Soccer playoffs underway
(Ed. Note: For the complete Yarmouth-Oak Hill girls' soccer game story, please visit theforecaster.net)
Nine of 10 local soccer teams qualified for the playoffs and the early action has been memorable.
Freeport, Greely and Yarmouth's girls' teams won preliminary round games and joined Falmouth in the quarterfinals.
The Falcons wound up eighth in Western Class B with a 6-7-1 record and hosted No. 9 Spruce Mountain in a preliminary round game Friday. Freeport escaped in the first ever meeting between the schools and advanced with a 1-0 win behind Brooke Heathco's goal and a shutout from goalkeeper Aubrey Pennell.
"I am happy with how my girls possessed and moved the ball," said Falcons coach Elayna Girardin, who has led Freeport to wins in consecutive postseasons, something which hadn't happened since 1989-90. "We have spent a great deal of the season working on moving as a team both defensively and offensively and I felt that it has come together at the right time. It is great to see them put it all together at the right time of the season."
The Falcons played at top-ranked Morse (12-1-1) in the quarterfinals Tuesday. The teams don't meet in the regular season and had no playoff history.
"We're just going into the game knowing that we have nothing to lose," said Girardin. "We are going to play hard, with heart and continue to improve on everything we have worked on thus far in the season. After the success that the girls had last year, in multiple sports, with making playoffs, we are better prepared and more experienced. We hope to continue to build on that experience and play a solid, well fought game."
If Freeport sprung the upset, it would go to either No. 4 Poland (7-5-2) or No. 5 York (7-6-1) for the semifinals Saturday. The Falcons split 1-0 decisions with the Knights this year and fell at the Wildcats, 1-0. Last fall, Freeport beat Poland, 3-1, in the preliminary round of the playoffs, then was eliminated, 3-1, at York in the quarterfinals.
Yarmouth finished seventh in Western Class B with a 4-6-4 record, which was a bit misleading in that the Clippers played all the top contenders tough, they just struggled to put the ball in the net.
Friday afternoon, in a Western Class B preliminary round playoff game against 10th-ranked Oak Hill, the offense showed up with abandon as Yarmouth matched its season high in goals, two, in the game's first 19-plus minutes, and went on a 4-0 victory. The Clippers got two strikes apiece from senior Tess Merrill and freshman Lilly Watson.
“(The goals are) finally happening,” Merrill said. “An early lead was important."
“It's really exciting,” Watson said. “Our team has so much potential. Our record hasn't shown how well we can play. We're turning it on for playoffs.”
“Scoring goals has not been easy, but the girls have stayed positive and have worked hard,” added Yarmouth coach Rich Smith. “They finished up tonight.”
Yarmouth advanced to the quarterfinals Tuesday, at two-time defending Class B champion, Falmouth, the No. 2 seed.
The Yachtsmen went 10-2-2 in the regular season, closing with a confidence-building 1-0 win at York (Caitlin Bucksbaum had the lone tally).
In the regular season, the Clippers played visiting Falmouth to a scoreless tie, then lost at the Yachtsmen, 3-1. Yarmouth has been ousted by Falmouth in each of the past two postseasons, 1-0, as the higher seed in the 2010 semifinals, and 3-0 at the Yachtsmen last fall. Falmouth went on to win Class B each of those seasons. The Yachtsmen won five of the previous six postseason encounters, but Yarmouth liked its chances going in.
“It's good to be the underdog,” Merrill said. “We've lost to them last year and the year before. That will get us pumped up even more.”
“We all really want it,” Watson said. “I think we have a really good chance.”
“We've played some really good teams tough,” Smith added. “We've been in every single game. I thought it would be a matter of time before we scored goals and we're doing that now. If we can put the ball on goal and find a corner and score early, it would improve our chances and give us a shot.”
Falmouth was confident as well.
"The Yarmouth-Falmouth games are full of tradition and rivalry," said Yachtsmen coach Wally LeBlanc. "I fully expect Yarmouth to be confident in their abilities and to play us tough. They are also extremely well coached. While we may be the higher seed, we are going to have to play as a team and stay focused in order to get a positive result. I am excited about the game and feel that it will be one worth watching."
