Cape girls win first Class B crown on PKs!
HAMPDEN—After waiting 14 years and three days for an opportunity to win a state championship, what was 30 minutes more of overtime and a round of penalty kicks in the big scope of things for the Cape Elizabeth girls' soccer team?
While it would be delicious agony for the Capers and their fans, it also proved to be worth every second of the wait.
As was the case the last time it won a state championship, in Class A back in 1999, Cape Elizabeth had to fend off a talented Waterville squad and as was the case in the last year of the 20th Century, the teams needed more than 80 minutes to determine a winner.
Quite a bit more in fact.
The Capers overcame a sluggish start Saturday at Hampden Academy to grab a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute of the Class B state final, as junior Kathryn Clark set up sophomore Kate Breed for a goal.
But it lasted exactly 42 seconds, as the Purple Panthers came right back and tied the score on junior Lydia Roy's tally.
No one scored the rest of the first half, all of the second, nor in two 15-minute, "sudden victory" overtimes, so the championship had to be decided on penalty kicks.
There, Cape Elizabeth senior goalkeeper Mary Perkins made the save of her career, one other Waterville bid sailed off the mark and Clark, senior Phoebe Shields, senior Lizzy Raftice and Breed converted their bids to lift the Capers to the title, 2-1 (4-2 on PKs).
Cape Elizabeth finished its superb season 15-2-1, ended the Purple Panthers' campaign at 16-2 and gave the program its sixth championship dating to 1988.
"Would we ever do it easily?" said Capers first-year coach Craig Fannan. "We set our target at the start of the season to go win it. It's never easy when you're seen as a favorite. The girls have worked hard all season. We had some challenges, but they responded all the way. I'm massively proud of the girls for getting it done."
Fourteen years in the making
After falling agonizingly short a year ago, losing to Scarborough in the Western A Final, this Capers edition let it be known from the get-go that it would settle for nothing shy of a trip to the state final.
Cape Elizabeth, which began its road to the top behind the able leadership of coach Luke Krawczyk in 2011 and 2012 before he moved out of state and was replaced by Fannan, opened by blanking host Freeport, 5-0, then beat visiting York, 1-0, and visiting Poland, 6-1. After losing at home to three-time defending Class B champion Falmouth, 2-0, 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 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. Wednesday, in the regional final against second-ranked Greely, the Capers let an early 2-0 lead slip away, but second half goals from Clark and Breed spelled a 4-2 victory.
Waterville won its first 13 games by a composite 81-2 margin this season, but in the finale, the Purple Panthers stumbled and lost to visiting Oceanside, 1-0, to finish 13-1 and first in Eastern B. Waterville then downed No. 9 Old Town (4-0) in the quarterfinals, fifth-ranked Caribou (6-0) in the semis and No. 2 Hermon, the defending regional champion (2-1, in double overtime), Wednesday in its regional final.
The schools are no strangers to state game showdowns.
Twice before, when they resided in Class A for the postseason, the Capers and Purple Panthers met with a Gold Ball on the line and each time Cape Elizabeth prevailed by a 2-1 score, in regulation in 1997 and in double overtime two years later.
Cape Elizabeth entered Saturday's contest 5-1 all-time in state games (please see sidebar, below), having also beaten Caribou (3-0) in 1988, Mt. Ararat (2-1) in 1989 and Brunswick (1-0, in four overtimes) in 1996. The Capers dropped the 1992 state final to Mt. Ararat (4-1).
As for Waterville, it set the standard in Class A for many of the early years of girls' soccer in Maine, winning Class A championships every season between 1980 and 1984. After losing to Mt. Ararat in the 1985 state game, the Purple Panthers didn't return until they fell to Cape Elizabeth in 1997. Losses to Deering in 1998 and Cape Elizabeth again in 1999 followed. Waterville got back in 2007, but again fell short, 1-0, to Gorham. Then, in 2008, the Purple Panthers finally regained the Gold Ball with a 5-1 victory over Gorham.
