Falmouth girls' soccer on brink of another championship; Greely, NYA, Yarmouth sent home
(Ed. Note: For full Greely-Portland and NYA-Waynflete game stories, please visit theforecaster.net)
It hasn't come as easily as expected, but at press time, the Falmouth girls' soccer team stood just one win from a return trip to the Class B state final.
Wednesday afternoon, for the second year in a row, the Yachtsmen traveled to York for the Western B Final, hoping to duplicate last season's triumph which led to a state title.
Yarmouth hoped to join Falmouth in the regional final, but lost 4-1 at York in the semifinal round Monday afternoon.
In Western A, Greely expected to make a title run, but the Rangers dropped a hard-fought and controversial 2-1 semifinal round decision at Thornton Academy Friday.
In Western C, North Yarmouth Academy had to face rival Waynflete in the quarterfinal round and lost to the defending state champions, 2-1.
Defending Class B champion Falmouth entered 2009 with high expectations and while the Yachtsmen didn't win as decisively as many thought they would, they did triumph more often than not, winning nine times and tying four others against just one loss, which gave Falmouth the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
In the quarterfinals, the Yachtsmen easily dispatched No. 7 Jay/Livermore Falls 8-0 last Tuesday. Senior Nancy Cooper had three goals, while classmate Jill Alvarez added a pair. In the semis Saturday, Falmouth outshot visiting No. 3 seed Maranacook 36-2 and had 15 corner kicks to just one for the Black Bears, but only found the net twice in a 2-0 victory in extremely windy conditions. Senior Sarah Girouard and junior Jess DiPhillippo had the goals.
"We were pleased with the results of our first two playoff matches," said Yachtsmen coach Jon Shardlow. "Although we were focused on the respective matches at hand, we have been keeping an eye on the other side of the bracket."
Falmouth beat visiting York 1-0 on Sept. 26 and lost 1-0 at the Wildcats in the regular season finale, Oct. 19. The teams have been regular playoff foes, playing eight times since 1999. The Yachtsmen have won five of those games, including a 1-0 triumph last year in this same round.
"It should be a great match between two of the top teams in the area," Shardlow said.
The winner advances to play in the Class B state final Saturday at a yet-to-be-determined time at either Scarborough High School or Hampden Academy.
Yarmouth overcame injury and youth to post a 7-5-2 mark and earn the No. 5 seed in Western B. The Clippers went to No. 4 Leavitt in the quarterfinal round and eked out a 1-0 victory behind senior Lizzie Fischman's tally. Yarmouth then went to top-ranked York for the semifinals (the fifth postseason meeting in seven years between the squads). The Wildcats beat the Clippers twice this year, 5-2 at home and 1-0 in Yarmouth. The teams were supposed to meet Saturday, but the game was postponed due to illness. Once the contest began Monday, it didn't take long for the Clippers to feel ill all over again.
The Wildcats earned a corner kick just 12 seconds in and went up 1-0 with 35:29 to play in the first half when freshman Kayla Swasey headed home senior standout Emma Clark's corner kick. Just 34 seconds later, York made it 2-0 on a goal from senior Ashley Taylor. In the 31st minute, the hosts went up 3-0 when Clark set up freshman Alexa Bando. Yarmouth's best first half chance came with 3:30 to go when junior Becca Bell's header off a free kick was saved.
After Clippers senior Annie Clabby couldn't convert on a couple chances early in the second half, the Wildcats pushed their lead to 4-0 when Clark's corner kick was caught by Yarmouth junior goalkeeper Samantha Fochler, but the officials ruled it a goal nonetheless. With 15:13 to play, junior Natalie Salmon buried a shot off a free kick, but that's as close as Yarmouth got as it finished 8-6-2 with the 4-1 loss.
"I was really proud of how hard we played under tough circumstances," Clippers coach Rich Smith said. "York had some great goals in the first half. We were definitely in a hole and could have backed down, but we didn't. We put lots of pressure on. We just missed some goals in the second half. We played our hearts out. They were scrapping and trying and working until the end. That's all you can ask. You think it's going to be a one-goal game and close all the way through and suddenly you're down two goals early, it's tough. York is maybe the best team in the state this year, regardless of class.
"We were kind of young this year. We needed to try to put the pieces together. I really think we did. We tied Falmouth and played York to a 1-0 game. It seems like its York, Falmouth and us every year. We were a little less experienced this year and we had a couple injuries. The girls played hard. At times we were fantastic. I'm looking forward to next year already. The seniors did a nice job leading us and working hard. I'm really proud of them."
