Soccer playoffs underway

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(Editor’s note: For the complete Freeport-Poland game story, please visit theforecaster.net)

With nine of 10 local soccer teams qualifying for the postseason, excitement and triumph are virtually guaranteed.

The fun began last weekend with the preliminary round where both Freeport and Greely teams and the North Yarmouth Academy boys and Yarmouth girls passed their first test.

Falmouth’s boys and girls, along with the Yarmouth boys, began play in the quarterfinals earlier this week.

Long wait is over

Entering Friday’s prelim against Poland, the Freeport girls hadn’t hosted a playoff game since 2004 and hadn’t won one since 2000.

The Falcons, who captured their final three regular season contests to wind up 7-7 and seventh in Western B, ended that drought against the 10th-ranked Knights. Junior Macy Stowell broke the scoring ice in the first half and after senior goalkeeper Abby Roney made a highlight-reel save to keep the game deadlocked, juniors Aubrey Pennell and Naomi Otis added second half tallies and Freeport went on to a 3-1 win.

“No one has any idea how good it feels for us,” Pennell said. “All of our seniors have never been to playoffs. To win and keep going, it’s the best feeling in the world. If you asked any of our girls, they’d say it’s the most amazing part of the year so far.”

“It feels really good,” added Falcons coach Elayna Girardin. “It’s hard for the team to break tradition and make it clear that we can win like anyone else. I’m happy to see how we’re playing and hopefully we can keep going. When you have a good end of the season, it’s a good peak. The wins really helped us bond as a team. I think we’re closer as a team than we were before. It’s kept our momentum going. We’ll ride the momentum as long as we can.”

Freeport was at No. 2 York (10-3-1) in the quarterfinals Tuesday evening. The Falcons hung tough in a 3-0 loss at the Wildcats on Sept. 14. The teams have no playoff history.

“We have nothing to lose,” Girardin added. “I love being the underdog. The pressure’s not on you. It’s on the team that’s expected to win. You can have fun, play intense and with heart. These girls deserve some fun. If we come out on the winning end, great. We have that ability.”

Yarmouth’s girls also played a prelim in Western B. The Clippers, 6-8 in the regular season, wound up sixth and hosted No. 11 Fryeburg. Yarmouth lost at the Raiders, 3-2, back on Sept. 14, but this time got the early jump thanks to first half goals from junior Tess Merrill and sophomore Ariel Potter. Sophomore Julia Primeau scored in the second half and the Clippers went on to a 3-0 victory.

“It was good to get early goals,” said longtime Yarmouth coach Rich Smith. “We’ve had games where we had trouble scoring. We loosened up a little bit when we had a goal. Our defense and goalie have been playing well. We’re getting better. We have people playing in the right positions. It took me awhile to figure that out. We’re playing our best soccer right now, which is when you want to be playing it.”

The Clippers went to No. 3 Falmouth, the defending Class B state champion, for the quarterfinals Tuesday night. The Yachtsmen finished 9-4-1 after a 1-0 overtime win at Cape Elizabeth last Tuesday (junior Alex Bernier had her second game-winner in OT this fall).

Falmouth and Yarmouth split in the regular season, with each team winning on the road. The Yachtsmen prevailed in overtime, 1-0, Sept. 24. The Clippers earned a 1-0 victory Oct. 15. The teams have played five times in the past nine postseasons with Falmouth winning four of them, including a 1-0 upset in last year’s semifinals.

“It should be a really good game,” Smith said. “We look forward to it. It could be our turn. You never know.”

The winner moved on to Saturday’s semifinals to meet either York or Freeport.

In Western A, Greely took a 12-2 mark and the No. 5 seed into the playoffs and hosted No. 12 Kennebunk Friday night. The Rangers advanced with a 3-1 win as seniors Audrey Parolin and Sara Schad and junior Sammi Toorish all scored.

Greely not only faced a strong fourth-seeded Thornton Academy (12-1-2) squad in the quarterfinals Wednesday. The Rangers also had the burden of overcoming recent history. While Greely doesn’t face the Golden Trojans in the regular season, Thornton Academy eliminated the Rangers in each of the past two seasons in the semifinal round, both times by 2-1 scores.

If the third time was the charm, Greely would either go to defending Class A champion and No. 3 seed Scarborough (11-1-2) or host No. 6 Cheverus (10-2-3) in Saturday’s semis.

In Western C, North Yarmouth Academy fell short of qualifying for the playoffs with a 2-12 mark after ending the year with a 2-1 home loss to Lake Region.

Seeding means little

On the boys’ side, two No. 8 seeds (Freeport and Greely) and a No. 9 (NYA) all made preliminary round noise.

In Western C, the Panthers were the last team in at 6-6-2 after blasting visiting Lake Region, 8-0, in their finale last week. NYA went to No. 8 Mt. Abram Friday and after a scoreless first half, erupted for five second half goals to win, 5-0.

“Friday was a long trip and, as has been the case all season, we missed many early chances,” said Panthers coach Martyn Keen. “However, once we broke through, the floodgates opened and I was even able to play the complete bench, leaving in just one starter for the last 20 minutes. That was very nice.”

NYA (7-6-2) went to top-ranked St. Dom’s (12-0-2) in the semifinals Wednesday. The teams no longer meet in the regular season since the Saints left the Western Maine Conference, but it hasn’t been too many years since the rivals battled in the postseason. In the 2009 regional final, St. Dom’s eliminated the Panthers, 2-0.

“Regardless of the result Wednesday, I am happy the boys at least have the chance to show how good they can be,” Keen said. “We’re certainly not going in to St. Dom’s timidly, to be a sacrificial lamb. They no doubt warrant their No. 1 seed, but we know we have the ability to give them a real game if we can put it all together.

