Falmouth downs Waynflete in showdown of defending champions
PORTLAND—If Monday afternoon was any indication, both the Falmouth and Waynflete girls' soccer teams will be very formidable in the postseason.
The defending Class C champion Flyers hosted the three-time defending Class B champion Yachtsmen in a rare interclass showdown at Fore River Fields and while both had their moments, only one managed to finish.
Waynflete impressed by carrying play much of the afternoon and holding an edge in quality chances, but with 9:06 to play in the first half, Falmouth managed to produce the only goal, when junior Georgia Babikian finished sophomore Tyler Spence's cross.
The Flyers had several quality looks in the second half, but the Yachstmen defense and senior goalkeeper Maggie Seitz never allowed the equalizer and Falmouth prevailed, 1-0, to finish the regular season 11-2-1, dropping Waynflete to 10-2-2 in the process.
"I told (the girls) whoever scored the first goal in the second half would win," said Yachtsmen first-year coach Andrew Pelletier. "Fortunately, they didn't score. Unfortunately, we didn't create many great chances. We knew they'd chase a goal at the end. They really pressured us. We had to limit the good chances, which we did."
Looking to move up
Both teams entered Monday's contest unsure of where they'd wind up in the postseason, but knowing that a win was paramount to ensure they'd have an optimal seed.
Both teams had won the vast majority of their games this fall.
The Yachtsmen opened with a 4-0 win over Gray-New Gloucester, triumphed at Kennebunk, 3-0, knocked off Cape Elizabeth, 2-0, on the Capers' turf, beat visiting York (4-1), then won at Poland (3-0), Greely (2-1) and Yarmouth (3-1). After falling from the unbeaten ranks against visiting Cape Elizabeth, 2-1, Falmouth lost again at home, 3-0, to Greely, then tied visiting Yarmouth, 0-0, before righting its ship with shutout wins at York (2-0), at home against Kennebunk (1-0) and at home over Freeport (1-0).
After holding off visiting Traip in the opener, 5-3, the Flyers won at Fryeburg (2-0), tied host Lake Region (2-2), then beat visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-0) and host Old Orchard Beach (5-0) before falling from the unbeaten ranks with a 2-1 home loss to Poland. A 3-1 home win over OOB followed, then Waynflete tied host NYA, 1-1. The Flyers bounced back to blank host Sacopee Valley and Freeport by 2-0 scores, then downed visiting Sacopee Valley (2-1), host Traip (4-1) and Friday handled visiting North Yarmouth Academy with surprising ease, 6-1.
Prior to Monday, the longtime powers, who had combined for 18 state championships (11 for Falmouth, seven for Waynflete), had met just once (a 3-0 home win for the Yachtsmen Oct. 19, 2010).
This time, there wasn't much separation.
The mercury read 63 wonderful degrees at kickoff, but play was more suited to the looming playoffs than the heat of summer.
Just 85 seconds in, the Flyers earned a corner kick, but couldn't produce a shot.
The visitors' first look came in the sixth minute, but senior Megan Miller sent a shot high.
In the eighth minute, Waynflete's talented and athletic junior goalkeeper Julianna Harwood came way out to intercept a feed from senior Taylor Russell to Miller.
At the other end, Flyers senior Leigh Fernandez had a look, but Seitz made the save.
After senior Mary Catherine Kowalsky and Miller both shot wide, a left-footed blast from freshman Lucy Mahoney forced Harwood to make a diving save.
Waynflete then returned to the attack, where a deflected shot by sophomore Arianna Giguere was saved by Seitz, a free kick from sophomore Marijke Rowse landed in the box, but was cleared by Falmouth sophomore Emma England, Rowse shot just high and wide on an indirect kick and sophomore Christian Rowe hit the side netting off a corner kick.
After Kowalsky shot high, the Yachtsmen kept the pressure on and were rewarded with 9:06 left before halftime.
On a free kick, Spence played the ball in, but it rebounded back to her. She shook a defender, dribbled down the right flank, then crossed the ball in front of the goal, where Babikian found herself in space. All Babikian had to do was flick the ball in off her head and Falmouth was on top, 1-0.
"I knew (Tyler) could cross a ball like that," Babikian said. "We practice it a lot. I was able to get around the defense. I didn't have anyone on me. I just had to get my head on the ball."
"Georgia is really, really good in the air," Pelletier said. "She's really good at timing her runs. She was in at the right time. It was a great cross from Tyler. Georgia did a nice job getting at the end of it."
Late in the half, Waynflete looked to tie as a corner kick landed in the box, but Yachtsmen sophomore Marcy Kittredge cleared it from harm's way and Falmouth had a 1-0 lead at the break.