The winner advances to Saturday's semifinals to take on either No. 3 Maranacook (7-3-4) or sixth-ranked Gray-New Gloucester (5-6-4). Neither Falmouth or Yarmouth plays Maranacook in the regular season. The Yachtsmen handled the host Patriots, 3-1, Sept. 15. The Clippers played visiting Gray-New Gloucester to a 0-0 tie Oct. 6.
In Western A, Greely went 6-0-2 in its final eight games to wind up fifth in the Heal Points with a 9-3-2 mark. The Rangers hosted No. 12 Biddeford in a preliminary round game Saturday and had no trouble advancing, 3-0. Izzy Hutnak and Leah Young scored first half goals and Julia Mitiguy's rebound tally in the second half accounted for the final tally.
"It was workmanlike," said Greely coach Michael Kennedy. "We got to play a lot of kids."
The Rangers advanced to a quarterfinal round showdown at rival No. 4 Cape Elizabeth (12-1-1) Tuesday night. In the regular season, the Capers won at Greely, 1-0, and the teams played to a scoreless tie in Cape Elizabeth. The teams had met 15 previous times in the postseason, with the Rangers taking 10 of them, including the most recent encounter in the 2008 quarterfinals (2-1).
"It's good we get a day of recovery since we have some kids banged up," Kennedy said. "We played well against them in the two games. We dominated them, 3-1, in shots each game. We just have to finish the final third and we'll be OK. We're confident in ourselves, it doesn't matter who we're playing. I like this team. It's a great group of girls."
In Western C, North Yarmouth Academy finished 3-11 and 12th in the standings, but only 11 teams made the playoff cut.
Falmouth, Greely, NYA and Yarmouth's boys' teams all had byes into the quarterfinals and they were joined by a surprising fifth local squad, Freeport.
The hottest team entering the postseason was Greely, which shot all the way to the third seed in Western A with a 10-4 record after closing the regular season with victories at Waynflete, Yarmouth and Falmouth.
The Rangers drew No. 11 Noble (9-6), an upset preliminary round winner at sixth-ranked South Portland, in Wednesday's quarterfinals. The teams don't play in the regular season.
"We saw the South Portland game and (Noble's) tough," said Greely coach Mike Andreasen. "Their defense is pretty airtight and their offense is opportunistic. Eight of their nine wins have come via a shutout, so they don't give up many goals. Their losses were all extremely competitive. Nobody ran away from them. We'll have to capitalize on our chances if we hope to defeat them. They're not a typical 11 seed, that's for sure."
If the Rangers passed their quarterfinal test, they'll either go No. 2 Scarborough (12-0-2) or host 10th-ranked Portland (7-7-1) in Saturday's semifinal round. Greely doesn't play either team in the regular season. The Rangers and Red Storm have met eight times in the postseason, dating back to 1978. Last fall, Scarborough eliminated Greely, 1-0, in the quarterfinals. The Rangers have taken all four previous playoff meetings with the Bulldogs. the last came in the 2004 quarterfinals (1-0).
In Western B, Yarmouth garnered the No. 1 seed with a 10-1-3 record and hosted eighth-ranked Fryeburg (7-5-3) in Wednesday's quarterfinal round (please see theforecaster.net for game story). The Raiders shocked the Clippers, 1-0, in last year's quarterfinal. Yarmouth took the regular season meeting, 1-0, in double OT, at Fryeburg Oct. 9.
"Actually, it is a good matchup for us, as we will not look past them at all," said Clippers coach Mike Hagerty. "This year's Fryeburg team is similar to last year's team, just without the dangerous one-two offensive punch of the two all-stars from last year. They have good athletes, they are strong down the middle and have a good goalie, so in a direct game, like the one we played at their place on a small field, they are dangerous. Our plan is to make it about skill and use our huge home field as an advantage and make the ball do the most work."
If Yarmouth advances, it will host No. 4 York (8-4-2) or fifth-ranked Lincoln Academy (8-4-2) in Saturday's semifinals. The Clippers don't play Lincoln in the regular season. They won both games against the Wildcats, although both were close, 1-0 at York and 2-1 at home. The last playoff encounter between the Clippers and Wildcats came in the 2010 semifinals (a 1-0 Yarmouth triumph). A possible regional final showdown with Falmouth looms as well.
