Soccer teams still dreaming of Gold Balls-Northern edition

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Yarmouth freshman Caroline Grant knocks home a rebound during the Clippers’ 3-1 win over Cape Elizabeth in Saturday’s Class B South semifinal. Yarmouth advanced to its first regional final since 2007.

Yarmouth’s Eric LaBrie and Greely’s Chris Borden fight for possession during the Clippers’ dramatic 3-2, come-from-behind overtime win in Saturday’s Class B South semifinals. Yarmouth’s three-peat title hopes remained alive at press time.

Falmouth’s Delaney Goodell heads the ball during the Yachtsmen’s 2-0 loss at Gorham in Monday’s Class A South semifinal.

(Ed. Note: For the complete Yarmouth-Greely boys’ and Falmouth-Gorham and Yarmouth- Cape Elizabeth girls’ game stories, with photos, see theforecaster.net)

Three local soccer teams were still clinging to Gold Ball dreams at press time.

The defending Class B champion Greely girls were set to battle top-ranked Yarmouth in the Class B South Final Wednesday night (see theforecaster.net for game story), while the two-time defending state champion Yarmouth boys were poised to travel to Maranacook in its regional final.

Several other Forecaster Country teams had their hopes dashed in painful fashion.

Repeat or drought-ender?

Yarmouth’s girls’ team last won a regional and a state title in 2003.

Greely’s girls hoisted a Gold Ball last November.

The Clippers and Rangers were the last two teams standing in Class B South after they each produced a pair of impressive playoff wins.

Yarmouth, the top seed in the region after a program-best 12-1-1 regular season, opened the postseason with a 3-0 home win over No. 9 Gray-New Gloucester in the quarterfinals last Wednesday. Hannah Merrill, Gretchen Barbera and Sara D’Appolonia all scored.

Saturday, the Clippers got pushed by No. 4 Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals. Katie Clemmer gave Yarmouth a 1-0 lead at halftime, but the Capers answered just after the break. With their season hanging in the balance, the Clippers responded in the affirmative and went on top to stay with 27:10 remaining, as freshman Caroline Grant scored on a rebound.

“I found the ball with my head, then there was a scramble and I managed to get my foot on it,” Grant said. “It was awesome.”

D’Appolonia added a goal seven minutes later and Yarmouth prevailed, 3-1.

“We were a little nervous after they scored, but it gave us a boost and we got fired up, then Caroline scored and we didn’t let up,” D’Appolonia said. 

“It was a character test,” said Clippers first-year coach Josh Thornton. “Cape put a lot of pressure on us. We had to stay focused on the game. I’m delighted we came through with a win.” 

Greely, meanwhile, which is ranked second, eliminated No. 7 Freeport, 3-1, in its quarterfinal, then handled No. 3 York with surprising ease, 4-0, in the semifinals.

Against the Falcons, the Rangers got two goals from Ellie Schad and another from Anna DeWolfe, as they ended Freeport’s season at 8-6-2.

Brooke Obar scored 19 seconds in against the Wildcats, DeWolfe added two goals and Courtney Sullivan also tickled the twine.

“We played very well,” said Rangers coach Josh Muscadin. “Our girls were on fire. I don’t think York knew what hit them.”

Yarmouth (14-1-1) swept Greely (12-4) in the regular season, winning, 4-1, in Cumberland Oct. 1 and 1-0 at home in the finale Oct. 17. 

The Rangers won the lone prior playoff encounter, 2-1, in last year’s semifinal round.

“Now we have some payback, that’s how we look at it,” Muscadin said. “Our kids know what they have to do. We’ve given them some treats, but Halloween is over. We know we can play with them.”

“We’re trying to ignore the pressure of being the number one seed,” Thornton said. “We let the pressure be on the defending champion. We want to win it for the seniors, but I’m delighted with the season no matter what. We’ll take whatever we can get from now on. It’s huge to have homefield. We’ll be excited to play.”

The Yarmouth-Greely winner will battle either defending regional champion Hermon (16-0) or 2014 champion Waterville (16-0) in the state final Saturday at 10 a.m., at Hampden Academy.

The Clippers have never faced either school.

The Rangers beat Hermon, 6-0, in last year’s state final. They have never faced Waterville. 

Falmouth won its final seven games this fall to earn the No. 4 seed in Class A South. After surviving No. 5 Marshwood, 2-1, in overtime in the quarterfinals (Lauren Wendland tied it and Amelia Waite had the winner), the Yachtsmen went to top-ranked, defending regional champion Gorham for the semifinals Monday.

The game, which was the first playoff meeting between the teams since 2004, was originally scheduled for Saturday, but bad weather delayed it 48 hours. The Rams scored off a free kick late in the first half, then despite tremendous Falmouth pressure most of the second half, added a clinching goal with 14 seconds left and ended the Yachtsmen’s season at 11-5 with a 2-0 victory.

“We came out a little nervous, but after we settled in, I thought we controlled possession,” Falmouth coach Andrew Pelletier said. “We eliminated their good chances, but you can’t make a mistake on a set piece. We didn’t defend it well enough. When that happens, you’ll always give up a goal against a good team.

“This has been by far the best experience I’ve had coaching. This is my first four-year group. It’s a sad way to go out. The girls put everything into it. We beat Greely, York, Kennebunk, Cape and Gray-New Gloucester, good teams. We got healthy and the young players bought in and understood their roles.”

The Yachtsmen lose some key players to graduation, but look out next year.

“I have probably one of the best freshmen groups in the state coming,” Pelletier said. “I return seven starters and some good girls off the bench. I think the future is bright, but I’m not ready to think about it yet.”

