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Drama the theme as soccer playoffs open

Sports

Drama the theme as soccer playoffs open

(Ed. Note: For the complete Cape Elizabeth-Greely girls' soccer game story, please visit theforecaster.net)

The 2012 soccer playoffs (at press time) could be summed up this way:

Good news for Cape Elizabeth.

Bad news for South Portland.

Waiting on results for Scarborough.

The Capers girls have been one of the more inspirational stories this autumn. After losing their opener to two-time defending Class B state champion Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth closed the year on a 12-0-1 run to earn the No. 4 seed in Western A.

Friday, the Capers hosted No. 13 South Portland, which garnered the final spot, in the preliminary round.

Cape Elizabeth advanced in the first ever postseason meeting between the neighbors, who don't play in the regular season, but it wasn't easy.

A goal from Addie Wood put the Capers on top, but Ericka Lightner answered for the Red Riots and was 1-1 at halftime. Kathryn Clark continued to emerge as one of the state's special players with a key goal in the second half, but Cape Elizabeth had to sweat out some close calls late to advance, 2-1.

"Last year, we would have been happy to beat South Portland, but this year we weren't happy with how we played," said Capers coach Luke Krawczyk.

South Portland finished the year 5-10.

Cape Elizabeth next hosted No. 5 Greely in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

Entering the contest, the longtime rivals had met 15 previous times in the playoffs, dating back to 1985. Greely had won 10 of those encounters, including the most recent, 2-1, in the 2008 quarterfinals.

The teams had combined for just one goal in two regular season meetings (the Capers won, 1-0, at the Rangers and the squads settled for a scoreless draw at Cape Elizabeth), but this time, the Capers broke out.

After 32-plus minutes of almost nothing in the way of good chances, Cape Elizabeth got the only goal it would need, courtesy Clark. Taking a pass from Wood, Clark beat a defender and went in one-on-one with Greely senior goalkeeper Caton Beaulieu, who is as aggressive as anyone. Beaulieu had largely stymied the Capers this season, but this time, Clark had the angle and managed to shoot past the keeper into the net for a 1-0 lead.

"At first, we played a 4-4-2 and Addie, the other forward, and I were playing too far apart and didn't connect well," said Clark. "We got closer, she tipped a ball and I came in around and I put it in."

Then, with time winding down in the half another precocious Caper, freshman Katherine Briggs, was in the right place at the right time to bang home a rebound of Kate Breed's shot to give Cape Elizabeth a 2-0 halftime lead.

"All the credit should go to Kate Breed," Briggs said. "She made an amazing run. I was just there to finish. Usually I don't think about it in a moment like that, but I thought about it. It was just a simple finish into the goal."

Greely couldn't respond in the second half and a second Clark goal, this one with 23:14 left on the clock put it away as the Capers went on to a 3-0 victory, improved to 13-1-1, ended the Rangers' season at 10-4-2 and set up a semifinal round showdown at top-ranked Windham Friday evening.

"We've been preparing for a game like this all season," said Clark. "Greely's always our biggest rival. We came in confident but not too confident and I think we really played well. Beating Greely 3-0, we never thought we'd beat them by that much."

Friday, the team has a chance to do something no Capers squad has accomplished since 2000, reach a regional final.

Cape Elizabeth doesn't play Windham (14-0-1 after surviving ninth-ranked Cheverus in PKs in its quarterfinal Tuesday) in the regular season. The teams' last playoff meeting was a 4-1 Eagles' triumph in the 2006 preliminary round. The squads also met in the 1984 quarterfinals (a 2-1 Capers' victory) and the 1995 quarterfinals (a 1-0 win for Windham on PKs).

Cape Elizabeth, a season-long underdog, likes its chances to keep this amazing run going.

"We started off decent and we've just been improving over the course of the season," said Clark. "I think we can take it all the way to states."

"I think we just have to continue to play as a team, play our game, learn from our mistakes, adapt at halftime and continue to rely on each other, have confidence in each other and have confidence in our coach," said Briggs.

"We want to go and play the best teams," Krawczyk added. "That's the measure of how far we've come. How we do against the best teams and the best players."

