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Capers hold off Greely in Western B Final, party like it's 1999

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Capers hold off Greely in Western B Final, party like it's 1999

CAPE ELIZABETH—First, history repeated itself Wednesday evening at Hannaford Field, but in the end, it was the Cape Elizabeth girls' soccer team making its own history and waking up the echoes.

Hosting rival Greely in the Western Class B Final, the Capers, for the third time this autumn, shot to a 2-0 lead over the Rangers, as Greely surrendered an "own goal," credited to Cape Elizabeth senior Elise Flathers, and sophomore Kate Breed added another tally on a corner kick, but as was the case in the teams' second meeting, the Rangers roared back to tie, thanks to two quick tallies from sophomore Izzy Hutnak.

This time, however, Greely didn't complete the comeback and when dynamic Capers junior Kathryn Clark scored with 29:53 remaining, her team was ahead for good. Breed added a second goal a little over three minutes later and this time, Cape Elizabeth didn't give it up.

The Capers went on to a 4-2 victory, improved to 14-2-1, ended the Rangers' season at 11-5-1 and advanced to their first state final since 1999, where they will battle Waterville (16-1) Saturday at 3 p.m., at Hampden Academy.

"This is the best day of my life," said Clark. "It was a hard match. We knew it would be. We wanted to play our style and not let emotion affect us. We knew they'd never stop fighting. Them coming back from 2-0 the last time gave us a good warning that they weren't going to stop."

Rite of autumn

Wednesday's matchup came as a surprise to no one.

For starters, Cape Elizabeth and Greely were co-favorites entering the year and on top of that, the teams have met in the playoffs more than every other season on average.

Prior to Wednesday, dating back to 1985, the Capers and Rangers had met in 16 winner-take-all encounters (please see sidebar, below) with Greely winning 10 of them. Cape Elizabeth won last year's encounter, 3-0, in the Western A quarterfinals, to snap a five-game postseason win streak by Greely which spanned over a decade.

Both squads had strong regular seasons in 2013.

Cape Elizabeth opened by blanking host Freeport, 5-0, then beat visiting York, 1-0, and visiting Poland, 6-1. Falmouth then came to town and registered a surprisingly decisive 2-0 win. Cape Elizabeth bounced back with a 2-1 win at Greely, then downed host Lake Region (4-0). After rallying for a 1-1 home tie against Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth handled visiting Kennebunk, 5-0, then avenged its lone loss with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Falmouth, before avenging its tie with a stirring, come-from-behind 2-1 double overtime victory at Yarmouth. The Capers extended their unbeaten streak to seven with a 5-0 triumph at Kennebunk, but then couldn't hold a 2-0 halftime lead and lost to visiting Greely, 3-2, before closing with a 3-0 home victory over Fryeburg and a 2-0 triumph at York.

As the top seed in Western B, Cape Elizabeth began its playoff run with an impressive 4-0 quarterfinal round victory over No. 8 Poland, then buried No. 5 Freeport in the first half of a 3-1 win in the semifinals Saturday.

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 before closing with 1-0 losses at Yarmouth and at home to Lake Region.

The Rangers earned the No. 2 seed and dominated No. 7 Leavitt, 6-0, in the quarterfinals, then edged sixth-ranked York, 1-0, in Saturday's semifinals.

Wednesday, Cape Elizabeth and Greely went back-and-forth, scoring goals in bunches, but the Capers' offense proved to be more prolific and with the game on the line, they did what they had to do to get to states for the first time this century.

Cape Elizabeth had the better chances early and after a Flathers corner kick tipped off the crossbar, the Capers were rewarded on their next shot, as with 29:54 to play in the first half, Flathers took a free kick from some 30-yards out and sent it into the box where a Rangers defender went up to head the ball, but instead of sending it forward, the ball went backwards past a stunned Greely senior goalkeeper Elyse Dinan and into the net for a 1-0 Cape Elizabeth advantage.

"I didn't really see what happened," Flathers said. "Everyone said, 'Oh, you scored,' but I was like, 'No, I didn't.' I'll take it."

After the Rangers first good look resulted in a shot high and wide from sophomore Jocelyn Mitiguy, the Capers went ahead, 2-0, again off a set piece.

Flathers played a corner kick into the box and it carried to Breed at the far post, who calmly headed the ball into the net before Dinan could react and Cape Elizabeth seemingly had a comfortable lead.

"I was on the far post," Breed said. "I noticed Elise sent it to the far post every single time and their defense was crashing to the front post. I just hung back there. My girl took off and I just put it right in."

