Cape Elizabeth drops regional final heartbreaker
A season that began with almost no fanfare ended with the Cape Elizabeth girls' soccer team one goal shy of a trip to the state championship game.
The Capers were a semifinalist in 2011, losing to Scarborough in double overtime, but few realized just how special this year's version could be and when Cape Elizabeth lost at home, 2-1, to defending Class B champion Falmouth in the opener, there was even more cause for doubt.
That doubt was unfounded and it would be exactly two months before the Capers lost again.
Cape Elizabeth got better by the day, riding a team approach and the finishing heroics of young budding stars like sophomore Kathryn Clark and freshmen Kate Breed and Katherine Briggs.
The Capers won eight games in a row, by a composite 25-1 margin, and after settling for a 0-0 home tie versus Greely, completed the regular season with four more victories, by a 14-2 margin.
Cape Elizabeth split with eventual Class B champion Falmouth, beat and tied Greely, swept Yarmouth and York and defeated eventual Class C champion Waynflete along the way.
As the No. 4 seed for the Western A tournament, the Capers held off upset-minded No. 13 South Portland in the preliminary round, 2-1, then eliminated fifth-ranked Greely in surprisingly easy fashion, 3-0, in the quarterfinals. Cape Elizabeth had to go to penalty kicks to edge top-ranked Windham in the semifinals, 2-1 (6-4), then went to No. 3 Scarborough, the two-time defending regional champion, last Wednesday for its first regional final appearance since 2000.
The game marked the third year in a row that the teams met in the playoffs and the seventh time overall, dating back to 1986. The Red Storm would wind up winning for the third time in the postseason series, but it wasn't easy.
The game was scoreless until there were just under 16 minutes to go and the Red Storm got a goal from senior Sarah Martens. The Capers had some chances during the game, but couldn't finish and their season ended with a 1-0 loss.
"The girls were a little nervous to start with," said Cape Elizabeth coach Luke Krawczyk. "The first 25 minutes of the second half were all us. Their keeper made a nice save on Kathryn and then they scored. The final 10 minutes were all us again. It got a little rough at the end.
"Compared to last year, we played them well and could have beaten them. Most people didn't think we could beat them. They had one shot in the second half. It was a goal. In retrospect, we did really well."
Cape Elizabeth wound up 15-2-1, its best record since 1999 (16-1-1), the year of its last state title.
"I'm really happy with the girls and how the program has developed," said Krawczyk. "I enjoyed the season. We were more balanced. The girls really came together as a team. It's a nice town with great people."
The Capers will lose six seniors, Courtney Guerette, Erin Lyons, Talley Perkins, Maddy Riker, Emily Spidle and Jenna Wallace, but return an abundance of contributors, suggesting they'll be much more highly regarded at the start of the 2013 campaign and capable of going all the way.
"We're losing three or four starters, but we had four freshmen on the field in the regional final," Krawczyk said. "I'm looking forward to next year. The good news is a lot of the kids are doing some form of soccer through the winter and spring. This year we wanted to get farther than last year. Hopefully we'll go one step further next year."