept them from scoring two,” Pronovost said.
With 8:30 left, the Wildcats had a great chance to draw even when they earned a free kick just outside the box. Before the visitors could shoot, Nason was given a yellow card. Hughes then fired, but his shot went high and wide.
York never got a good look from there and late clears from junior Will Pidgeon and Watt helped slam the door on the 3-2 victory.
“It got a little nervewracking toward the end, but I was confident we could hold them off,” Pronovost said. “We played more defensive and didn’t take risks.”
“People were ready to go home,” Andreasen said. “The second goal was unfortunate. Those things happen. What bothered me more was what happened afterwards. We came unglued, the frantic pace, no communication. That earlier 7-1 game wasn’t a true indicator of the two teams. They’re tough and they have a lot of heart.”
Greely outshot York, 22-6 (10-5 on frame). George made three saves, while Hovde stopped seven shots for the Wildcats. The Rangers had eight corner kicks to just one for York.
Greely and Yarmouth didn’t meet in the playoffs at all between 1976 and 2012, as they spent most of that time in different classes, but since the Rangers returned to Class B in 2013, one or the other has gone on to win the state title.
Two years ago, Greely went to Yarmouth for the regional final as a decided underdog, but stunned the Clippers, 2-1. Last season, Yarmouth got a measure of revenge, prevailing, 4-2, in the regional final. Overall, the Rangers have a 3-1 lead in postseason encounters.
The Clippers won at Greely back on Sept. 8, 2-0, then the teams settled for a 1-1 draw in Yarmouth Oct. 17.
The Rangers are ready to rise to the challenge.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction and I think we have a good chance of taking it all,” Pronovost said. “We have to finish when we have opportunities. If we do that, we have a really good shot at winning.”
“If we make the same mistakes we made today against our next opponent, it will be really ugly,” Andreasen said. “We didn’t waste our best effort today. It’ll be fun. We’ll take nothing for granted.”
Greely junior Henry Melville eludes a York defender during the Rangers’ 3-2 win in Wednesday’s Class B South quarterfinal. Greely will face defending state champion Yarmouth in Saturday’s semifinals.
Chris Lambert photos.
Greely senior Nick Pronovost gets past York freshman Nicholas Rainfort. Pronovost had a goal and an assist.
Greely senior Lucas Watt boots the ball.
Greely junior Hunter Graham takes a shot. Graham had one of the Rangers’ three goals.
Greely senior Jacob Nason fights York’s Cameron Smith for the ball.
2013 Western B semifinals
Greely 1 York 0