"We've been practicing set plays recently and it's coming together for us," Flathers said. "Kate had a great header. It was beautiful. We've done much better on set plays."

"The girls bugged me all season to work on set pieces, but it's not something I like to spend a lot of time on," added first-year Capers coach Craig Fannan. "We've done them a little, but not a lot. It's the delivery of Elise. Her left foot is a wonder."

Two goals in 3 minutes, 39 seconds gave Cape Elizabeth the lead, but in reality, Greely had the Capers right where it wanted them.

After Cape Elizabeth senior goalkeeper Mary Perkins made a save on a shot from Rangers sophomore Maggie Reed, Greely got on the board, as junior Kristina Volta's pass bounced off a Capers defender right to Hutnak, who fired a high shot past Perkins to make it 2-1.

Just as quickly as Cape Elizabeth could say "here we go again," there we went again, as junior Mia Lambert made a nice move to elude a defender and passed to Hutnak, who again had a great look at the goal. This time Perkins managed to get a hand on the shot, but couldn't keep it out and with 17:27 still to play in the first half, the game was deadlocked, 2-2.

If the Capers' two goals in 3:54 was impressive, the Rangers' two tallies in 3:08 trumped it.

Greely almost went ahead with 10:55 to go before halftime, but Perkins beat freshman Ellie Schad to Mitiguy's through ball.

Late in the half, Cape Elizabeth threatened to retake the lead, but a long free kick from Flathers was saved by Dinan, sophomore Montana Braxton shot wide and Breed again got her head on a corner feed from Flathers, but sent it just a smidge high as it tipped, than trickled over the crossbar.

The Rangers, despite playing against the wind the first 40 minutes, seemingly had all the momentum at halftime, but instead, the Capers showed their heart and composure.

"I just didn't want a repeat of last time," Breed said. "I was frustrated, but I got motivated after they got the second goal. It motivated me to work harder, get to balls quicker. At halftime, Coach just said we had to slow down and play our football."

"We knew that it wasn't our best soccer and it probably was their best soccer," Flathers said. "They played a great first half, but we knew we had more to give."

"We felt like we were a good football team and going against the wind, the ball will be held up and we'd be forced to play on the ground, which is what we wanted," added Fannan. "I told the girls that they'd be talking about how well they'd played against the wind and how they had us where they wanted us and they'd come out happy and we should be upset. We hadn't performed like we could."

Sure enough, the Capers came out in the second half and reasserted control.

After a Braxton shot was saved, Dinan stopped a bid from senior Addie Wood and sophomore Katherine Briggs shot just high, the hosts went ahead and this time kept the lead.

With 29:53 left in regulation, Braxton got the ball in the middle of the field with some operating room and spotted Clark making her run on the left flank. Braxton's pass was perfect and hit Clark in stride behind the defense. Dinan came out to cut off the angle, but Clark beat her anyway and Cape Elizabeth was on top, 3-2.

"Montana put a really nice through ball through and the goalie made a good angle, so I had to think about where to place it," Clark said. "It was just instinct. I looked for the corner and hoped for the best."

Continuing a game-long theme, the Capers quickly followed one goal with another.

With 26:07 remaining, Braxton passed to Breed, who one-timed a shot that Dinan couldn't reach and the lead was back to two goals, 4-2.

"The pass came through and it wasn't a very hard shot, but it was placed well in the left corner," Breed said.

After blowing previous leads, Cape Elizabeth wasn't going to let this one get away.

"They're very tenacious," said Braxton. "They keep coming. We saw it in the previous game. Even up, 4-2, we knew they'd still come for us and we'd have to stay composed and play our style. We played composed, but we wanted another goal to get further ahead."

Greely looked to rally, but Hutnak shot just high, senior Allie Morrill headed a corner kick just high, after Capers senior Phoebe Shields received a yellow card, Mitiguy sent a shot off the mark, sophomore Susannah Jacobson sent a shot just high and a bid in the last minute from Mitiguy off a free kick was cradled by Perkins and that was that.

When the clock hit 6:49 p.m., Cape Elizabeth celebrated a 4-2 victory and its first regional crown since this year's underclassmen were in diapers or just learning to walk.

"It feels so good," Breed said. "It's all I've ever wanted. My main goal was to get to states."

"It's awesome," Flathers said. "We've been building up to this. We did it for the whole team. We did the best we could and picked it up in the second half. I think last game was a blessing because it's hard to beat a good team three times. At the time, we were upset, but I think that was a blessing in disguise."