Closing in on history

Yarmouth’s boys’ program is among the state’s elite, but the Clippers have never won three successive state titles, a distinction they were still chasing as the week began.

Yarmouth, ranked second in Class B South, had no problem with No. 7 Gray-New Gloucester in last Tuesday’s’quarterfinal, advancing with a 2-0 win behind goals from Matt Dostie and Luke Groothoff and a stellar defensive effort which didn’t allow a shot on frame.

The Clippers had a much, much tougher time of it in the semifinals versus No. 6 Greely.

The Rangers, who had to survive No. 11 Leavitt, 1-0, in the preliminary round, upset second-ranked Cape Elizabeth, 2-1, in last Tuesday’s quarterfinals, as Eric Kinkead and Owen McIntyre scored.

Greely went to Yarmouth Saturday as the teams met in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and it was a classic.

The Rangers struck first when Hunter Graham’s shot deflected off a defender and in, but Max Coury set up Eric LaBrie for a breakaway goal to tie the score, 1-1, at halftime.

With 16:44 remaining in regulation, Graham scored on a rebound and the champs were on the ropes, but with 4:05 left, Groothoff had a shot hit a defender’s shoulder and sail into the goal to make it 2-2 and force overtime.

There, with 8:18 to go in the first of two possible 15-minute, “sudden victory” sessions, the Clippers put it away when Luke Waeldner’s cross was headed home by LaBrie for a 3-2 victory.

“I was trying to get to the back post, so I was in the right place at the right time,” LaBrie said. 

“The plan was to get the ball wide and cross it into the box,” Waeldner said. “I was trying to put it in to our strikers and it happened to work out. I saw a bunch of kids and then the ball hit the back of the net. It was a pretty good feeling.”

“It was a hard battle,” said Groothoff. “(Greely’s) a good team, but we always have a way of coming through when it matters most. Going down twice and coming back shows our character.”

“Thank goodness we showed good character and bounced back,” Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty added. “I think karma worked in our favor. Greely’s tough. We’ve been in games like this, so we don’t panic. These games are exciting. It was competitive and up and down. I’m proud of how the kids responded.”

The Rangers’ season ended at 9-8.

“If you play a team three times, usually you get one, but not today,” Greely coach Mike Andreasen said. “We made strides this year. We started miserably, then came on strong at the end.”

The Rangers will have to start over, as they’ll be decimated by graduation. 

“This could be the biggest group I’ve lost,” said Andreasen. “We played 15 regularly and 12 were seniors. It’s going to be a real transformation process. We might be a year away and that’s hard in this conference. When you play young, you take a beating because the teams that are old are also good.”

Yarmouth (13-2-1) went to No. 1 Maranacook (15-0-1) for the regional final Wednesday night. The teams don’t play in the regular season. Last year, the Clippers rallied for a 3-2 overtime win at the Black Bears to take a 3-1 all-time postseason lead in the series.

“Maranacook has a good single striker and has a decent back four,” Hagerty added. “They’re well coached. It will be similar to today with us seeing eight or nine guys dropping back. They’re tough on their home field, but we have good and smart kids and a good staff. We’ll be ready.”

If Yarmouth reaches the Class B Final again, it will meet either John Bapst (15-1) or Winslow (15-0-1) Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at Hampden Academy. The Clippers have never faced either school.

Ninth-ranked Freeport, a 3-1 winner at No. 8 Lincoln Academy in the preliminary round, had its season ended at 7-8-1 with a 5-0 loss at Maranacook in the quarterfinals last Tuesday.

In Class A South, Falmouth earned the No. 2 seed and had high hopes. The Yachtsmen started with a 2-0 blanking of No. 7 Thornton Academy in the quarterfinals last Tuesday. Devin Russell and Hayden Farr had the goals.

Saturday, Falmouth hosted No. 6 Portland and the teams produced an epic. The Yachtsmen scored first, as Farr scored in the first half, but the Bulldogs answered with a pair of second half tallies to put Falmouth on the ropes. Then, with just 46 seconds remaining, Brendan Hickey tied it and the game went to overtime.

Thirty minutes of OT couldn’t determine a winner, so the teams had to go to penalty kicks, where Portland made four of five chances and the Yachtsmen converted just three, giving the Bulldogs a 3-2 decision, ending Falmouth’s fine season at 12-3-1 in the process.

In Class C South, North Yarmouth Academy earned the No. 5 seed after a 9-4-1 campaign and eliminated fourth-ranked Hall-Dale, 1-0, in the quarterfinals last Tuesday behind Andrew Keith’s goal.

The Panthers were supposed to visit top-ranked Monmouth Academy Friday, but poor weather moved that game to Saturday. Coach Stuart Thorley missed the game due to a previous out-of-town commitment, so former coach Martyn Keen, who took this year off to battle esophageal cancer, stepped in. While Keen’s return was a highlight, NYA wasn’t able to give him a victory, as it fell behind, 2-0, and Keith’s late goal wasn’t enough as the Panthers’ season ended at 10-5-1 with a 2-1 setback.

“We had the ball in their box a lot of times and it didn’t fall for us today,” Keen said.. “That’s the game, sometimes. Scoring a goal with 1:38 to go doesn’t give you much chance to tie it up. We had several opportunities before that, but we couldn’t produce a clean chance. It was a very even game and a first goal is always pivotal. It was really nice to be back. We had a good time reminiscing.”

Sun Journal staff writer Nathan Fournier contributed to this story.

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

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