“In my two years at NYA, we have to date played eight road playoff games and we are 6-2 so this team knows it can be done and it has also proven it can play its best soccer in late October/early November, and that is when it really matters. I’m certain that all the playoff teams would have been very happy if we had missed out. However, we got in and now we are determined to make the most of our opportunity. Now, only two things really count, believing and performing.”

If victorious, the Panthers will go to either No. 4 Lisbon (11-2-1) or No. 5 Sacopee Valley (11-1-2) for the semifinals Friday. NYA didn’t face the Greyhounds this year. The Panthers lost, 2-0, at home to the Hawks on Sept. 6 and 2-1 at Sacopee two weeks later.

In Western A, Greely, after missing the playoffs in 2010, got in this year. The Rangers wound up 7-6-1 and earned the No. 8 seed, setting up a home prelim versus No. 9 Marshwood Saturday night. The teams don’t play in the regular season. They had no playoff history.

Both teams had chances in regulation and in overtime, but neither could tickle the twine until Greely senior Will McAdoo struck with 2:38 left in the first 15-minute extra session for a 1-0 win. His shot wasn’t well struck, but deflected off a defender and into the goal to end it.

“Overall, our team played well,” said McAdoo. “Our defense was splendid. The offense had great chances. I was fortunate and it went in. I just tried to hit the net and it got deflected and went past the goalie. It took forever to go in. It felt good.”

“The first half was jitters,” said Rangers coach Mike Andreasen. “I only have two guys on my team who were on the playoff roster two years ago. Neither hit the field. Once we settled down, it was just a question of execution. We had a ton of chances. It was kind of a fluky goal. The goalie had the initial shot tracked. There wasn’t much on it. We were lucky. I’ve lost games that way too. You feel for them since they were so game.”

Greely went to No. 1 Scarborough (11-1-2), the top ranked team in Western A for the eighth year in a row, in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. The teams don’t play in the regular season, but have squared off five times in the playoffs since 2003, with the Red Storm taking three of the meetings, including the most recent, a 1-0 triumph in the 2008 regional final.

“We have to be ready for anyone,” McAdoo said. “I think we have a great shot. We have to prepare and be ready and see what happens.”

“I hope playing Scarborough, the No. 1 seed, that we’ll just go and play the game,” Andreasen said. “I thought the pressure was on us tonight. Now, there’s not a ton of pressure on us. The kids grew up and matured tonight.”

In Western B, the Freeport Falcons, in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, earned the eighth seed in Western B with a 6-7-1 mark. Freeport had a tough draw in No. 9 Gray-New Gloucester, a team which beat the Falcons, 2-1, in Gray, way back on Sept. 6. This time, Freeport got the job done, 2-0, and moved on.

“I’m very pleased with the result,” said Falcons coach Joe Heathco. “They were the toughest matchup for us in terms of anyone outside of (York, Falmouth or Yarmouth). We are very similar on the field, so I was very nervous going in. Tactically our boys played an intelligent game and stuck to our plan. We waited for quality chances and tried to limit our turnovers, especially where they occurred. We got a bit lucky on our first goal when the goalie misplayed a tough ball and then (Senior) Jack Dawe had a nice shot in the second half to give us some breathing room.”

Freeport (now 7-7-1) was at dangerous top-ranked York (11-1-2) Wednesday. In the regular season, the Falcons dropped a 4-1 home decision on Sept. 14. The Wildcats beat Freeport in the 2006 semifinals.

“We’re pretty excited to be playing York,” Heathco said. “I think we have worked on the parts of the game that York beat us. We played pretty even with them in regular play and had the lead for a while in the first half. I think we have a great opportunity to get a result against a very talented team, probably the best in Class B. Certainly the pressure is on them. I like that we had a prelim and that they have not had a meaningful game in over a week.”

If the Falcons can spring the upset, they’d go to No. 4 Maranacook (11-3) or No. 5 Morse (8-5-1) Saturday for the semifinals. They faced neither squad this fall.

Elsewhere in Western B, Falmouth wound up second with a 9-3-2 mark after battling visiting Cape Elizabeth to a 2-2 tie in the finale last Tuesday. The Yachtsmen earned a bye into Wednesday’s quarterfinals where they hosted No. 7 Lincoln Academy (5-6-3). The teams don’t play in the regular season. The last playoff encounter resulted in a 14-0 Falmouth victory in the 2009 semifinals.

Yarmouth earned the No. 3 seed with a 9-4-1 mark. The Clippers hosted No. 6 Fryeburg (9-5) in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. In the regular season, Yarmouth beat the visiting Raiders, 1-0, Sept. 14. The last playoff meeting came in the 2008 quarterfinals (an 8-1 win for the Clippers).

If Falmouth and Yarmouth advanced, they’ll square off in the semifinals Saturday. The teams split in the regular season, with the Clippers rallying for a 2-1 home victory Sept. 24 and the Yachtsmen holding on for a 1-0 home win, Oct. 15. The rivals have battled in each of the past three regional finals and have met in the playoffs seven times dating back to 2000 (Falmouth leads, 5-2). Last year, the Clippers beat the Yachtsmen, 1-0, in an overtime thriller in the Western B Final.

Looking ahead

The regional final round will be contested Wednesday of next week on the field of the highest remaining seeds. The Class A state finals are Saturday, Nov. 5 at Falmouth High School. The Class B and C state games will be the same day at Hampden Academy.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Sidebar Elements


Greely senior Gavin Collins eludes a Marshwood defender during the Rangers’ 1-0 overtime win over the Hawks in Saturday night’s Western Class A preliminary round playoff game.

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