The visitors had a 9-5 edge in shots in the first 40 minutes, but each team only put two shots on frame. The Flyers had four corner kicks, but had nothing to show for it.
The second half would feature plenty more frustration for the hosts.
Just 65 seconds in, Millard got free for a shot, but Seitz made the save.
A minute later, off a corner kick, the ball came in front to Fernandez, who shot high.
After Kowalsky shot wide after taking a cross from Miller at the other end, Waynflete came back on the attack and had a long Fernandez shot saved by Seitz and a free kick from Rowse bobbled by the goalie, but secured before any damage could be inflicted.
With 29:15 left in regulation, Giguere set up freshman Beata Vest, but she shot just wide.
After Harwood kept the Flyers in the game by denying Kowalsky once and Miller twice, Waynflete freshman Isabel Canning shot just wide, a low shot from Millard was saved, a rush by Giguere by broken up and with 12:05 to play, out of a scrum, Millard had a good look and sent a shot which appeared ticketed for the far corner, but Seitz managed to race over and collect it to keep the score 1-0.
A minute later, Giguere sent a shot on that Seitz bobbled, but eventually corralled.
With 8:41 left, Fernandez had a good look, but shot just high.
Two minutes later, the ball came to Fernandez again, but her one-timer went wide.
With 4:06 showing, Millard sent a low shot on target, but again Seitz made the save and that proved to be the Flyers' last chance.
Falmouth almost scored again, but Spence shot just wide with 1:38 to play and the Yachtsmen went on to the 1-0 victory.
"We expect every team will bring their full potential and we try to prepare as well as we can, but sometimes we're surprised," said Babikian. "It was nervewracking. It's nice to have Maggie back there as a safeguard."
"They pressured us, but we worked as a team," Seitz said. "Our defense was strong. We work well together. We communicate a lot. Not just the defense, but all the way up. We were very well matched all game. Playing well today was important."
Falmouth was happy with the win, but frustrated and concerned with its recent lack of offense.
"We've gone five games now without giving up a goal, which is a plus, but we've only scored five goals," Pelletier said. "We're in a funk in the attacking third. We tried something new with a 3-5-2 and did a nice job building into the attacking, but then our decision making was a little off. We're creating chances, but we're not finishing."
Final shots were 17-17, but Waynflete put seven on frame to just five by Falmouth. The Flyers couldn't do anything with six corner kicks (the Yachtsmen didn't have any corners).
Seitz, who played her second game since returning from injury, made seven saves.
"Adelaide (Cooke) did great as a freshman, but when it gets to the playoffs, the nerves are there and Maggie, being a senior, is ready to lead us in the right direction," Pelletier said.
Waynflete could only lament its missed opportunities.
"I thought did a lot of positive things," said Flyers coach Todd Dominski. "We won 50-50 balls and got what we needed off our attack. We just couldn't poke it in. Leigh had a good look, Ella, Ari did. Beata had a nice ball that went back across. We had plenty of good opportunities. On Ella's shot, I didn't even see their keeper and I thought it was going in the corner. (Seitz) was good. Her positioning was good. Defensively we did a good job except for the goal, which was a good effort. It was a good finish. It would have been nice to get a result because the girls worked so hard."
The second season
Waynflete appears it will be the No. 5 seed in Western C, which means it will host a preliminary round playoff game Friday. Mt. Abram or Lisbon is the likely opponent. After that, the Flyers will have to travel if they hope to make another title run.
"We're definitely moving in the right direction," Dominski said. "The pieces are in place. We had a great regular season. We've put ourselves in a good position. We can make a good run at it. We'll train tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday and get ready for Friday. The girls are fired up. We'll see what we can make of it."
As for Falmouth, it now embarks on its first foray into the Western A playoffs, expects to be seeded second and will host at least one game, next Tuesday, in the quarterfinals, against a yet-to-be-determined foe.
"I feel pretty good," Babikian said. "We have to work in the next eight days to get to our potential. It's exciting not really knowing what we're coming into. We know the teams are very skillful. We'll be ready. Another Gold Ball is the goal. It has been since the beginning."
"We have stuff to improve on, but we'll do our best in the playoffs," Seitz said. "We'll be very strong. Some people underestimated us in the regular season, but we showed what we have. It's new to me and a lot of my teammates, but we're playing strong anyway."
"I'm happy to have eight days to get back in the grind of practicing and fixing what we do in the attacking third," Pelletier added. "Health-wise we're good. These eight days will be good for us. I thought we exceeded everybody else's expectations in the regular season, but we partly underachieved for what we wanted to do. That's us setting high goals for ourselves. We're at the top of Class A. I can't ask for anything more. We haven't been the favorites all year. We won't be again, but we'll be ready."