Saturday's game had a little of everything, beginning in waning daylight with 39 degree temperatures (which felt more like 32 due to an 11-mile-per-hour win), then taking 146 minutes to declare a winner, long after darkness had fallen and after power had gone out on the scoreboard.
The Capers pushed for a quick goal, but 54 seconds in, Waterville sophomore goalkeeper Fotini Shanos got to a feed from Shields.
The Purple Panthers raced the other way, but Perkins came out to kick away a rush by Roy.
After Cape Elizabeth failed to execute a corner kick, Perkins mishandled a cross from junior Pilar Elias, but the loose ball was cleared from harm's way.
The first legitimate shot on goal came in the fifth minute, courtesy Capers sophomore Montana Braxton, but Shanos made the stop.
Cape Elizabeth then earned a free kick, but a 25-yard bid from senior captain Elise Flathers was caught by Shanos.
After Elias headed a cross from junior Sarah Shoulta over the crossbar, Braxton shot wide and sent a Flathers throw just high.
Finally, with 14:45 to play in the first half, the Capers struck and they struck quickly, as Clark took a pass at midfield, took a couple dribbles, then sent the ball to Breed behind the defense. Breed raced in on Shanos, who came out to cut off the angle, but Breed sent the ball past the keeper and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
"It was a nice through ball from Kathryn," Breed said. "I had a defender on me on my right side. I tapped it by her and used my speed and sent it past the goalie into the right corner."
"I received the ball toward midfield and I just kind of turned on a defender," Clark said. "I saw Kate make a run. We talked about doing reverse passes and crosses. I took the ball and gave a reverse pass to her. Whenever Kate Breed has a one-v-one with the goalie, she's going to finish it."
The celebration was abruptly muted, however, when Waterville countered.
A long feed came into the box, where Roy managed to get it past Cape Elizabeth sophomore defender Sierra Aceto, played it wide to get around Perkins, then sent the ball into the net to make it 1-1 just 42 seconds after Breed had broken the ice.
"I have no idea what happened," said Breed. "It was so quick. I was upset. That was tough."
"I think it was a little unexpected," Clark said. "We wanted to get a second goal, but they came back strong and fought right back. That's when we had a reality check. We knew we'd have to fight to win this game."
"It sometimes happens like that," Fannan added. "It's most dangerous after you've just scored. You sort of lose concentration. It was just a ball over the top that we hadn't dealt with. In fairness to Sierra, she tried to do the right thing. She'll learn from it. She's had a great season. She bounced back and played a great game after that."
The back-and-forth played continued as the Capers earned a corner kick and Flathers' serve landed in front for a split second, but no teammate could reach the ball and it was cleared.
Late in the half, senior captain Addie Wood, who did her best to stay on the field all afternoon with an ankle injury, sent a shot on that Shanos had to save, then set up Breed for a shot which sailed just high.
Just before halftime, Raftice had to head away a corner kick and it was on to halftime deadlocked, 1-1.
Cape Elizabeth enjoyed an 8-3 shots advantage in the first 40 minutes. Both teams took two corner kicks.
Nothing would be resolved in the second 40 minute half.
Early on, a corner kick by Braxton was cleared, Wood sent a long shot wide, then tried with her off foot and sent another shot wide.
With 21:35 to play in regulation, Elias attempted a shot from the side, but Perkins made the save.
Two minutes later, the Purple Panthers had a corner kick and the ball got loose, but Perkins sprawled to secure it.
Shoulta then sent a cross into the box, but again Perkins reacted quickly and grabbed the ball.
After a couple Waterville corner kicks were cleared, freshman Jordan Jabar set up Roy for a great look, but Perkins made the save with 9:01 to go.
Braxton then shot wide, a feed from Breed to freshman Mariah Deschino was broken up and a Deschino shot went wide of the mark.