Scarborough's girls finished the season 12-1-1 and third in Western A. The Red Storm hosted No. 6 Sanford (11-3-1) in the quarterfinals Wednesday. Scarborough didn't face the Spartans this fall. The teams last met in the postseason in the 2003 quarterfinals (a 2-0 Red Storm win).

"Our regular season went very well," said Scarborough coach Mike Farley. "We conceded three goals all year, just one in the run of play and two on (penalty kicks), which is a good indication that the players have bought into defending as a group and really take defending personally. Our backs did a great job working together and covering for each other. We got great goalkeeping from Sydney Martin and MacKenzie O’Brien, both of whom didn’t have to make a lot of saves, but were usually called upon to make a really tough save or two in games and more often than not they came up with those saves. I think we’ve had balanced scoring with eight players scoring multiple goals, with Sarah Martens and Jess Meader leading the way with 14 and 12 goals respectively.

"Our matchup with Sanford will be a good game. We don’t play them in the regular season and didn’t see them at all last year. We know they have some very dangerous players offensively and they will test us defensively. We’ll have to play our game and make the most of the chances that we can create, because in the playoffs everything comes harder and you have to finish the few opportunities you get and really limit the chances you give the other team."

If Scarborough advanced, it will be at second-ranked Thornton Academy (15-0) in the semifinals Friday or Saturday. The Golden Trojans handed the Red Storm its lone regular season loss, 1-0, Sept. 27 in Saco. The teams last met in the playoffs two years ago in the regional final, a 1-0 Scarborough triumph.

On the boys' side, Cape Elizabeth went into the postseason on a high, closing the regular year on a 5-0-1 streak to finish 7-5-2, good for the No. 8 seed in Western A.

Saturday, the Capers hosted No. 9 Marshwood and eked out a 2-1 win to advance. Griffin Thoreck produced yet another booming free kick goal to get Cape Elizabeth started and Eddie Galvin provided the go-ahead tally.

The Capers went to top-ranked Gorham (12-0-2) for the quarterfinals Wednesday. The former Western Maine Conference rivals don't play in the regular season. The last postseason encounter between the two came way back in the 1990 regional final, a 3-0 Cape Elizabeth win.

If the Capers survived that game, they'll visit either No. 4 Kennebunk (9-2-3) or No. 5 Deering (9-3-3) in the semifinals this weekend. Cape Elizabeth didn't play either set of Rams this season.

Scarborough's quest for a ninth straight No. 1 seed ended virtue a coin flip after the Red Storm finished tied with Gorham with a 12-0-2 record, the 10th straight season Scarborough has posted double digit victories.

"I'm happy with the regular season," said Red Storm coach Mark Diaz. "We hoped to be 1 or 2 and that's what we are. We've played better throughout the season."

As the No. 2 seed, Scarborough opened the playoffs at home against resurgent Portland (7-7-1) in the quarterfinals Wednesday. On Sept. 11, the Red Storm handled the host Bulldogs, 6-1, but Scarborough knows Portland is playing much better now (a 2-1 double OT win at defending state champion Windham Monday was the Bulldogs' fifth in a row).

"Portland's not the same team," Diaz said. "They believe. They're working hard. We're not looking at this like we caught a break. We'll have to show up. We're healthy, we're excited and we'll be ready."

The teams have met three previous times in the playoffs, with Portland prevailing in the 2002 preliminary round and Scarborough taking an epic 2003 semifinal and winning again in the 2009 semis.

If the Red Storm passes its first test, it will host either No. 3 Greely (10-4) or surprise No. 11 Noble (9-6) in the semifinals this weekend. Scarborough doesn't face the Rangers in the regular season, but beat them, 1-0, in last year's quarterfinals to take a 5-3 all-time postseason lead in the series. The Red Storm was a 4-2 winner at Noble Oct. 2. The teams have never met in the playoffs.

South Portland hoped to advance from the preliminary round, but as the No. 6 seed, was upset by Noble last Saturday, 2-0, to finish 8-4-3.

Schedule

Looking ahead, the regional final round is Wednesday of next week. Games will be played on the fields of the highest remaining seeds. State Championship Saturday is Nov. 3 The Class A games are at Hampden Academy.

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