For much of the 2009 season, the Greely Rangers appeared to be not just one of the best teams in Western Class A, but in the whole state. The Rangers finished 11-1-2 and entered the regional playoffs as the No. 3 seed. Greely hosted No. 6 Portland in the quarterfinals and had a battle, but thanks to sophomore Audrey Parolin's goal with 16:42 to go, advanced with a 1-0 win.
Greely hoped to keep the good times rolling Friday afternoon at surprising No. 2 Thornton Academy. It didn't happen. The Golden Trojans surprised the Rangers from the start by keeping the visitors on their heels. Thornton Academy then took a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute. Greely tied the score with 2:32 left in the first half when after junior Maggie Johnson was knocked down in the box, senior Becca Otley buried a penalty kick. Just 3 minutes, 1 second into the second half, however, the hosts went back ahead, 2-1. With 12:13 to play, the Rangers thought they had the equalizer when freshman Sammi Toorish's cross hit the post and was banged home by Parolin, but the goal was waved off due to a dubious handball call.
"It was a good cross," said Rangers coach Michael Kennedy. "I thought it hit the underside of the goal to begin with. I think when it came down, it came down over the line. I didn't see the handball. The girl who put it in didn't hand it."
Greely didn't get another good chances and saw its season end at 12-2-2 with the 2-1 defeat.
"TA played hard," Kennedy said. "Everyone plays us their hardest. We just made two mistakes in the back. We typically don't make mistakes in the back. Prior to that game, we'd given up eight goals all season. It was very uncharacteristic. We didn't finish on offense either. We only had the penalty kick. We had our chances, but just didn't finish.
"It's a great team. The best team I've ever coached. Not only are they great soccer players, but they're great girls. We're very close as a unit. They have a lot to be proud of. They played really well, Western Maine Conference champions. It's a tough way to end."
As always, the Rangers will say farewell to some special players, but this year's team boasted some superb underclassmen who will only get better in 2010 as Greely looks to make another run.
"We graduate some key players, but we have a great pipeline," Kennedy said. "The younger kids got a lot of experience. We'll get back to work and hope to have a good year again. Next year, the goal is to get past the semifinals."
Two in a row
Due to the vagaries of the Heal Points system, Waynflete (13-1) and NYA (11-2-1 under first-year coach Charles Fischman) finished fourth and fifth respectively in the standings, meaning the teams that have combined for the past six Class C championships would do battle much sooner than expected. The teams split in the regular season (the Flyers won 1-0 at home in OT and the Panthers enjoyed a 4-0 victory on their turf). The teams never met in the postseason until 2005, but have squared off annually since, with the Panthers taking the first three and the Flyers winning the 2008 regional final, 2-0.
This time around, NYA, led by senior standout Courtney Dumont, had some good early chances, but couldn't grab the lead. Waynflete went up 1-0 in the 22nd minute on a goal from junior Lydia Stegemann and doubled its advantage with 19:12 to play in the contest when its senior star, Morgan Woodhouse, scored a goal after a pretty individual move. Dumont finally struck with in the 71st minute, but the Panthers could draw no closer and they wound up 11-3-1 after the 2-1 defeat.
"We created a lot of chances, but we didn't take advantage of them," Fischman said. "Waynflete had chances and was able to finish theirs. I thought we played very, very well as a team. The team gave a great effort. I think we had significant parts of the game where we controlled, but we weren't able to finish.
"I'm very happy with the season. They're a super group. They worked very hard and were dedicated to getting better. We made a lot of progress over the course of the season. I hoped to continue going on that trajectory, but we ran into a tough opponent today."
The Panthers only graduate four players from this team, but they're four big-time contributors.
"Courtney had 24 goals in the regular season and another one today," Fischman said. "For any team to have a player who has the knack and ability to score goals like that is obviously a huge plus. Emily Mitchell played in the midfield today and did a good, steady job all season long. Ali O'Reilly had the assist today. She works very hard in the midfield. She's consistent. Unfortunately, Katie Lentine has been in and out with injuries and couldn't play much today. She certainly was a leader for our team."
Several other stars of the future return, meaning NYA will be right back knocking on the championship door in 2010.
"Part of my objective this year to begin laying the foundation for the type of soccer I'd like to see NYA play," Fischman said. "It was a learning process, but next year we'll be further along."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com