Cape girls ride into playoffs on high note
PORTLAND—When the Cape Elizabeth girls' soccer team dropped a hard-fought 2-1 home decision to Falmouth in the season opener, way back on Aug. 31, no one could have dreamed just how far the Capers would come this season.
Fast forward 45 days and it's hard to find a team that is playing better.
Monday afternoon at Fore River Fields, Cape Elizabeth capped a superb regular season, the program's best in a decade, with an 80-minute domination of the host Waynflete Flyers.
Sophomore Kathryn Clark set the tone just 83 seconds in with a goal and by halftime, Clark had scored again and freshman Kate Breed also tickled the twine to give the Capers a commanding 3-0 lead.
Six minutes into the second half, Clark scored her third goal and later in the half, freshmen Morgan Wight and Katherine Briggs got in on the act with goals, as Cape Elizabeth cruised, 6-0, ending the regular year 12-1-1, while Waynflete wound up 8-2-4.
The Capers proved that sometimes being younger is better as all six tallies came from freshmen and sophomores. Indeed, the quick evolution of the younger classes helped this squad produce a far better regular season than expected.
"It's so surprising," said Clark. "Coming into the season, I didn't want to be down on us, but I didn't think we'd get anywhere close to where we were last year. We had five freshmen coming in. They didn't know how to handle high school soccer. They've proven themselves. Our whole team has proven ourselves. I think we're a much better team this year."
Cape Elizabeth reached the semifinals in 2011, but relied heavily on the scoring of Melanie Vangel, who didn't return to the school this fall, instead going to prep school for her senior year. While that led many to believe the Capers wouldn't be as potent, the team instead has spread out the scoring and that's made it almost impossible to slow.
Cape Elizabeth did fall in the opener, then won every game, save a 0-0 home draw against Greely. Included in the victories were a payback triumph at Falmouth, 3-1, two each against Yarmouth and York and one over Greely. Heading into Monday, the Capers had outscored the opposition, 34-5.
Waynflete fell in overtime of the Western C Final in 2011 and despite graduating 50 career goal scorer Becky Smith, liked its chances to contend once again this fall. The Flyers didn't lose any of their first 11 games, but four of them resulted in ties. After finally falling from the unbeaten ranks last week at Greely, 3-0, Waynflete bounced back with a pivotal 2-1 home victory over Old Orchard Beach Friday.
The team also met last year, a 5-1 home win for the Capers.
Monday, Cape Elizabeth had its way nearly from the get go.
The tone was set just 1:23 in when Clark took a pass from junior Lizzie Raftice and took advantage of a Waynflete defender losing her footing to carry the ball into the box before shooting low past Flyers sophomore goalkeeper Juliana Harwood for a 1-0 lead.
"It was good to get off to a good start," Clark said. "I don't tend to look at the defenders. I just look at the ball and try to place it."
With 34:06 to go in the half, Cape Elizabeth made it 2-0 as senior Talley Perkins got a great look, only to have her shot saved in diving fashion by Harwood. Fortunately for the Capers, the rebound came right to Breed and she banged it home for the goal.
In the 17th minute, Perkins fed Clark, who broke in one-on-one, but Harwood made the save.
A minute later, the hosts had their first good look, but a serve by junior Sofia Canning that landed loose in the box went untouched.
With 16:58 to go before halftime, Clark struck again, this time taking a long pass from senior Maddy Riker before beating a defender, then Harwood, to make it 3-0.
"I want to credit all my goals to my teammates," Clark said. "Our midfielders give unbelievable balls to me. They do all the work. When I get the opportunities, I want to finish for them."
Clark almost got her hat trick with 14:01 remaining before the break, but she shot wide of an open net.
Earlier in the season, Clark said that kind of missed opportunity would have put her in a funk, but not any longer.
"At the beginning of the season, I really sweated missed goals and put my head down," Clark said. "I don't think I picked myself up well. Coach told me I'd get more opportunities. Over the course of the season, I didn't put my head down and kept going."
With 34:05 to go in the second half, Clark did get her third goal, outfighting a defender and Harwood for a loose ball before tapping the ball into the goal to make it 4-0.
"Kathryn brings energy," Capers second-year coach Luke Krawczyk said. "She's full of energy. She got overlooked last year. He helped out a lot. She's still got a lot to work on, but she's a great kid."
Late in the contest, more promising Cape Elizabeth youngsters got in on the act as with 18:08 to play, Wight finished and with 8:24 to go, after a player was taken down in the box, Briggs scored on a penalty kick to account for the 6-0 final score.
"I wouldn't call it our best game, but we got momentum going," Clark said. "We want to be pushing forward going into playoffs."
"We've come a long way," said Krawczyk. "I wanted to do well in the regular season and we were brilliant. We finished with a better record than last year. We win the conference again. It was great development for the girls. It was a great year for the program. Our first team did really well. JV went unbeaten.
"During the summer, we had a big class of freshmen come through. I'd worked with them before. We made the decision to work hard to technically make them better. They've adjusted to the style. We move the ball and work on movement off the ball."
Waynflete treated the loss as a positive learning experience.
"(Cape's) a good team," said Flyers coach Todd Dominski. "Playing teams of their caliber just makes us play better, even if we lose. Defensively, we struggled with their speed up top and their pressure. Teams we play just don't pressure us like that.
"We did a lot of good things (in the regular season). We hoped for better in some of the ties, but at the same time, it could have been worse."
Let the fun begin
Waynflete looks as if it's locked into the No. 4 spot and will probably host No. 5 Wiscasset in the quarterfinals Tuesday of next week. The teams don't play in the regular season and have no playoff history.
The Flyers feel they're capable of making noise.
"We'll get a game here and see what happens," Dominski said. "We need to move the ball and finish. Defensively, I think we're fairly solid in the back. Offensively, (senior) Isabel (Agnew) is doing a great job out there. She pressures the ball and causes turnovers. (Freshman) Arianna (Giguere) is doing the same thing. We're deadly off the cross from either side. Sofia Canning's done an amazing job in the midfield all season. I think we can put a good run together."
Cape Elizabeth will either be the No. 3 or No. 4 seed for the playoffs. If the Capers wind up fourth, they'll host a preliminary round contest Friday. If they finish third, they'll have a bye into the quarterfinal round, Tuesday of next week.
Cape Elizabeth was overlooked coming into the season and will likely be overlooked again as the postseason dawns, but this team has shown how dangerous it can be and you've got to believe the Capers are capable of doing special things in the weeks to come, even though they'll have to face teams like Windham, Thornton Academy and two-time reigning regional champion Scarborough, with whom they're unfamiliar.
"It's tough because we don't know what to expect," Clark said. "We played some of those teams like Scarborough in the summer. It's always hard shifting, but we're confident. If we put our minds to it, I think we can go far. We don't adjust according to what other teams play. We just try to play our game. Coach says we do the bad things well. We're scrappy. We know 50-50 balls can determine games."
"I want to play (the SMAA teams)," Krawczyk said.. "We've earned the right to compete against those teams. We'll see what happens. They'll be older than us and they may have some better players than us, but we want the opportunity to play them. Playoffs are a lottery. I'm not a big fan of it. Where I'm from (Peterborough, England), you win the league and that's it. It comes down to nerves. Who takes a chance. We hope to give a good account of ourselves and enjoy it."