"If all the playoff teams hold seed, we have a tough road," said Hagerty. "In the five games we had with Fryeburg, York and Falmouth, we had three overtime games, four one-goal wins and one tie, so no easy games."
Speaking of the defending Class B state champion Yachtsmen, they closed with a 4-1 home victory over York, as Cooper Lycan had two goals and Grant Burfeind and Ian McBrady one apiece. Falmouth's 9-3-2 record gave it the No. 3 seed in Western B. The Yachtsmen's hosted No. 6 Gray-New Gloucester (7-6-2) in the quarterfinals Wednesday. Falmouth handled the visiting Patriots, 5-0, Sept. 20. The last time the teams met in the postseason was the 2010 quarterfinals (a 1-0 Yachtsmen victory).
If Falmouth advanced, it would either go to No. 2 Maranacook (12-0-2) or host 10th-ranked Freeport (4-9-2) in Saturday's semifinals. The Yachtsmen don't play the Black Bears during the regular season. Falmouth's last playoff game against Maranacook came two years ago in the semifinals, a 2-1 overtime win. The Yachtsmen downed the host Falcons, 3-0, Sept. 18. The schools last played in the postseason in the 2007 Western B Final (a 2-1 overtime triumph for Falmouth).
Freeport didn't even make the playoffs until it beat visiting Gray-New Gloucester, 1-0, in the regular season finale last Tuesday (Jack Davenport had the goal). The Falcons played a rain delayed preliminary round game at No. 7 Spruce Mountain Monday afternoon and dominated the first ever meeting between the schools from start to finish.
Caleb Abbott scored two quick goals to send Freeport on its way. It was 5-0 by halftime and the Falcons went on to a 7-0 victory, their highest ever goal total in a postseason game (the previous benchmark was six versus Lincoln Academy in the 2005 quarterfinals). Connor Dietrich also scored twice.
"Scoring is so hard to do in this game and for us to score early and come in at halftime with a big lead, that was huge," Freeport coach Joe Heathco said. "When we had the opportunities late in that half, and it was just bang, bang, bang, it takes the air out of the game."
Freeport went to No. 2 Maranacook for the quarterfinals Wednesday. The teams don't play in the regular season. The Falcons took the only prior meeting, 2-1 (4-3 in PKs) in the 2006 quarterfinals.
"It's a small state and the coaches, we know each other and we see each other," Heathco said. "We know they're going to be tough. They're well-coached, they're going to be strong, they're going to be aggressive and we're going to have to play really well."
If the Falcons could spring another upset, a semifinal round trip to Falmouth likely awaits Saturday.
In Western C, NYA finished sixth with an 8-5-1 record, but prior to visiting third-ranked rival Waynflete Wednesday afternoon (please see theforecaster.net for game story), hadn't played a countable game in 15 days.
Despite the seeds, you could make an argument that the Panthers and Flyers are the two best teams in the region, having played in the regional finals each of the past two years. This fall, Waynflete romped at NYA, 5-0, and held off the visiting Panthers, 2-0.
"I have to believe this is a very tall order for my shorthanded team," said NYA coach Martyn Keen. "We have lost several key players to season ending injuries, making what was already a limited talent pool all the shallower. However, I have been around this game long enough to know that on any given day every underdog has its shot. We will certainly go into the game with a battle plan and if we can execute, our hope is to make things difficult for what is a very talented team.
"The fact that either Waynflete or NYA is going out in the quarterfinals is tough when you consider that we have played each other in each of the past two regional finals. Of course, the seedings are what they are and both (No. 1) Hall-Dale and (No. 2) St Dom's are very good teams, so may the very best team win. We are going to try to make this another classic NYA-Waynflete encounter."
The Panthers upset host Waynflete, 1-0, in the 2010 regional final. Last year, the Flyers returned the favor en route to the championship, 3-1, in the Western C Final.
If NYA advances, it will either visit St. Dom's (13-0-1) or host No. 7 Wiscasset (7-6-1) in the semifinals this weekend. The Panthers didn't face either team in the regular season.
Looking ahead, the regional final round is Wednesday of next week, on the field of the higher remaining seeds. The Class A state games will be at Hampden Academy Saturday, Nov. 3. The Class B and C state finals are at Scarborough High, the same date.
Sun Journal sports editor Justin Pelletier contributed to this story.