Yarmouth girls come of age, enjoy rare win over Greely
YARMOUTH—For several weeks, the Yarmouth girls' soccer team showed great improvement and dazzled at times with its play, but the one thing the precocious Clippers were missing was a signature victory.
Wednesday evening, they got one.
Against a team they hardly ever beat.
Hosting a Greely squad which was seeking a victory to wrap up the top seed for the upcoming playoffs, Yarmouth went out and made a statement.
After controlling play early, but not being able to finish (a familiar refrain), the Clippers got a pair of huge defensive plays late in the first half to keep the game scoreless as first, junior goalkeeper Shannon Fallon made a diving save and moments later, off a Rangers' corner kick, Yarmouth sophomore Lauren Bartlett was in the right place to deny a sure goal.
Then, just 62 seconds into the second half, the Clippers broke the tie, thanks a booming drive from sophomore Lilly Watson. One more clutch Fallon save helped preserve the lead and Yarmouth went on to a 1-0 win, just its third this century over Greely, as it improved to 6-3-3, dropping the Rangers to 9-3-1 in the process.
"I feel like we've been working super-hard and had some tough losses against some very good teams," said Clippers coach Rich Smith. "We had opportunities, but we weren't getting results and putting them in the win column. I feel like tonight we got over the hump. The girls now understand that not only can we play with anybody, we can beat anybody. Greely's a very good team. Lots of good players all over the field. We marked them up tough. For 80 minutes, we played as hard as we can play. I'm very proud of them."
A lot on the line
Greely opened with a home shutout of Fryeburg (2-0) and a blanking of visiting Yarmouth (3-0), then won at Gray-New Gloucester (5-3) and at home against Kennebunk (4-1). After a 2-1 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, the Rangers won at Freeport, 2-0. A frustrating 2-1 home loss to Falmouth followed, but Greely blanked visiting York, 3-0, won a high-scoring affair at Kennebunk, 5-4, got revenge at Falmouth, 3-0, settled for a 0-0 tie at York, then rallied for a palpitating and confidence-building 3-2 win at Cape Elizabeth Saturday afternoon.
Yarmouth opened with a loss at Greely, 3-0, then defeated visiting Freeport (1-0), host York (1-0), host Kennebunk (5-0) and visiting Wells (4-0), before settling for a 1-1 tie at Cape Elizabeth. A 3-1 home loss to Falmouth, a scoreless home tie versus York and a painful 2-1, double overtime home loss to Cape Elizabeth followed. Last week, Yarmouth tied host Falmouth, 0-0, then finally got back in the win column Saturday with a 1-0 home win over Kennebunk on junior Emma Torres' goal.
Entering the game, the Rangers had beaten the Clippers 17 times, while Yarmouth prevailed only twice (five other meetings ended in ties) dating back to the start of the 2001 season (please see sidebar). That lopsided history included wins in each of the past six encounters. Yarmouth hadn't downed Greely since a 2-1 home win on Natalie Salmon's overtime goal Sept. 20, 2010.
Wednesday, the Clippers managed to do so and they did it in regulation time.
Prior to the game, Yarmouth's two seniors, Abby Belisle-Haley and Julia Primeau, along with Greely's seniors, were honored.
Once the contest began, the Clippers got a good chance less than two minutes in, but a shot from freshman sensation Katie Clemmer was saved by Greely senior goalkeeper Elyse Dinan.
The Rangers transitioned and dangerous sophomore Izzy Hutnak (who had all three goals in Saturday's come-from-behind win at Cape Elizabeth) set up junior Kristina Volta, but Volta fired just wide of an empty net.
In the 14th minute, Hutnak sent a nice lead pass to freshman Ellie Schad, but Fallon beat her to the ball.
In the 17th minute, Yarmouth earned its first corner kick, but Dinan got to the ball first.
At the other end, sophomore Allison Coon looked to set up Hutnak, but Clippers junior Lane Simsarian broke it up.
Hutnak then had a free kick blocked, but got to the rebound, only to shoot it wide.
Dinan then saved bids from Clemmer, freshman Ella Antolini and freshman Abby Condon in short order.
With 10:44 to go before halftime, the Rangers almost went on top, but after a ball deflected to Schad and her shot appeared ticketed for the left corner, Fallon dove to her right and made a save.
With 3:20 left, Greely earned a corner and even better chance ensued.
Sophomore Maggie Reed's serve found the head of senior Allie Morrill, whose shot caromed off her head toward the near post, but Bartlett was there to block it and Yarmouth cleared it from harm's way.
"I was just standing at the post," Bartlett said. "The ball came to me and I was like, 'I have to move.' I just put my body in front of it and hoped for the best that it wouldn't go in."
"Lauren was in the right place," Smith said. "Being on the post, right where she was supposed to be. She's a great player. She kept everybody marked up and under control back there. She's steady and smart with the ball."
The Rangers had an 8-5 edge in shots in the first half, but the game remained 0-0 at the break.
The Clippers quickly pounced in the second half.
After gaining possession in the Greely end, freshman Cory Langenbach got the ball on the right sideline and spotted Watson, open at the top of the box. Langenbach delivered a perfect pass and Watson didn't hesitate, firing so quickly it caught everyone by surprise and her blast whistled into the upper right corner from some 20-yards out to put Yarmouth on top, 1-0.
