CUMBERLAND—The 2012 Greely girls’ soccer team has a new look, but as always, the talent is there in abundance.
The Rangers debuted Tuesday night amid a steady mist and demonstrated that while some big guns have departed, the present and future are very bright indeed.
Hosting up-and-coming Freeport, Greely took a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute on junior Allie Morrill’s goal. The Rangers held that advantage into the half, thanks to standout play from senior goalkeeper Caton Beaulieu.
Early in the second half, the Mitiguy sisters made their presence felt as freshman Jocelyn and senior Julia both struck in a seven minute span and even though the Falcons eventually got on the board, Greely went on to a 3-1 victory.
“All things considered, it was a good start,” said Greely coach Michael Kennedy. “First games are always hard. Especially with a young team. It took them a little while to settle down in the first half. Once they did, they moved the ball around. I was happy with the ball movement. I wasn’t as much concerned with the score as with how we played. I thought we played really well. We attacked well. We defended really well. We did all the components of the game well.”
Greely has long been among the state’s elite programs. The past three seasons have all ended at the hands of Thornton Academy, including last fall in the quarterfinals. This year’s team welcomes three freshmen and also features four sophomores, but expects to only get better.
Freeport made great strides in 2011, winning a playoff game for the first time since 2000 before falling at York in the quarterfinals. The Falcons entered the new year hoping to carry over that momentum and have the pieces in place to be a factor.
Greely hasn’t lost to Freeport this century and that trend continued Tuesday, even though the Rangers couldn’t truly exhale until the final horn sounded.
With 30:53 to go in the 40-minute first half, Greely got on the board.
Senior Gabby Morris set up the goal with a nice through ball that junior Leah Young ran down and crossed to Morrill, who one-timed a shot past Falcons senior goalkeeper Aubrey Pennell.
The Rangers almost doubled their lead with 19:51 left before halftime, but freshman Izzy Hutnak’s bid after a corner kick was denied by Pennell, who made a highlight reel save.
The athletic Pennell can play anywhere in the field and for one night at least, was between the pipes.
“Aubrey’s always been a goalie,” said Freeport coach Elayna Girardin. “She’s been on varsity three years and I think I’ve put her in all three years. She’s great on high balls and Greely’s a high ball team. We’ll probably mix it up as we go along. She did a great job. It’s tough weather for a goalie. She got every ball that skipped. Her basketball skills came out.”
In the final stretch of the first half, Freeport turned the tide and put the pressure on, where Beaulieu made a trio of memorable stops.
In the 33rd minute, senior Naomi Otis appeared primed to break in one-on-one, but Beaulieu sprawled and as the two collided, Beaulieu held on to the ball.
With 4:37 remaining, a long, low shot from senior Jocelyn Davee was saved by Beaulieu, not as easy a stop as you’d expect, considering the wet conditions.
Then, in the 37th minute, Beaulieu’s finest save came on a breakaway by junior Ashley Richardson. Richardson got a shot off that appeared ticketed for the twine, but Beaulieu deflected it out of harm’s way.
“Caton is huge for us,” said Greely senior defensive stalwart Holly Rand. “I don’t know what we’d do without her. She’s always there for us. The defense can’t be perfect. Whenever we make a mistake, she’s there.”
“Caton was huge in the first half,” Kennedy said. “She made three quality saves. On a night like this, you get balls skidding through. I have a great defense and a great keeper. We’ll be in situations like that again, but I’ll put my defense and keeper against any team. They’re solid, committed and very good.”
The hosts got some breathing room early in the second half.
Moments after Hutnak sent a loose ball in the box over the goal, her classmate, Jocelyn Mitiguy, was introduced to the local soccer world.
Mitiguy chased down a pass from Young and fired a shot with her left foot that a diving Pennell couldn’t stop. In her first game, Mitiguy was in the scoring column.
“It wasn’t really overwhelming,” Mitiguy said. “I thought it would be. It was exciting to play with my sister for the first time. I’m just excited to be on this team and I look forward to seeing what we can do. I don’t know what was going through my head (on the goal). Excitement. It was a lot of things. I was proud I used my left foot.”
“I’m not surprised,” Kennedy said. “She’s been amazing. She probably scored six or seven goals in the preseason. She’s a phenom. She’s going to be a good one. She works really hard and creates opportunities for herself. In our system, if you work hard and move off the ball, you’ll be rewarded.”
Once Jocelyn Mitiguy was on the board, Julia Mitiguy was bound and determined to join her.
With 29:02 remaining in regulation, Julia Mitiguy fired a blast that got over Pennell’s outstretched arms, but ricocheted frustratingly off the crossbar.
She finished her next chance.
With 27:39 remaining, off a long pass from Hutnak, Mitiguy bulled past a Freeport defender, broke in on Pennell one-on-one and finished to make it a 3-0 contest.
“I wanted one badly, but I was so proud of (Jocelyn),” said Julia Mitiguy. “(Her goal) was so special. It’s so special playing with her.”
In the 62nd minute, the unrelenting Falcons got a goal as junior Necole Harrison fired a shot that Beaulieu couldn’t deny.
That would be as close as Freeport could draw, however, and Greely was able to celebrate its curtain-raising 3-1 victory.
“We came out and had a great start,” Julia Mitiguy said. “We played as a team and all did our job. It was awesome. I’m proud of us. We have to keep working hard, but that was a fantastic first game.”
Five different players got in the scoring column (three separate goal scorers and two others with assists), the defense was in midseason form and Beaulieu came up big when she had to, to the tune of four clutch saves.
“(The defenders) have a really good connection,” Rand said. “We work together. We’re friends. You can’t really hear us, but we talk on the field. If (junior) Mykaela (Twitchell) steps, I’ll see it and I’ll drop. We just work well together like that.”
Kennedy was impressed by his opponent’s effort.
“Freeport’s come a long way,” he said. “Elayna’s done a great job. Five years ago, they wouldn’t have played us like that here. They deserve a lot of credit. They fought hard. They competed hard. They actually played really well.”
The Falcons got 13 saves from Pennell and never let up.
“It was a great game,” said Girardin. “I was really happy with how the girls played. We had about 10 minutes in the second half where we let down and lost our shape. That ultimately hurt us. It’s getting the girls to play 80 minutes. Greely is one of the top teams. Freeport is still trying to gain their confidence and knowing we can play with them. In the beginning, we were nervous. Once we settled down, we did a better job and got chances to goal. It’s something to build on. This was a tough game to start with.”
Freeport (0-1) is back in action Saturday when it hosts Lake Region in its first home game.
“We have some things to work on between now and Saturday,” Girardin said. “Hopefully we’ll be ready and get our first win.”
Greely, conversely, doesn’t play again until next Tuesday when its hosts two-time defending Class B state champion Falmouth.
The Rangers had a bye the first weekend and now will sit idle for several days. The schedule is far from ideal, but this group will make the most of it.
“We have some new girls who have transitioned in nicely,” Julia Mitiguy said. “It’s going really well. We all love each other.”
“Unfortunately we have down time,” Rand said. “We wish we could get more games in. Next week, we’ll have games back-to-back-to-back. We’re excited for that. We’ll work on things we didn’t do this game.”
“It’s difficult,” added Kennedy. “I changed the preseason up to make it easier. It’s tough for the girls to keep focus. They’re young and want to get out and play and bond as a group. You can only really do that in situations like this. We learned a lot tonight.
“Being off a week isn’t great. (Falmouth will) be a good test. My expectation for us is to fight hard. We don’t have the team we had last year. We’ll show up and hopefully it works out. If it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world like past years. This team is developing around each other. We’ll be better at the end than we are right now.”