Soccer playoffs loom; Forecaster Country teams stand to excel again

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The soccer regular season is winding to a close and it looks like most local teams will take part in the postseason, which begins this weekend.

Heavyweights

Once again, Falmouth’s and Yarmouth’s boys’ teams are among the finest in not only Class B, but in the whole state.

The ancient rivals did battle for a second time this fall last Tuesday night in Falmouth. The Clippers finally beat the Yachtsmen on their home turf field back on Sept. 11 (1-0) and managed to sweep the defending Class B champions for the first time since 1999 after holding on for a 2-1 win. Junior Josh Britten scored in the first half. Senior Kyle Groves’ long kick was headed by senior Luke Pierce to Britten, who headed it home.

Early in the second half, Pierce scored for a 2-0 lead. The Yachtsmen got back in it with 5:21 left when senior Sam White scored on a penalty kick. Falmouth pushed hard for the equalizer, but couldn’t draw even.

“These games are always fun,” said Britten. “The intensity’s always high. (Falmouth’s) such a good team.”

“We created more chances tonight than the first time we played them, as did they,” added Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. “Each team had more possessions and better chances. I’m proud of how we responded when they cut the lead in half. We were a little winded at the end.”

Falmouth coach Dave Halligan was very happy with his team’s effort, if not the result.

“People had their money’s worth,” he said. “They had a go at it, we had a go at it. They had a ton of shots, we had a ton of shots. I’ve been upset with games we’ve won, but I can’t be upset with the way we lost. My players finished it off until the very end.”

The Clippers blanked visiting York, 3-0, Thursday (behind two goals from Pierce and another from junior Sam Torres), then closed the regular season at 13-0-1 after a 3-0 home win over Greely Monday. Freshman Chandler Smith, junior Spanish exchange student Pau Carnero Melero and senior Campbell Belisle-Haley had the goals.

“Tonight, two of the three goals were high quality goals,” said Hagerty. “Chandler had a great finish. Pau’s goal was spectacular. Both teams looked like they weren’t sure they wanted to be here in the first half. The second half was better.”

Yarmouth went unbeaten in the regular year for the second straight season. The last time the Clippers finished a year without a blemish was 1973 (16-0).

“It’s been a great couple of years,” Hagerty said. “In this conference, (going unbeaten in the regular season in back-to-back years) is really saying something. I’m really, really proud of the kids. They’re terrific to coach.”

The Clippers will be the top seed in Western B and will open the playoffs at home in the quarterfinal round Wednesday of next week.

“We’ll take a couple days off, but half of (the guys) will be in the weight room tomorrow,” added Hagerty. “We don’t scrimmage. We always seem to want that practice time. We’ll get together off the field a little bit and look forward to a week from Wednesday. At this point, I think we’ll be healthy and fit by the time the playoffs start. I’m optimistic.”‘

Falmouth bounced back from its Yarmouth loss with a 3-0 home victory over York Saturday. Seniors Michael Bloom and Sam White and sophomore Grant Burfeind had the goals. The Yachtsmen entered Tuesday’s finale at Western C power Waynflete with an 8-4-1 mark. Falmouth appears ticketed for the No. 3 spot in Western B behind Yarmouth and Maranacook. The Yachtsmen will host a quarterfinal round game next Wednesday.

“We compete in every game,” Halligan said. “I see progress. We’ve played seven games in 14 days. We’ve only had five practices in the past two-and-half weeks. I wouldn’t mind seeing (Yarmouth) again. It would be special. If they beat us, they deserve it. If we beat them, we deserve it.”

Freeport’s going to miss the playoffs for a second straight year. The Falcons (6-0 home losers to Cape Elizabeth last Tuesday) entered their finale Tuesday at home versus North Yarmouth Academy with a 2-10-1 record (14th in the 16-team Western B field, where only eight squads qualify for the postseason).

Greely will also be on the outside looking in, for the first time since 1999. The Rangers lost, 2-1, at home to York last Tuesday (senior Austin Spencer scored), fell, 1-0, at Waynflete two days later (on a goal from Tucker Geoffroy, a former Greely standout), then 3-0 at Yarmouth Monday, to wind up 6-7-1. The Rangers were 11th in the Western A Heals at the start of the week, but only nine teams qualify.