After Cape Elizabeth sophomore Sarah O'Connor broke up a Shoulta cross, Shoulta tried again, but Perkins got to the ball first.
The Capers tried a corner kick with just over a minute to play, but it went behind the net with 1:05 showing.
And that proved to be the last we'd see of the scoreboard clock.
Apparently, there was some kind of outage in the press box, which knocked out power to the scoreboard. After a short delay, the officials agreed to keep time on the field.
"I was complaining recently how about when the clock goes down there's nothing you can do about it, but we didn't know tonight," Fannan said. "The girls didn't let it affect them. They just played away."
Cape Elizabeth had one final look in regulation, but Breed shot wide and it was on to overtime.
The Capers finished regulation much stronger than they started.
"I don't think we had good possession in the first half," Clark said. "We were a little rattled and couldn't control it because they were so good in the air. When we finally got possession in the second half, we played more through balls. That's when we really started to click."
"I've never seen us that nervous before," Fannan said. "In the changing room, we had the music on and everyone seemed ready, then we came out here and everyone was quiet. It took us until the second half to get going. You don't want to make a mistake. They were strong defensively and dangerous on the break."
Both teams went for broke in the first extra session, seeking to end the contest quickly.
A deflected shot by Elias was saved by Perkins.
Flathers then had a great chance, taking a free kick from the top of the box after Clark was taken down, but she shot high.
After Shoulta sent a shot wide, the Capers earned consecutive corners, but Flathers sent both behind the goal.
Late in the first OT, Roy had a good look, but sent her shot just wide.
Breed then had a chance in close, but her shot was blocked.
Cape Elizabeth dominated the second overtime, but still couldn't end it.
First, a cross from Deschino to sophomore Katherine Briggs was just out of reach.
Braxton then shot wide, a bid by Clark in the box was blocked and a corner kick was cleared.
The Capers kept at it and Deschino put a shot on target, but Shanos made the save.
Shanos then got to a serve from Briggs and Cape Elizabeth's last chance resulted in a serve from Deschino to Clark going just out of Clark's reach.
"It was non-stop scoring opportunities in overtime," Clark said. "We had a few. They had a few."
Waterville's lone chances in the second OT saw a Roy rush broken up by Perkins and Perkins kicking away a feed to Elias.
When time ran out (per the officials), it was time to settle the title on penalty kicks.
Each team had to choose five girls to alternate shots from six yards away. The squad which made the most would be declared the winner and if the score was tied after five kickers, it would be on to another round of five with different girls.
All that with a state title in the balance?
To say there was pressure would be an enormous understatement, but Fannan kept his instructions simple.
"PKs is a confidence thing," he said. "If a girl's not confident, or a boy for that matter, putting them in that situation will only make it worse. I asked for volunteers and made the order from there. We practiced before the Greely game, but it's hard to replicate that. I just told them to pick a spot, go with it and don't change your mind. I picked my five and said, 'You know what to do' and they did."
Elias got the PK sequence going and beat Perkins with a shot to the top left. Perkins was clearly uncomfortable, but had to refocus.
"Honestly, I wanted to cry," Perkins said. "Coach just told me I couldn't try to be the hero as a goalie. I had to shake off the first one and go on to the next."
Clark then stepped to the stripe and tied it, 1-1, with a solid shot to Shanos' left, atoning for a miss in last year's upset PK win at Windham in the Western A semifinals.
"When we did PKs in Windham last year, I was the first person to take one and I missed it, so I knew I had to make it for my team," said Clark. "I had to get the right mindset. If I didn't make it, we could have been rattled. I tried to pick a spot like we practiced in practice and I finished."
Next came the pivotal moment of the game, the season and the championship.
Purple Panthers senior Jayme Saulter tried to beat Perkins to right side, but Perkins threw herself to her left and managed to get her left hand on the ball, knocking it past the post and turning the tide.
"It was probably the happiest moment of my life," Perkins said. "I just took a step, it was the right way and I just went for it. I had confidence in the team. We just had to make the next ones."
