Soccer teams on the brink
(Ed. Note: For the complete Scarborough-Greely boys' and Scarborough-Thornton Academy girls' game stories, please see theforecaster.net)
Three Forecaster Country soccer teams were a win shy of the state final at press time.
The Western A girls' regional final featured a compelling matchup between Cape Elizabeth, making its first appearance since 2000, against two-time regional champion Scarborough.
The Red Storm earned the No. 3 seed in Western A after a superb 12-1-1 regular season. Scarborough struggled before finally outlasting No. 6 Sanford in the quarterfinals, 3-1, behind two goals from Sarah Martens and another from Jess Meader.
The Red Storm then had a chance to earn some revenge in the semifinals Saturday, at No. 2 Thornton Academy. The Golden Trojans had handed the Red Storm its lone loss, 1-0, back on Sept. 27, but Scarborough wasn't about to let it happen again.
After missing on several good early opportunities, Scarborough broke through with 14:22 to play in the first half when Martens finished a cross from Ashley Ronzo.
"We were all so pumped for the game and ready to get one under our belt," said Martens. "Once it happened, we kept it going and kept momentum. Ashley brought it down the wing and I hit it in. It was sort of a lucky goal. It worked out in our favor."
With 3:31 to go before halftime, Ronzo scored a goal of her own.
"Ashley passed it to me and I one-timed it," said Ronzo. "I just took a shot."
Then, with 11.5 seconds left before the half, Martens delivered the backbreaker, scoring on a rebound.
"We say 2-0 is the most dangerous lead, so the third goal put them under," Martens said. "I was in the right place at the right time."
In the first 40 minutes, Scarborough outshot the Golden Trojans, 10-0, putting forth a dazzling display of soccer.
"We got on a roll," said Ronzo. "I was amazed with our first half. Our outside-mids played so well. Once we get it to the outside, we can cross it to Sarah and Jess, who are such amazing finishers. I can count on them to be there."
"I thought it was the best first half I've ever seen a team that I've coached at Scarborough play," Red Storm coach Mike Farley said. "We passed to feet, played wide, beat players on the dribble and had finishing passes into a dangerous area. I couldn't have drawn it up better if I had them go out there without any defenders. They did a great job executing."
Scarborough's defense put the clamps down in the second half and the Red Storm cruised to a thoroughly decisive 3-0 victory, handing Thornton Academy its first loss in 16 games.
"It feels so good, I can't even describe it," Martens said. "I love this feeling. We were ready. We'd been waiting for this game since they beat us. We were so prepared. We just wanted to come out and show what we do."
"It was huge for the kids," said Farley. "It's not that we just lost (the first time), we didn't play well. Our outside players didn't play as big a role as they needed to. Today, they were dangerous all game. Serving balls and shooting and scoring themselves. They really created chances."
Cape Elizabeth exceeded expectations this fall by winning every game but two, a season opening home loss to two-time defending Class B state champion Falmouth and a scoreless home tie versus rival Greely. The Capers wound up fourth in the region and after escaping No. 13 South Portland in the preliminary round, 2-1, handled the fifth-ranked Rangers in surprisingly easy fashion the quarterfinals, 3-0. That sent Cape Elizabeth to top-ranked Windham for the semifinals Friday night.
The Capers went down, 1-0, early and still trailed by that margin in the second half, but Kate Breed tied the score with 27 minutes to go. That was it for scoring in regulation and neither team could convert in 30 minutes of overtime, necessitating penalty kicks to decide a winner.
Each team had five chances in the PK round and the Eagles appeared primed to advance when they made three of their first four shots, but Breed, Maddy Riker and Talley Perkins all converted to force a second round of kicks. Katherine Briggs, Sarah O'Connor and Elise Flathers then made their shots in the second round, while Windham only converted one, giving Cape Elizabeth a 2-1 (6-4 PKs) triumph.
"They took the lead early and we struggled to get a grip of the game," said Capers coach Luke Krawczyk. "We changed our shape at halftime and split our forwards to isolate their defenders. This worked well early on in the second half with Kate Breed finding herself 1-on-1 with a defender. She beat her and placed the ball near post past the goalie. After that, we restricted Windham to long range shots with them only having two closer than 20 yards out. In overtime, it was very close, but both teams had few chances. It was on to PKs and we snatched it. I was obviously delighted with the win and how well we competed. I'm very proud of all the girls and their performance."
The Red Storm don't play Cape Elizabeth in the regular season, but the schools do have an extensive playoff history, squaring off five previous times, with the Capers winning four. The most recent was Scarborough's lone triumph, 2-0, in the 2010 quarterfinals.