“It’s been a theme for us all year, we haven’t made enough plays,” said Greely coach Mike Andreasen. “You make your breaks. We are what our record says we are. It’s a tough pill. We’re used to winning. Injuries have hurt.

“I think we play well enough defensively to make an impact next year. We need to find goal scorers. I said to the underclassmen that this isn’t a very good feeling and what are we going to do about it? The league’s getting better.”

In Western C, NYA, a regional finalist a year ago, was clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot at press time. The Panthers, who haven’t missed the playoffs since 1995, took a four-game win streak into Tuesday’s finale at Freeport. Last week, NYA blanked visiting Sacopee (3-0), host Wells (8-0) and host Traip (3-0) to improve to 7-5.

Showdown

The girls’ regular season concluded Tuesday with a delicious inter-class struggle as Yarmouth, the second-ranked team in Western B, visited sizzling Greely, which hoped to lock up perhaps the No. 2 spot in Western A.

The Rangers took an eight-game (6-0-2) unbeaten streak into the battle. Last week, Greely and visiting York, the defending Class B champion, played to a scoreless tie, then, the Rangers dominated visiting Waynflete, 8-1. In the draw, junior goalkeeper Lindsey Arsenault stopped 11 shots. Senior Kelly Burrell had three goals versus the Flyers, while sophomore Sammi Toorish added a pair.  Greely (8-3-2 and fifth in Western A entering the Yarmouth game) is a team that no one will want to face in a one-and-done scenario.

Yarmouth won its first 11 contests, but ran into a pair of speed bumps last week. First, the Clippers went to Falmouth and had to settle for a 0-0 tie despite several good chances.

“I thought both teams played really well,” said Yarmouth coach Rich Smith. “Two of the best teams in Class B. We knew it would be a battle and it definitely was. “I’m not disappointed. The girls played hard and really well.”

Last Thursday, the Clippers went to York, a place that hasn’t been kind to them of late, where they fell, 1-0, on a second half goal. Freshman goalkeeper Olivia Smith stopped eight shots.

“It was a tough one,” said Smith. “A very physical, hard-fought game by both teams. We had some chances, including a direct kick from 20-yards out with about a minute to play.”

Yarmouth (first in the Western B Heals at the start of the week) likely needed to beat Greely to finish with the top spot and not be leapfrogged by York.

“It would be nice if we end up with homefield advantage,” Smith said. “I like my team. We’ll take our chances.”

Falmouth will still be heard from before the season is done. Despite slogging through their share of tumult, the Yachtsmen will be a team that no one wants to face in the playoffs. Last week, Falmouth tied visiting Yarmouth, 0-0, then pounded visiting Gray-New Gloucester, 10-0 (senior Jamie Sabo led the way with two goals), to improve to 7-5-1 (fifth in Western B).

“We haven’t struggled with our play, just with results,” said Yachtsmen coach John Meek. “We’ve proved we can play against good teams. We may see York or Yarmouth again. We should have every confidence going into the next game.”

Freeport was 5-1-1 at the midway point, but will miss the playoffs after losing its final seven contests. The Falcons closed with losses at Cape Elizabeth (5-2) and Wells (2-0). Junior Jess Hench and freshman Brooke Heathco had the goals against the Capers. Freeport (5-8-1) was 11th out of 15 teams in Western B at the start of the week.

In Western C, NYA is in the hunt to extend its postseason streak to 13 years. At the start of the week, the Panthers were clinging to the ninth and final playoff spot. Last week, NYA lost, 1-0, at Sacopee, then improved to 3-6-3 Saturday with a 2-1 win at Lake Region. First half goals from senior Lily Wellenbach and freshman Chloe Leishman proved to be the difference. Sophomore goalie Savanna Poole made eight saves. The Panthers closed at home versus Traip Tuesday, likely needing a win to extend their season.

Schedule

Playoffs begin Friday with the girls’ preliminary round. The boys’ prelims are Saturday. Tuesday of next week, the girls have their quarterfinals. The boys go the next day. Semifinals are Saturday, Oct. 30. Regional finals will be contested Tuesday, Nov. 3. All of those rounds will be played on the field of the higher seed. The state finals are Saturday, Nov. 7, at Falmouth High and Hampden Academy.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.