Yarmouth’s girls’ soccer team celebrates its 2-0 win over York in Saturday’s Class B South semifinal. The Clippers will play for a second straight regional title Wednesday at home versus either Cape Elizabeth or Greely.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
YARMOUTH—After scoring 80 goals in 14 regular season games, Yarmouth’s powerhouse girls’ soccer team, the defending Class B state champion, has found the going much tougher in the postseason.
But the Clippers keep finding ways to win and advance.
Saturday afternoon, top-ranked Yarmouth hosted dangerous No. 4 York in a Class B South semifinal and spent most of the first half fending off forays from the Wildcats.
The Clippers were able to get to the half scoreless, however, and after an impassioned speech from first-year coach Chris Coleman, they turned to the state’s best female player to get them going in the second half.
Senior Sara D’Appolonia, who will be producing highlights for the University of Delaware next year, got a sliver of space with 24:28 left in regulation and that’s all she needed to bury a shot just inside the far post to break the spell.
Then, five minutes later, D’Appolonia crossed the ball in front to senior Hannah Merrill, who fired into the upper 90, and that was enough for Yarmouth to go on to a 2-0 victory.
The Clippers won their 21st game in a row, improved to 16-0 this fall, ended York’s season at 9-6-1 and advanced to host either No. 3 Greely (12-3) or No. 7 Cape Elizabeth (10-6) in the Class B South Wednesday evening.
“I just spoke (to the girls at halftime) about not playing with fear,” Coleman said. “It’s our home turf. We’re the defending champions. I wanted them to go out in the second half and show them and we did. We were excellent.”
Yarmouth has lived up to preseason billing as the team to beat in Class B, producing the first 14-0 regular season record in program history behind an overwhelming goals differential of 80-4 (see sidebar, below, for links to prior game stories).
Goals were hard to come by in the quarterfinals Tuesday, however, as top-ranked Yarmouth mustered just one, but it was enough to oust No. 8 Wells.
York, meanwhile, posted an 8-5-1 regular season record, losing twice to Yarmouth, twice to Greely and once to Cape Elizabeth while also tying Gray-New Gloucester. As the No. 4 seed in Class B South, the Wildcats advanced with a 2-0 win over fifth-seeded Morse in their quarterfinal.
The Clippers blanked York twice in the regular season, 3-0 at home Sept. 13 and 4-0 in York 13 days later. D’Appolonia had two goals and junior Olivia Feeley one in the first victory. In the second, D’Appolonia scored twice more and senior Hannah Corey and sophomore Ehryn Groothoff also found the net.
Prior to Saturday, the teams had met six times in the postseason with the Wildcats winning five (see sidebar, below, for previous results), including a 4-1 victory in the 2009 Western B semifinals, the most recent encounter.
This time around, on a pleasant (60-degree), but breezy late-afternoon, York gave Yarmouth all it could handle, but ultimately, the Clippers found the necessary answers to advance.
In the fourth minute, Corey sent a shot on goal, but Wildcats senior goalkeeper Anna Baker made the save.
Yarmouth wouldn’t produce another shot on frame until the second half.
After the Clippers had a corner kick which didn’t result in a shot and D’Appolonia missed just wide with a low shot, York began to tilt the field in its favor.
With 30:55 to play in the first half, a rush from senior Payton Humphrey was broken up in the box.
Three minutes later, Humphrey had a shot blocked in the box and a rebound bid from senior Ellie Bychok was denied by Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Meredith Lane.
Humphrey nearly finished in the 14th minute after eluding a defender, but Lane made a sprawling save.
After the Wildcats failed to convert on a pair of corners, sophomore Nina Howe had a rush broken up in front and Humphrey shot in the box, but the ball sailed high.
York had a 2-1 edge in shots on frame and a 2-1 advantage in corners in the first half.
The Clippers then got a dose of inspiration in the 10-minute intermission and reasserted their dominance in the second half.
Four minutes into the second stanza, D’Appolonia sent a long shot on goal which Baker saved.
D’Appolonia then shot just high, Groothoff was denied by Baker after a turnover and after Lane saved a Humphrey shot at the other end, Corey had a long shot saved by Baker.
Finally, with 24:28 on the clock, Yarmouth broke through.
D’Appolonia go the ball in the middle of the field, squared up a defender and made a quick move to her right. That gave her enough separation to fire a low shot to Baker’s right and the ball got past the keeper and into the corner of the net just inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.
It was D’Appolonia’s 32nd goal of the season and she exulted when the ball tickled the twine.