"You need a little magic to pull you through," Fannan said. "She took a step out. Great for her to save it. She hates penalties, but she's a hero now."
Up stepped Shields with a chance to put the Capers ahead, 2-1 in the PK round and she did so with a shot into the corner, to Shanos' right.
"(Mary) had an amazing save," Perkins said. "We were so thankful for that. I thought I just had to get it to the corner. This was my first time taking one. I needed to prove to myself I could get it. I was confident and I got it to the corner."
When Dufour pushed her bid wide right, Cape Elizabeth took advantage as Raftice buried her shot to put her team on the brink of victory.
"I was really nervous," said Raftice, who didn't show it. "We didn't want to get to PKs in a state championship. Seeing them miss a shot helped. We'd practiced PKs. We had experience of doing it before and we were confident."
Seniro Colleen O'Donnell kept Waterville's hopes alive as she shot to the lower right side and barely beat a diving Perkins.
That brought Breed to the stripe with a chance to end it.
Kate Breed, who turned heads as a freshman, had a strong regular season this fall, then became an absolute star under the postseason lights, embraced the opportunity and proved to be the ideal shooter in a difficult spot.
"I wanted to get a goal in overtime, but I couldn't get one and I really wanted one, so when Craig asked who wanted to take a PK, I just raised my hand," Breed said. "He told me I was number four and I knew that was a tough one. I'm glad it went into PKs because we've practiced them a lot and we're good at them."
Breed exuded confidence and there was never any doubt. Her blast sailed into the upper netting and at 6:04 p.m., after 14 years in the wilderness, the Capers were back atop the girls' soccer world.
Cape Elizabeth 2 Waterville 1.
"I try to put it in the right bottom corner," Breed said. "I noticed the goalie was more to the right and gave me more space to the left, so I wondered if I should switch it, but I didn't want to do that. I stuck with it and put it right. It was awesome when everyone came at me. Really exciting. The feeling was unreal."
For a moment, nobody moved.
"I didn't even know it was for the win," Breed said.
"We were standing there and didn't know we had won," said Flathers. "We didn't want to run out."
"I said to (assistant coach) Don (Burke), 'It's done, right?'" Fannan added.
Then, jubilation reigned.
"I'm so excited that we won," Clark said. "This is the greatest thing I've been a part of."
"I was so excited after," Perkins said. "First, no one was moving. Then, I heard the refs say, 'It's over' and I was like, 'Oh, my God!'
"Thankfully, I didn't have to take (a PK)," Flathers said. "I took one last year and I hated it. It's nervewracking, but I can't describe the energy in the line when Mary saved that PK. When it ended, everybody started crying and screaming. It was amazing. This is the best feeling ever. I can't even describe it. It's awesome. We just had to keep our eye on the Gold Ball. That's what we really wanted. The younger girls knew this was really important to the seniors."
Wood had to watch the overtimes and PKs from the sidelines, but was a big part of the postgame celebration.
"Waterville's a very physical team, which was tough for us, but we coped with it and held our own," she said. "It was hard watching. I wanted to participate, but I think my ankle might be broken. I trust my team. I knew they'd do great and they did and I'm so happy. It was amazing. Our freshman year, we barely made playoffs. To win it, it's been an amazing four years. I can't think of a better way to end my career. I'm so proud of everyone. I'm over the moon happy."
"Addie's a great kid," said Fannan. "She wanted to be out there, but she had to understand that it's a team sport and she had to do what's best for the team. We certainly missed her when she wasn't out there."
The Capers finished with a 24-14 shots advantage (11-9 on frame). Each team had five corner kicks and both goalies made six saves.
It doesn't get much closer than that.
Cape Elizabeth was impressed by the quality of its opponent.
"Waterville pressed us really hard," Raftice said. "They were very athletic and physical. They were on us instantly and we had to adjust and get the ball away as quickly as we could."