"For the first 20 minutes of that second half we played well," Fannan added. "The last 20 minutes, the ball was camped was in our half, but we earned that. We thought long and hard about the last game coming into this game. I pulled some individuals aside and we talked about how to deal with that. We kept our composure in the second half."

Cape Elizabeth finished with a 19-12 advantage in shots and a 6-2 edge in corners. Perkins made three saves.

Not this year

Greely, which got 11 saves from Dinan, ultimately dug one hole too many.

"We fell behind and had to dig out," said Rangers first-year coach Josh Muscadin. "Overall, they played well. They scored on our mistakes. You can't afford to play from behind, but we always think that we can win. The girls handled the emotion well.

"I don't look it as disappointing. I look at it as saying we got a taste. For my seniors, it's disappointing, but we have some good returning players. Hopefully we'll meet them again. Overall, the season has been great. I've been lucky to have good kids. It's been a pleasure."

Long overdue

Saturday afternoon, Cape Elizabeth will meet Waterville with a title on the line. The Capers are seeking their first state championship since winning Class A in 1999, as Waterville was the victim (2-1, in overtime).

Cape Elizabeth also beat the Purple Panthers in the 1997 Class A Final, 2-1.

The Capers are seeking their sixth title and like their chances.

"I think we just have to play our game, possess the ball, and not let nerves get to us," said Breed. "If we work together as a team and pass it around then we have a really good shot."

"I'm so excited," Flathers said. "I'm nervous, but we want to go get that (Gold) ball. We have to keep doing what we're doing. We're passing well. We have to keep our positive energy."

"I'm really excited about it," Braxton said. "We just need to play hard. We know nothing about (Waterville). We're ready to keep at it."

"We are going to go into that game with no expectations," Clark said. "We'll treat it like any other game this season. We'll stay composed and pass the ball. We won't get flustered. We'll adapt to how Waterville plays and hopefully we'll pull it off."

Fannan believes a Gold Ball is an attainable goal.

"This is a fantastic step for these girls," he said. "The girls got to the final last year, but couldn't progress. Now, we want to go one step further. We'll enjoy tonight, but we still have a job to do Saturday and we'll be focused for that. I haven't seen (Waterville) kick a ball. I've got so much confidence in these girls to go and do their job. We'll put on a show whatever happens. We'll play our game."

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

Photo: Michael Strout

Cape Elizabeth junior Kathryn Clark sends the ball past Greely senior goalkeeper Elyse Dinan to put the Capers ahead to stay.

Photo: Michael Strout

Cape Elizabeth senior Phoebe Shields and Greely freshman Ellie Schad collide.

Photo: Michael Strout

Cape Elizabeth senior Lizzy Raftice kicks the ball away from Greely junior Kristina Volta.

Photo: Michael Strout

Greely senior Allie Morrill breaks up the rush of Cape Elizabeth sophomore Montana Braxton.

Photo: Michael Strout

Greely senior goalkeeper Elyse Dinan dives to make a save a split second before Cape Elizabeth junior Kathryn Clark can reach the ball.

Photo: Michael Strout

Greely sophomore Izzy Hutnak, who scored twice, and Cape Elizabeth senior Addie Wood fight for the ball.

Photo: Michael Strout

Greely's captains show off the runner-up plaque.

Previous Cape Elizabeth-Greely playoff results

2012
Western A quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 3 Greely 0

2008
Western A quarterfinals
Greely 2 Cape Elizabeth 1

2004
Western A semifinals
Greely 2  Cape Elizabeth 0

2003
Western A quarterfinals
Greely 1 Cape Elizabeth 0

2002
Western A semifinals
Greely 1 Cape Elizabeth 0

2000
Western A Final
Greely 1 Cape Elizabeth 0

1999
Western A semifinal
Cape Elizabeth 1 Greely 0 (OT)

1998
Western A quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 2 Greely 1

1997
Western A quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 2 Greely 0

1996
Western A semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 1 Greely 0

1994
Western A semifinals
Greely 3 Cape Elizabeth 0

1992
Western A Final
Cape Elizabeth 2 Greely 1 (2 PKs)

1991
Western A semifinals
Greely 2 Cape Elizabeth 0

1990
Western A semifinal
Greely 1 Cape Elizabeth 0 (OT)

1987
Western A semifinal
Greely 1 Cape Elizabeth 0

1985
Western A quarterfinal
Greely 2  Cape Elizabeth 0