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CUMBERLAND—It took the Greely girls’ soccer team a little while to hit its stride this fall, but have the Rangers ever come to life.
Tuesday evening, Greely extended its win streak to five games with a resounding 4-0 victory over visiting Cape Elizabeth. Sophomore Sammi Toorish, now healthy, blasted home three goals to lead the way and senior Kelly Burnell delivered the fourth as the Rangers improved to 7-3, dropping the Capers to 5-4-1 in the process.
Three days after pounding host Falmouth, 5-0, Greely’s performance suggests that it is now a team to be reckoned with and that the Rangers have plenty of bright moments ahead.
“We’re just a young team,” said Greely coach Michael Kennedy. “We’re coming along and playing better. We’re having fun and moving the ball the way we like and putting it in the net. It’s hard to stop our strikers.”
The Rangers were one of the finest teams in the state in 2009, but were ousted in controversial fashion by eventual regional champion Thornton Academy in the semifinals, 2-1.
This year’s squad features seven sophomores and four freshmen and the inexperience showed in the early going as Greely, after opening with wins over Wells (8-0) and Poland (8-1) lost to Cape Elizabeth (2-1), Yarmouth (2-1, in overtime) and Falmouth (1-0).
The Rangers bounced back with a 2-1 home victory over Lake Region and a 3-1 win at Gray-New Gloucester. Then, the offense arrived.
After falling behind, 1-0, at Freeport last Tuesday, Greely has scored 13 unanswered goals against the vastly improved Falcons and perennially strong Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth.
At Freeport, Burrell tied the game, junior Audrey Parolin put the Rangers ahead to stay and Toorish scored twice to account for a 4-1 victory. Burrell and Toorish both had two goals against the Yachtsmen, while Parolin added the fifth. Freshman Leah Young had two assists. Junior goalkeeper Lindsey Arsenault stopped five shots as Greely handed Falmouth its worse loss this century.
Cape Elizabeth always gives the Rangers a tough game, but that wasn’t so much the case Tuesday night.
After back-and-forth play for much of the first half, Toorish took a pass from Burrell and beat Capers senior goalkeeper Lexi Weatherbie (10 saves) on a shot with 13:20 to play before halftime for a 1-0 lead.
“I couldn’t do it without the assists,” Toorish said. “Kelly could have shot it, but she saw I was in a better position and she gave it to me. That was such a good assist. We’re trying to be one unit, not individual players.”
With 2:05 remaining in the half, Toorish struck again with a blast from up top and it was 2-0 Greely at the break.
The competitive phase of the contest ended early in the second half when Toorish, who battled an ankle injury earlier in the season, scored for the third time, collecting a ball that Burrell played off her chest, before firing it home.
“I’ve been struggling a little with my ankle in my shots, but coach has helped me,” Toorish said. “He’s a great coach. I owe a lot to him. Not relaxing has been a problem in my game. There was pressure as a freshman and even more pressure this year. When I relax, I play the best.”
Burrell (from junior Shannon Donovan) completed the scoring and Greely (which got 12 saves from Arsenault) completed the 4-0 shutout.
It’s fair to say the Rangers have turned the corner in an emphatic way.
“I’ve had some struggles and so has the team, but we’re just taking it one step at a time,” Toorish said. “We struggled at the beginning and last year it didn’t happen. It was a shock and we knew we had to change some things. We had a lot of long team talks. It’s working. We had too much talent not to win.”
“I think a three-game slump is what we needed to learn some lessons and get back to basics and we’ve played pretty flawless soccer over the past three, four games,” added Kennedy. “We’re moving the ball well, attacking well, defending well. It’s really encouraging. I was confident it would come. You just don’t know with younger players. We had to take it one game at a time. We made some adjustments and changes formation-wise. The Falmouth game was the fourth game in that rebuilding. They get it now.”
Greely is up to fourth in the Western A Heal Points standings and could move up even further if it can take care of business against some elite foes down the stretch. The Rangers play York twice in six days, Thursday in York and next Tuesday at home.
“We don’t really get a break,” Kennedy said. “York is always a good game. It’s tough to play down there.”
The Rangers close the regular season with home games against Waynflete and Yarmouth.
“We can’t let games get to our heads,” Toorish said. “We’re a different team than we were two weeks ago. We need to focus on the present and going into the future.”
“We just want to be in the playoffs and have the opportunity to show what we can do,” Kennedy added. “It’ll be fun.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com