"We've been working on the one-touch," said Watson. "We have a lot of really strong shooters. Cory got the ball, I called for it out wide. She passed it right to me. I saw the right corner and I knocked it right in."
"Cory gave her a nice pass on the ground and Lilly has a great foot," Smith said. "As soon as she hit it, it was in the back of the net in no time. Cory's had a lot of great assists. She looks to feed people with a great pass. I looked up and there were still 38 minutes left. Lots of time."
That would prove to be the game's lone tally, but each team had their chances.
Two minutes later, Clemmer had a look, but Dinan made the save.
Greely sophomore Susannah Jacobson then headed out a Clemmer cross and Dinan saved a long free kick from Belisle-Haley.
Clemmer had a chance to double the lead in the 57th minute, but with Dinan out of the cage, just missed the open net.
Then, with 17:45 to go, Fallon did her thing again.
Somehow the ball got free in the box and came to Rangers senior Teal Otley just a couple yards from the goal. Otley wound up and launched a low shot to Fallon's right, but again Fallon went all out and got to the ball, keeping Yarmouth on top.
"It's mostly just reaction," Fallon said. "There's no time to think."
"Shannon has improved so much over the last couple of years," Smith said. "She's so dependable back there. You know she'll be in position and will give 100 percent effort. She was in the right place at the right time and her making big saves was no surprise to me at all."
The win was far from secured, however, and Greely couldn't to press for the equalizer.
With just over 11 minutes to play, Morrill managed a low shot which Fallon saved.
After Reed sent a free kick wide, Fallon got to a Hutnak serve into the box before a Ranger could knock it home.
With 3:40 to go in regulation, Greely earned its final corner and as was the case in the first half, Reed put the ball right on Morrill's head, but this time, Morill's bid went just high and wide.
The Rangers' final chance came with 1:30 to play, but at the last instant, Bartlett managed to break up a rush by senior Leah Young and after Torres cleared the ball in the final minute, Yarmouth was able to celebrate its long-awaited and well-deserved 1-0 victory.
"It feels so good," Watson said. "I could tell we got a little anxious the last few minutes. We had to calm down and we held strong. We switched up our formation to match theirs. Since it was Senior Night, it was definitely a big, emotional win. We did it for Julia and Abby."
"It means so much," Fallon said. "They're such a good team. This gives us confidence we can play against these great tams and even win against them. To match Greely's intensity and skill, it means so much to us. (Coming into the year) I was a little nervous, but the freshmen and sophomores have risen to the occasion so well. I honestly didn't know they could be this good. They've put so much effort into learning their roles. I'm so impressed with them.The team's been so amazing. Julia and Abby have done so much for us. It's nice to pay them back with this nice win."
"I only have two seniors and they hadn't beaten Greely since freshman year," Smith added. "There haven't been a lot of Greely wins, or even a lot of close games. We've really struggled with them. I was pleased with how we played in the first Greely game, a 3-0 loss. I was thinking that if we kept working hard and playing hard, we'd be just fine. We've had the senior leadership help us keep fighting. I thought we could do it. The girls were playing for the seniors. It was our night. This team has such a good work ethic. When I tell them to do something, they really listen and they care. The effort and trust in the seniors and the coaches makes it really special. We tied Falmouth, we took Cape into overtime and tied them. Greely was the only team that we hadn't played well against. It's great for us to know at this time of year that if we play hard, we can play with anybody."
Shots wound up 15-14 in Greely's favor (Yarmouth had an 8-4 edge, however, in shots on frame). The Rangers had a 3-1 advantage on corner kicks. Dinan made seven saves, while Fallon stopped four shots.
Fallon credited her defense for geting the job done.
"Lauren was amazing," said Fallon. "Abby and Julia are experienced. They're aggressive and play their hearts out. Lane is so fast. She can get to every ball. She's always there to back us up. They make life so much easier."
"We're all working well together in the back," said Bartlett. "Last year, I played a lot of defense and I really learned my role. I had to step up to match what Abby and Julia put out there every single game. Ella's learning and stepping up and making amazing tackles."
First-year Greely coach Josh Muscadin didn't dwell for long on the setback.
"I've said it 100 times, you never know who comes to play and that was proven today," Muscadin said. "We certainly had chances to score."
First playoff encounter?
Greely and Yarmouth have no postseason history, but a meeting later this month or even at the beginning of November is a possibility this fall with the Rangers in Class B.
Neither squad can think playoffs quite yet, however.
Greely still has business to take care, as it finishes at home versus Lake Region Saturday. The Rangers may have missed a chance to finish first in the Western B Heals, but will be dangerous from the No. 2 spot.
"We'll learn from this," said Muscadin. "We don't care about the 1 seed. It doesn't really matter. Our job is go out and play well."
The Clippers (fourth in the standings) go to Poland Saturday and close at Gray-New Gloucester Monday. A pair of wins might just allow them to leapfrog Morse into the third spot.
Regardless of where they wind up, for this team, the sky's the limit.
"I think we have potential," said Bartlett. "i think we're there. I think we can contend."
"We need to get better," Watson said. "We're such a young team, but I think we'll get better and stronger going into the playoffs."
"I don't know if we can possibly get to third, but we're looking forward to the playoffs," Smith added. "It's a fun time of year. It's getting a little colder. The trees are starting to turn. Bring on the playoffs."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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