Greely's run ends with semifinal round loss at York

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Greely senior goalkeeper Savannah Lemieux beats York senior Anabel Santini to the ball during the teams’ Class B South semifinal Tuesday afternoon. The Wildcats advanced with a 4-1 victory.

Contributed photos.

More photos below.

YORK—Midnight struck quickly for the Cinderella Greely girls’ soccer team Tuesday afternoon in a Class B South semifinal at York 

The 10th-ranked Rangers, coming off a pair of playoff victories, hoped to add the third-seeded Wildcats to their list of victims, but York carried play much of the way and capitalized on nearly every opportunity.

The Wildcats opened the scoring in the seventh minute when junior assist machine Nina Howe fed senior Anabel Santini for a 1-0 lead.

Greely drew even with 27:03 to play in the first half, when senior Julia Martel finished senior Skylar Conney’s corner kick, but in the matter of 17 seconds, the whole complexion of the contest changed, as Howe raced into the attacking zone and set up freshman Emily Rainforth for the goal which put York on top to stay.

Senior Halee Bando added a goal late in the first half and with 11 minutes remaining, Howe assisted her third goal, this one by senior Peyton Nickerson, and the Wildcats went on to a 4-1 victory.

York had four different players tickle the twine as it improved to 12-3-1, advanced to battle top-ranked Cape Elizabeth (16-0) in the regional final Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Hannaford Field, and in the process, the Wildcats ended Greely’s season at 8-8-1.

“We just didn’t come to play,” lamented Rangers coach Josh Muscadin. “You have to come to play or not to play, especially in a game like this. It’s that simple. York deserved it. You’re not going to win a game playing like that.” 

Cinderella ride

Greely went just 6-7-1 in the regular season, its first sub-.500 season since 1989, but as the No. 10 seed, the Rangers caught fire when the Class B South playoffs began, winning at No. 7 Spruce Mountain, 5-0, in the preliminary round and upsetting No. 2 Oak Hill, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.

York, a perennial contender, enjoyed a 10-3-1 campaign, losing only to top-ranked Cape Elizabeth (twice) and two-time defending champion Yarmouth and tying Freeport. As the No. 3 seed in the region, the Wildcats advanced by surviving No. 11 Lake Region, 3-2, in overtime, in their quarterfinal.

York took both regular season meetings: 4-0 at home Sept. 6 and 3-0 in Cumberland Oct. 11.

Greely had won all three prior playoff meetings (see sidebar, below), with a 4-0 victory in the 2016 Class B South semifinals the most recent.

This game was supposed to be played Saturday, but rain moved it to Monday, where rain and poor field conditions postponed it yet again to Tuesday, where the sun was shining, but the wind made it feel like November a couple days early.

The Wildcats didn’t mind the conditions, however, as they came out strong and took care of business.

The Rangers got the first shot of the game, but a left-footed bid from junior Paige Evans was stopped by York senior goalkeeper Jackie Tabora. 

After Howe hit the side netting with a shot and a Martel bid was saved by Tabora, the Wildcats transitioned back to offense and took the lead.

With 33:32 left in the first half, Howe made a run down the right side and crossed the ball in front to Santini, who was able to beat Greely senior goalkeeper Savannah Lemieux for a 1-0 advantage.

“It’s good to come out like that against a really good team,” said longtime York coach Wally Caldwell. “That amped us up. It was big for momentum. (Greely’s) a good team. We had lost to them three times in this game and my seniors knew that.”

After shots by Cooney and Martel were blocked, the Rangers tied things up in the 13th minute, when off a corner kick, Cooney’s serve got through the hands of Tabora and Martel was there to clean up the rebound to tie the game and seemingly give Greely momentum.

Momentum which lasted exactly 17 seconds.

Howe would set up the go-ahead goal, making another nice run down the right side, crossing the ball in front and this time, Rainforth finished to make it 2-1.

“Whenever someone else scores this season, we’ve gotten down on ourselves and today we didn’t,” Howe said. “I took the ball down and crossed it over. That’s my play. I do take pride in assists.”

“We got some nice goals today,” Caldwell said. “Some great assists from Nina, putting the ball across, and I have players who can finish. Nina will take it upon herself to do it if it isn’t being done. That’s her 17th or 18th assist this year, against good teams. We haven’t answered like that this year. It was great to rebound and get that goal.”

After Greely nearly drew even in the 28th minute on a shot from sophomore Kaci O’Grady which sailed just wide of the back post, the Wildcats struck again.

With 7:56 to play in the half, Santini got the ball past a diving Lemieux, but it appeared to be rolling out of bounds before Bando got to it on the doorstep at the back post and sent it home to make the score 3-1.

“The girls know they can score,” Caldwell said. “In years past, that’s been one of our question marks.”

Late in the half, O’Grady had a shot saved by Tabora, then missed wide, keeping the deficit at two goals.

In the first 40 minutes, shots on frame were even, 4-4, and the Rangers had a 2-0 edge in corner kicks, but Tabora’s three saves helped keep the Wildcats in front.

Greely hoped to answer in the second half, but Tabora saved an Evans shot, junior Sawyer Dusch and Cooney each missed wide and a pair of corner kicks didn’t result in a shot.

Then, with 11:03 to play, York earned its first corner kick and made it count, as Howe served the ball in to Nickerson, whose header was stopped by Lemieux, but Nickerson got to the rebound and finished to bring the curtain down on the Wildcats’ 4-1 victory.

“The fast start was important,” said Howe. “We wanted to come out strong, score early and we did that well. We’ve been practicing hard and getting ready for this game.” 

York had a 7-6 edge in shots on goal and got five saves from Tabora.

Greely had a 4-2 advantage in corner kicks and got three saves from Lemieux.

“Hopefully we learn from (this),” Muscadin said. “We had a good season, but we could have gone further.”

Quick turnaround

York won’t even have 24 hours to rest, as it will play in its first regional final in three years Wednesday afternoon.

Cape Elizabeth and York played twice this fall, with the Capers taking both: 5-0 in York Sept. 8 and 2-0 at home Sept. 27. The teams met just once before in the playoffs, a 3-2 (double-overtime) victory for the Wildcats in the 2015 Class B South semifinals.

“We’ve got nothing to lose tomorrow,” Howe said. “We’ll give it our all. It’s our last game of the season and we want to make the seniors happy.”

“We’re a resilient team,” Caldwell said. “The girls are as loose as can be. They were loose yesterday at 2 o-clock when they found out we weren’t going to play. We’ve rolled with things that are going on. The girls don’t complain about anything. That’s a testament to the camaraderie of this group.

“They’re not giddy, but they’re close, and I’m OK with that.”

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

York junior Nina Howe, who had three assists, protects the ball from Greely senior Logan Pray.

Greely senior Julia Martel and York senior Peyton Nickerson battle for the ball.

York players mob senior goalkeeper Jackie Tabora at the conclusion of the game.

Previous Greely-York playoff results

2016 Class B South semifinal
Greely 4 York 0

2015 Class B South Final
Greely 5 York 1

2013 Western B semifinal
Greely 1 York 0

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