Soccer postseason underway
(Ed. Note: For the complete Cheverus-Deering boys' and girls' playoff game stories, as well as Waynflete-Cape Elizabeth boys' and girls' regular season game stories, please visit theforecaster.net)
Seven of nine local soccer teams qualified for the playoffs and the early action has been memorable as two of three postseason games played prior to press time couldn't be decided in 80 minutes.
Cheverus and Deering took part in a Western Class A preliminary round showdown Friday night, one week after the Rams rallied for a stirring 3-2 overtime win at the Stags.
Cheverus had dropped to ninth in the standings after that loss and a 3-1 home setback to Gorham in the regular season finale (Darby Rawcliffe had the goal).
Deering closed with a 1-1 home tie against Sanford (Alexis Elowitch had the goal) to garner the No. 8 spot.
Friday evening, Cheverus (which beat the Rams in both prior playoff encounters) came out hungry and confident and after some close calls got the only goal it would need when Sadie Lyons pounded home a 20-yard blast with 2:27 remaining in the first half. The Stags doubled their lead with 18:20 to play when Eden Monsen scored on a rebound.
“The score's always 0-0 to us," said Monsen. "We always push hard.”
With 9:33 to go, freshman Alyssa Smith put it away with another rebound goal and Cheverus went on to a 3-0 victory, improving to 10-5 and ending Deering's season at 9-5-1.
“Our motivation was different tonight,” Monsen said. “We were excited and into the game and ready to win. It was amazing. Deering's our rival. They're always a tough team."
“We played hard the whole time,” said Cheverus coach Dan LaVallee. “We had about a five minute letdown, when we were tired, but we really wanted it. I knew (last week) stung me a lot and I think it stung them a lot too. They were well motivated.”
The Stags' defense was very impressive in keeping Elowitch and her teammates at bay.
“Elowitch is always a tough player to stop,” said defender Danielle Kane. “(Abby) Goodrich stayed on her and I stayed back. Goodrich was good on her. She didn't let her turn. If you shut down Elowitch, you can shut down their offense. “
Deering's season came to an abrupt end.
“It's a tough loss,” said Rams coach Kevin Olson. “We just didn't generate offense tonight. No offense, no goals. I made a point at halftime to say it looked like (Cheverus) wanted it more. We accomplished a lot this season, but it just wasn't our day. We have to learn from it and build from it."
Deering will suffer some graduation hits but also returns top talent.
“We have a great group coming back," Olson said. "We hope to build on this season.”
Cheverus played at top-ranked Windham (13-0-1) in Tuesday's quarterfinals. The Stags were the underdog, especially after a 3-1 loss at the Eagles Sept. 18. Cheverus beat Windham in two prior playoff meetings, 2-1, in the 2005 quarterfinals and 1-0, in overtime, in the 2007 quarterfinals.
“If we have our heads in the game, I think we can beat anyone in the state,” said Kane. “I think we'll play a good game.”
“We're looking forward to seeing Windham again,” LaVallee added. “They're very good and athletic, but I think we played with them in the rain a little undermanned and I think we can do it again. First goal will be huge. If we can sneak one in on them too, we'll be humming.”
An upset win would send Cheverus to either No. 4 Cape Elizabeth (12-1-1) or No. 5 Greely (10-3-2) for the semifinals Saturday. The Stags didn't face either team in the regular season.
McAuley finished the year 3-10-1 and 15th in Western A. Only the top 13 teams made the playoffs.
Portland lost, 3-0, to Thornton Academy in its finale and wound up 2-10-2 and 17th.
In Western C, Waynflete wound up 8-2-4 and fourth after a 6-0 home loss to Cape Elizabeth in its finale, last Monday. The Capers got a goal just 83 seconds in, were up, 3-0, at halftime, and never looked back.
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. 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."
Waynflete hosted fifth-ranked Wiscasset (10-3-1) in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
The teams don't meet in the regular season and had no playoff history.
