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Falmouth and Scarborough’s girls’ soccer teams do battle in Saturday morning’s regular season opener, won by the defending Class A South champion Red Storm, 1-0.
FALMOUTH—Molly Murnane doesn’t need many chances in the box with the ball on her foot to make magic.
Sometimes one chance is all it takes.
Saturday morning, Murnane got just one in Scarborough’s girls’ soccer opener at Falmouth and as she so often does, she converted it.
Two Class A South title hopefuls struggled to find the net for 80 minutes in the teams’ mutual regular season opener, but after some near misses in the first half, the defending regional champion Red Storm finally capitalized in the second half.
With 25:14 to play, after junior Ashley Sabatino sent her the ball in traffic, Murnane, a senior, fought through two defenders, then finally managed to solve Falmouth’s talented freshman goalkeeper, Jordan Wolf, for a 1-0 lead.
Scarborough held possession most of the rest of the way and turned back the occasional Yachtsmen forays and the Red Storm went on to open their season with a 1-0 victory, marking the 10th straight year Scarborough has begun in the win column.
“It feels fantastic,” said Murnane. “I’m so happy for everyone on the team. It’s been a long summer preparing. It’s nice to come out with a bang.”
A year ago, Scarborough held off visiting Falmouth, 2-1, in the teams’ regular season opener. That was the first countable regular season matchup between the squads since a scoreless draw Oct. 3, 2002 (the Red Storm did beat the Yachtsmen, 6-0, in the 2014 Western A quarterfinals).
Falmouth would go on to make the playoffs, but lose in the preliminary round to Windham, while Scarborough went all the way to the Class A state final before its rally fell a goal short in a loss to Camden Hills.
Both teams expect to be serious title contenders this autumn and both showed glimpses in a Saturday morning special (where the kickoff temperature was 65 degrees) before the Red Storm ultimately did enough to prevail.
Scarborough had a 7-1 edge in shots on frame in the first 40 minutes, but couldn’t solve Wolf, who denied Murnane, junior Emily Johnson, senior Leah Dickman, Johnson again, Murnane again and in the 32nd minute, Murnane once more, before the rebound came to senior Madysen Wallace, whose shot hit the crossbar.
In the 35th minute, Falmouth’s best first half chance came when sophomore Maria Neuhauser set up sophomore Allie Cunningham for a shot which Red Storm junior goalkeeper Nicole Young saved.
After Scarborough failed to convert a corner kick and two long Murnane bids were saved by Wolf early in the second half, the Red Storm finally broke through with 25:14 left.
The buildup was innocent enough, as Sabatino sent the ball into the box where Murnane was sandwiched by two defenders.
Murnane managed to fight her way through the defense, however, settled the ball, then pushed it past a sprawling Wolf for a 1-0 lead.
“I knew the goal would come because we were working so hard,” Murnane said. “Everyone kept their heads up. It was a team effort. I remember fighting through and I got my last toe on the ball. The goalie came out and I figured one touch would do it. I just turned around and hugged the first person I saw.”
“We had the ball more, but we needed our more dangerous players to be dangerous,” Scarborough coach Mike Farley said. “At halftime, we talked about our dangerous players winning individual battles. We did it one time and that was the difference in the game.”
“(Molly’s) going to score goals this year,” said Falmouth coach Andrew Pelletier. “We had a plan to limit to her chances, but great players score goals.”
The Red Storm hoped to double their lead, but Dickman missed just wide and Wolf denied shots from senior Josie Couture, Dickman, senior Sophia Martens and senior Jess Rinaldi.
In the final minute, senior Madison Wolf had a chance for the Yachtsmen, but missed wide and after Rinaldi caused one final turnover, Scarborough closed out its 1-0 victory.
“(Falmouth) defended hard individually and that made it tough on us,” Farley said. “Credit to them. It was a hard-fought game.”
The Red Storm finished with a 15-2 advantage in shots on frame and got two saves from Young. Scarborough had all four of the game’s corner kicks.
For Falmouth, Jordan Wolf was the story, making 14 saves in her debut.
“We limited them to shots outside the box and I’m comfortable with Jordan making those saves,” said Pelletier. “She’s provided calmness to our back four. She plays smart and well. The defense trusts her.
“I think we could play better than we did. We defended really well. I don’t think they had many good chances, but our transition to the final third was a struggle today.”
Falmouth looks to get in the win column Wednesday when it goes to Sanford.
“I think we have the potential to play with anybody,” Pelletier said. “We know we won’t show up and dominate anybody, but we can compete with anybody. We just need to play better.”
Scarborough, meanwhile, plays at Westbrook Wednesday, then has its home opener Saturday of next week versus Thornton Academy.
“We’re so hungry after last year,” Murnane said. “I remember thinking after (the state game loss) that I’ll work all year to get back there. We have talented players and we’re putting it together. We’re practicing to make each other better. We can be really good.”
“I feel good,” Farley said. “We still have a couple players who are injured that we need to get back from injury. If we can rotate in (sophomore Grace) Pettingill and (junior Sarah) Callahan, we’ll be really dangerous.
“I think the girls are hungry. We graduated seven starters and that means that everyone has come in and has gotten better. Players have worked hard in the offseason to get better. By the time we get everything sorted out, we’ll be fine. We’re ahead of where I expected to be.”