"We are really looking forward to playing Scarborough," said Krawczyk. "They are a good team and we are happy we have the chance to play them and test ourselves against the best. They are a program that is consistently at the top and we want to be there with them not just this year but every year.
Scarborough knew it wouldn't be easy, but was confident and driven entering the showdown.
"I don't really know much about (Cape)," said Martens. "I know they'll come out and play hard. They're a young team with a lot of heart and in the playoffs, heart really matters. I know it will be a really tough game."
"It isn't an easy matchup," said Farley. "I told the kids we'll have a battle. We've beaten everyone else and now we have to face each other. It'll come down to who can create chances and who can finish them."
The winner will draw either defending champion Bangor or Hampden Academy in the state final Saturday at 12:30 at Hampden Academy.
The Red Storm played the Rams in each of the past two state finals, winning, 3-0, two years ago before losing, 4-0, last fall. Scarborough has no history with the Broncos. The Capers have no history with either school.
Scarborough's boys made it back to the regional final for the second year in a row and eighth time over the past decade.
The Red Storm tied South Portland and Gorham, but beat everyone else in the regular season to wind up 12-0-2, good for the No. 2 seed in Western A behind Gorham.
Scarborough handled No. 10 Portland in the quarterfinals, 3-0, as Austin Downing scored twice and Sam Cekada had the goals.
"Any win in the playoffs is a big win," Downing said. "It's big to get over the first hump. It gives us confidence going into the next round."
"It's good to score first," said Red Storm coach Mark Diaz. "The energy was good. I thought we could've been a little more patient, but that's typical of a first playoff game. Portland's young, but they worked hard. They put up a fight. It wasn't easy."
Scarborough then hosted third-ranked Greely in the semifinals Saturday in the seventh postseason meeting between the teams, who don't play in the regular season, in the past decade.
A taut first half ended in a 1-1 tie after an early tally from Scarborough's Dan Ornstein was countered by a strike from Greely's Jacob Nason.
The second half featured consistent pressure from Scarborough and the hosts were finally rewarded with 10:45 left in regulation.
After a controversial foul call, the Red Storm got a free kick and Wyatt Omsberg passed to Trevor Sparda, who raced down the left side before firing a shot on Greely goalkeeper Elijah Leverett. Leverett wasn't able to handle the shot cleanly and with a defender and Scarborough's Charlie Mader all converging on the play, the ball found its way into the net and the Red Storm had the lead for the good and went on to a 2-1 win.
"Wyatt played it quickly to Trevor and Trevor crossed it in," said Mader. "I ran front post and I don't know if I distracted the goalie. I diddn't touch it. It was confusing. I didn't care who scored."
"I got a ball from Wyatt and I just put it in the mix," Sparda said. "It might have hit off the keeper and went in."
"It was another classic," Diaz added. "We always play each other tough. It's always close to the end. With my guys, it was all about patience. We got the ball in dangerous spots and we finally got one."
Scarborough had a showdown at Gorham (14-0-2) in the regional final. The teams have quite an ample playoff history, having met six previous times, with the Red Storm taking five of them, including the most recent, 2-0, in last year's semifinals.
"We're happy to be back," Diaz added. "This is what we wanted. This is one of our goals. We know how good Gorham is. If you want to win it all, you have to beat four good teams."
If Scarborough managed to prevail, it will play either Mt. Ararat (14-1-1) or Lewiston (13-2-1) in the Class A Final, Saturday at 10 a.m., at Hampden Academy. The Red Storm lost to the Eagles in penalty kicks in the 2003 state game, then returned the favor with a PK victory in the 2005 contest. Scarborough hasn't played the Blue Devils in the postseason.
Cape Elizabeth's boys hoped to reach the regional final, but after a 7-5-2 regular season record and a 2-1 win over Marshwood in the preliminary round, the eighth-ranked Capers met their match at No. 1 Gorham in the quarterfinals last week, 1-0.
"The Gorham game was a well played game by both teams," said Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond. "We outshot them, 9-7, but they probably had a little more possession. It really came down to one break they were able to capitalize on. We really should have tied the game up. We hit the post with about three minutes to go. All in all, we played a very good game, only gave up a couple opportunities and were able to create some of our own. Both teams played very hard and it was a disappointing loss."
The Capers should be a strong contender again next fall.
"I think we will be in great shape next year," Raymond said. "Obviously, losing our seniors will hurt some, but we have have some very talented players coming back I would say that we will be ready to go next fall, have a much better sense of what it takes to be successful at this level and have a group of young men who will be hungry to excel in the Western Maine Conference and well into the playoffs. They know they were as good as anyone else this year and I don't think next year's group will settle for anything less then excellence in practice and in games."