"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. I think we can put a good run together."
If the Flyers passed their first test, they'll either visit No. 1 Lisbon (12-1-1) or host No. 8 Hall-Dale (9-5-1) in the semifinals this weekend. Waynflete didn't play either team this season.
The Western A boys' preliminary round also featured a Cheverus at Deering showdown.
The Stags wound up with the 12th and final seed after closing with a 2-1 loss at Gorham
The Rams peaked late (closing with a 3-0 victory at Sanford behind two goals from Ben Peterson and one from Stephen Ochan) to finish fifth in Western A.
Friday, Deering (which had lost four of five previous playoff meetings to Cheverus, including last year) was outpossessed, outshot and for much of the night, outplayed, but found a way to advance.
Deering got its lone goal of the game late in the first half when Billy Farrell scored in transition.
"I was really just looking to cross it in and it was a lucky goal," said Farrell. "It went right in. We got a break."
Cheverus drew even with 25:19 to play on a rebound tally from Joe Smith.
Neither team tickled the twine again through the remainder of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime. Then came the penalty kick round, when the Rams made four of their five opportunities to just three for the Stags.
Nathan Finberg, Gabe de Oliveira, Brett Harmon and Farrell made PKs for Deering, while Patrick Mourmouras, Andrew Rose and Derek Hammond converted for the Stags. When Farrell tucked his shot past Cheverus junior goalkeeper Charlie Mull to end it, Deering was equal parts exhilarated and relieved as its win went in the books at 2-1, the Rams improved to 9-3-3 and ended the Stags' season at 7-7-1.
"There were nerves after nerves," Farrell said. "Everyone on the line was like, 'You've got this, Billy.' I was just trying to keep my cool. I've done this before. I didn't let anything get into my head. It was just repetition. I look to see what the goalie does, but I normally do the same thing every time. It felt good. Cloud nine.
"We stick together as a team," said Deering goalkeeper Anthony Russo, who made a key save in PKs. "We don't really get down on each other. We work hard in practice and it shows on the field."
"We practiced PKs yesterday and it worked out," added Costigan. "We work on it in practice. From the goalkeeper's and shooter's perspective. We talked to them about going out and having it be mechanical. You can't take PKs on emotions. It's not a fun way to win a game. I've been on the other side. I felt they outplayed us most of the game, bottom line."
The Stags felt they'd done enough to prevail, but learned the hard way how fickle soccer can be.
"It's been this way all year for us," lamented Cheverus coach Bill LeBlanc. "We've been in every single game. We're not a finishing squad. We had 70 percent of the play. It was tough weather conditions. (Deering's) a good squad. I thought their goalie was exceptional. He made good saves. It's an unfortunate way to end a game, but it has to end. We practiced all week. We had a sequence of five guys. We had the right people in the right spot. I told the guys who missed them, it's not on them, it's on all of us because we had chances.
"We had some injuries to deal with, some other off the field stuff we dealt with this year. The seniors brought us together as well as they could. We missed a big-time goal scorer like we had last year and that snakebit us."
Look for Cheverus to be back in hunt next fall, extend its postseason streak to 20 seasons and make a deeper playoff run.
"We have really good kids coming back," LeBlanc said. "We should be really strong next season."
As for Deering, it goes to fourth-ranked 9-2-3 Kennebunk Wednesday for the quarterfinals. The teams settled for a 1-1 draw Oct. 2 at Kennebunk. The teams last met in the 2004 preliminary round (a 1-0 Deering triumph).
The Rams from Portland know it won't be easy.
"We played a great game against them, but it could go either way, honestly," said Farrell. "They're a great team. We're a great team. It should be a great game."
"(Kennebunk's) not a fun place to play," Costigan added. "It's a grass field. They're a very, very good team with a strong midfield. We'll be a big underdog."