“(The first half) was quite frustrating, but we knew what we had to do and we fixed it,” D’Appolonia said. “We found our rhythm. I was trying to go far post. I had a feeling the goalie would be creeping to the near post. I got it. You can’t ask for a better feeling than that. It was a flow of energy that went through me. That kicked us into gear, then we got another one.”
“We didn’t have it together in the first half, but we came together and pushed and generated a great second half,” Merrill said. “Coach told us to work together as a team. We had to work more and we did. Sara’s goal was a lift. She’s always there to just put it in.”
“Sara’s goal set the tone,” Coleman added. “She does that day-in, day-out. She’s ridiculous. There are no words to describe her. She’s a truly special player who will go far in this game.”
The Clippers had all the momentum and five minutes later, with 19:17 on the clock, D’Appolonia won the ball near the flag on the right side and crossed the ball in front to Merrill, who settled it, then ripped a shot that deflected off Baker’s fingertips and into the goal for a 2-0 advantage.
“(Sara’s) set those up all season and I got it,” Merrill said. “It was awesome. I’m left-footed, but I used my right foot and got it through the goalie’s hands.”
“Hannah is awesome in the box,” D’Appolonia said. “We’ve worked on that all season and we got one.”
“The second goal was probably the best goal we’ve scored all season with the build-up,” Coleman said. “It was great composure and a fantastic finish. That sealed it for us.”
Down the stretch, Lane saved shots from Humphrey and senior Morgan Smith and Humphrey shot wide as Yarmouth went on to the 2-0 victory.
“We expected a tough game today,” D’Appolonia said. “It’s been an adjustment because we’ve handled teams all season and now we’re not, but we just have to play our game.”
The Clippers finished with a 6-5 edge in shots and got five saves from Lane. York had a 2-1 advantage in corners and got four saves from Baker.
All that now stands between Yarmouth and the right to play for a second straight Class B crown are either the 2015 Class B champion Greely Rangers, who take an eight-game win streak into their semifinal against Cape Elizabeth Monday night, or the Capers, who appear to be peaking at the right time.
The Clippers swept the Rangers in the regular season, winning 4-0 in Cumberland 6-1 at home. The teams have split two prior playoff meetings, with Greely taking a 2-1 decision in the 2015 semifinals and Yarmouth prevailing, 3-1, in last year’s regional final.
The Clippers swept the Capers this fall, rolling to a 7-0 home win before holding on for a 1-0 victory at Cape Elizabeth. The teams met twice prior in the playoffs, with the Capers winning, 1-0, in the 2014 semifinals and Yarmouth prevailing, 3-1, in last year’s semifinal round.
Yarmouth figures to get another stern test Wednesday evening, but the Clippers believe they’ll once again be ready.
“Cape and Greely are both good teams with great players, but if we believe in ourselves and play our game and do what we do best, I believe we’ll have it,” D’Appolonia said.
“We can’t let the game get in our heads,” Merrill said. “We have to work together, play as a team and put some in the net.”
“It’s not supposed to get easier as you go on in this competition,” Coleman added. “If it did, it wouldn’t be as special. Teams have to stop us somehow. We know what Cape and Greely are capable of. We’ll have to be ready to play. We’ll be ready to try and get ourselves to the state championship.”
Yarmouth freshman Parker Harnett plays the ball.
Yarmouth senior Sara D’Appolonia races up the field.
Yarmouth sophomore Hannah Dwyer tries to get past the outstretched leg of York junior Peyton Nickerson.
Yarmouth sophomore Ehryn Groothoff lines up a shot.
Yarmouth senior Hannah Corey heads the ball as York sophomore Nina Howe looks on.
Yarmouth senior Hannah Merrill tries to get past York sophomore Hayley Smith.
Yarmouth senior Eva Then heads the ball away from York junior Erin O’Donnell.
Yarmouth sophomore Ashlyn Feeley plays the ball forward.
Yarmouth senior Sara D’Appolonia (13) hugs classmate Hannah Merrill after Merrill scored the game’s second goal.
2009 Western B semifinal
York 4 Yarmouth 1
2008 Western B semifinal
York 2 Yarmouth 1 (4-2 PKs)
2007 Western B Final
York 2 Yarmouth 1 (OT)
2004 Western B quarterfinal
York 2 Yarmouth 1
2003 Western B Final
Yarmouth 1 York 0 (OT)
1989 Western B quarterfinal
York 6 Yarmouth 1