"It was really hard playing them," Shields said. "We started with a certain idea of playing on the ground, but it didn't wind up working. We resorted to getting to the ball first and doing whatever we could with it."
"Waterville is an amazing team," Flathers said. "They turned out to be a better team than I thought they'd be."
"They're very good," Clark added. "They put a lot of pressure on us. They won balls in the air. I don't want to say it was unexpected, but they were a very good competitor."
Nothing came easily this season, even though it may have appeared that way at times.
"We played a lot of tough teams," said Breed. "Greely and Falmouth are really good teams. York's good too. Yarmouth was really tough. We knew what it was like to be in a close game and really push ourselves to the last minute to win."
"This has been the biggest journey of my life," Clark said. "We were expected to do well, but at the beginning of the season, we had good ideas, only we weren't finishing. We weren't passing to feet. It's been progress all season. We stepped it up in the playoffs, got the big win over Greely and we got here."
"We'd gotten better every year," said Flathers. "A lot of it has to do with coaching. Luke and Craig are able to utilize every player's best talents. We might not have the most skilled players, but they find something good in every player and bring it out."
"It's been a long four years, but it's been good," said Perkins. "After losing (the regional final) last year, our goal from the beginning this year was to make it this far and come out with a win."
"This means everything," said Raftice. "We couldn't have dreamed being in this situation as freshmen. Over the years, we've built our team up. Just to be in this game was an amazing accomplishment. To walk away with the Gold Ball is absolutely awesome."
"We had to take a step back as a team after having a spell not getting exactly the results we wanted earlier in the year," Shields said. "We had to play more on the ground and play faster. I think our composure got us here today."
"There was pressure with Luke being my friend, us moving down to Class B with a tough schedule and Greely being a great team, but I enjoyed it all the way," Fannan added. "The girls fully deserved it. They made it easy for me."
New look, high hopes in 2014
While the future remains very bright for the program, the contributions of Flathers, Perkins, Shields, Raftice, Wood and Sara Paclat won't be forgotten.
"We have great leaders," Breed said. "They taught us to stay calm as a team and possess. They had really good leadership. They were a big part of the team and they'll be missed."
"The seniors were a huge part of our team," Clark said. "I went into this game playing for them. They came into the program when we weren't the greatest team. They just improved immensely. They definitely carried this team. I'm so grateful they were here."
"The seniors were magnificent," Fannan added. "They went from nothing four years ago to champions. They kept working hard and came around. Luke started it two years ago. He taught them how to win. We might not have had the best ability two years ago, but they played the system well. Last year, the freshman group came through. I was lucky to have that foundation to come into. Phoebe, Lizzy, Addie, Elise and Mary, are characters and we had character."
A lot of firepower returns, however, including all three of the Killer K's (Breed, Briggs and Clark). Aceto, Braxton, Deschino, Tori Diaz, Brett Lennon, O'Connor, Kirsten Rudberg and Melissa Rudberg round out a solid core of returners who will seek to become the first Cape Elizabeth repeat champions since 1996-97.
"I'm just as confident that we'll finish here next year," said Clark. "This was kind of a practice since we hadn't been in a state final. If we're in the same position next year, we won't be as nervous and we'll play the way we want to play."
"I want to win it every year," Breed said.
"We'll be in the mix again," Fannan added. "We have a very good group coming back. We've got five juniors who didn't play today who have been great in training. We have two sets of 11 and our second unit's probably as good as anyone in the state. They'll see more time next year.
"We'll enjoy this for now. I'm still trying to catch my breath."
A breathtaking season and title game it certainly was.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Cape Elizabeth state game results
Cape Elizabeth 2 Waterville 1 (2 OT)
Cape Elizabeth 2 Waterville 1
Cape Elizabeth 1 Brunswick 0 (4 OT)
Mt. Ararat 4 Cape Elizabeth 1
Cape Elizabeth 2 Mt. Ararat 1
Cape Elizabeth 3 Caribou 0