If Deering manages to spring the upset, it will either go to top-ranked Gorham (12-0-2) or host No. 8 Cape Elizabeth (8-5-2) in the semifinals Saturday. The Rams lost at home to Gorham, 2-1, Sept. 10, and didn't face the Capers in the regular season.
Portland started the year 2-7-1, but closed on a four-game surge and clinched the No. 10 spot in Western A after last Tuesday's 3-1 home win over Thornton Academy. Tim Rovnak scored two goals and Ek Bakunda had one. The Bulldogs were scheduled to play at No. 7 Windham, the defending state champion, Saturday in the preliminary round, but the game was moved to Monday due to poor field conditions.
There, Portland continued to surge.
The Bulldogs fell behind, 1-0, in just the third minute, but Sam Farr tied the game with a 35-yard free kick with just over two minutes remaining before halftime. Despite good chances for both teams, neither scored in the rest of regulation or the first 15-minute overtime. Then, with penalty kicks and darkness looming, with 3:35 left in the second OT, Liban Hassan buried a rebound and Portland advanced with a 2-1 victory.
"I just know people had us down and out," said Bulldogs coach Rocky Frenzilli. "The guys found a way to believe in each other. Windham's very talented. We just dug deep and found a way. We dodged a few bullets there. I'm just so pleased for the boys for all they've been through. I wanted it for them so, so bad."
Portland advances to face No. 2 Scarborough (12-0-2) in the quarterfinals Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Red Storm dominated the host Bulldogs, 6-1, back in September. Scarborough has taken both previous playoff encounters, in the 2003 and 2009 semifinals.
Portland will make the trip confident and pressure free and will look to keep its amazing run going.
"We (looked at our season like) chapters of a book all year," Frenzilli said. "Chapters one through seven weren't very good ones. Chapters eight, nine and 10, things started to come around. Now, we want to write a nice little epilogue. We hope it continues along. We're young. Last year at this time, a lot of the guys were in middle school and now they're in a Western Maine quarterfinal. We're happy to get there. We'll work tomorrow and talk about a few things. The house money is still there for us. We'll go out and have a good time with it."
In Western C, Waynflete, the defending champion, finished the regular season 10-2-2 after a 1-1 tie at Cape Elizabeth last Monday. A second half goal from Henry Cleaves allowed the Flyers to split Heal Points and finish third in the final standings.
"I just try to throw myself into every play," Cleaves said. "That time I was there and put it in. It just rolled to my foot and I just turned and shot."
"This is the team I've been waiting to see," said Salway. "We kept fighting. We talked at halftime about continuing to play hard. That's what we'd been lacking. Hopefully today, the light bulb went on. Maybe in the future, if we're down a goal, we know we came back against a good team on their field.
"I'm happy with the season. I felt like we could have played harder at times. We tried not to use injuries as an excuse. It was a great regular season. I hope the kids use this as a springboard."
Waynflete's "reward" for finishing third is a quarterfinal round home game versus rival No. 6 seed North Yarmouth Academy (8-5-1) Wednesday at 3 p.m. The Flyers took both regular season meetings, 5-0 in Yarmouth and 2-0 at home. The teams have split two prior playoff meetings, with the Panthers springing a regional final upset victory at Waynflete last year and the Flyers returning the favor in last year's Western C Final.
Salway's not thrilled with the draw.
"It is what it is,"Salway said. "Our conference has difficulty getting the higher seeds, so our top two teams end up No. 3 and No. 6. It's a little unfortunate we meet so early, but it should be a great game. The positive is that I know we will be mentally up for the game. As we've already seen in some playoff games, it comes down to finishing chances, not necessarily winning possession."
If Waynflete advances, it will either visit No. 2 St. Dom's (13-0-1) or host No. 7 Wiscasset (7-6-1) in the semifinals this weekend. The Flyers didn't face either team in the regular season.
Looking ahead, the regional final round is Wednesday of next week, on the field of the higher remaining seeds. The Class A state games will be at Hampden Academy Saturday, Nov. 3. The Class C state finals are at Scarborough High, the same date.