YARMOUTH—On Yarmouth’s Senior Night, it was a dynamic freshman who stole the show.
Monday evening, in a battle of two of the best girls’ soccer teams around, the surging Clippers hosted longtime rival Falmouth in a final playoff tuneup.
For much of the night, Yarmouth returned to the frustration-laden ways that defined most of its season, as despite controlling possession and having a decided edge in shots and corner kicks, the Clippers weren’t able to tickle the twine.
But with overtime looming, freshman Sara D’Appolonia, the center-mid who plays with poise and skill far beyond her years, made sure the partisan crowd would go home happy as she launched a 30-yard kick of beauty into the net for the game’s lone goal.
Yarmouth’s defense made sure the Yachtsmen didn’t answer and the Clippers went on to a 1-0 victory.
Yarmouth’s second statement win in four days ended its regular season at 8-3-3 and dropped Falmouth to 6-6-2.
“It seems like things are turning our way,” said Clippers coach Rich Smith. “The girls have learned how to win and finish teams off. They’re playing well together. Everybody’s playing hard.”
Not too long ago, when Falmouth and Yarmouth met for the final time in the regular season, there was an excellent chance they’d meet once more in the playoffs. From 2002-2012, the rivals squared off in the postseason seven times with the Yachtsmen winning six of them and going on to a Class B championship each time.
Last year and this, however (and possibly in the future as well), the teams reside in different classes and it’s conceivable they both could be hoisting a Gold Ball Nov. 8 if all goes well.
Each squad has shown glimpses of excellence this fall, but both have struggled at times as well.
The young Clippers appear to be peaking at the right time.
Yarmouth opened with a 2-0 home loss to Greely, then got its first victory, 2-1, over visiting Cape Elizabeth, came from behind to win at Freeport (4-2) and blanked visiting Poland 6-0. The Clippers then let a late lead slip away in a 1-1 home tie versus York and stumbled at Kennebunk and Cape Elizabeth by 1-0 margins. After a 1-1 tie at Falmouth, Yarmouth romped at Wells (7-0), earned a clutch victory at York (2-1) and after settling for a 3-3 home draw with Kennebunk, beat visiting Gray-New Gloucester, 3-1, then earned its first victory at Greely this century, 2-0, Friday night.
The Yachtsmen, meanwhile, have done everything from knock off an undefeated team to surrender a half dozen goals in a game.
Falmouth opened with a 2-0 victory at Gray-New Gloucester, then tied visiting Kennebunk, 1-1, and lost at Greely, 3-1. After a 4-0 home win over two-time defending Class C champion Waynflete, the Yachtsmen lost at home to defending Class B champion Cape Elizabeth (3-0). Falmouth then enjoyed a strong stretch, winning at York (3-1), at home over Poland (5-0) and after rallying from an early two-goal deficit, beating previously unblemished rival Greely, 3-2, in double overtime. After a 1-1 home tie with Yarmouth, the Yachtsmen hit a rough patch, losing at Cape Elizabeth (2-1) and at home to York (4-0) and after a 3-0 victory at Freeport, giving up a stunning six goals in a 6-5 double overtime loss at Kennebunk Friday.
Entering Monday’s game, Falmouth had gone 14-3-7 against Yarmouth since 2001 (see sidebar, below), but the games were almost always close and in each of the past six seasons, at least one meeting has gone to overtime.
This time around, Yarmouth rode the momentum from its Greely victory, pressured to no avail for nearly 80 minutes, then got the goal which beat Falmouth for the first time in eight tries, dating back to Oct. 15, 2011.
The game was preceded by a ceremony honoring Clippers senior captains Shannon Fallon, Lane Simsarian and Emma Torres, as well as senior Samantha Rockwell, the junior varsity team’s goalie.
“I’ve known the three seniors since they were playing kindergarten soccer here on the field,” said Smith. “Lane, Shannon and Emma have been such an important part of the team. Such great leaders. Amazing kids and role models. Having them to look up to is important for the underclassmen.”
Yarmouth then pushed for a goal, but despite many chances, it would take a long, long time for it to be scored.
Just 48 seconds into the game, dangerous Clippers sophomore Katie Clemmer rushed in and got a step on a defender, but Falmouth sophomore goalkeeper Adelaide Cooke came out to break up the rush.
In the sixth minute, Clemmer took a pass from D’Appolonia and shot with her left foot, but Cooke made the save.
In the ninth minute, Torres shot and with Clemmer waiting on the doorstep for a rebound, Cooke held on for the save.
D’Appolonia then had two looks at the goal. Her first, a left-footed shot, was tipped out by Cooke, setting up a corner kick and the second bid was denied by the goalie.
With 18:50 to play in the first half, Simsarian shot high.
Three minutes later, Clemmer shot just wide. D’Appolonia then did the same.
In the 28th minute, Falmouth had its first true chance, but a rush from senior Nina Marsanskis was broken up by Yarmouth’s standout junior defender Lauren Bartlett.
After Clemmer shot high, the Yachtsmen went back on offense and sophomore Lucy Mahoney made solid contact, but Fallon made the save.
D’Appolonia had one final bid in the half, but Cooke made her sixth save to that point.
In the first 40 minutes, the Clippers had a 12-2 shots advantage, but the game remained 0-0.
The game was more even in the second half and Falmouth came close on a couple occasions.
The first came with 38:28 to play, when a cross from senior Emma Van Wickler rolled through the box before Fallon could finally scoop it up.
A minute later, senior Georgia Babikian shot just wide with her left foot.
Yarmouth then went back on offense and junior Eavan O’Neill headed a corner kick high, O’Neill took a pass from Clemmer and shot just wide, sophomore Gretchen Barbera had a shot from the side saved by Cooke and a bid from Torres was also saved.
With 28:12 remaining, the Yachtsmen almost went on top, but a cross from onrushing junior Emma England, which was perfectly placed at the far post, couldn’t be touched in by freshman Amelia Waite with Fallon out of the picture.
With 25:46 left, after a nice move, Mahoney sent a shot on goal, but Fallon made the save.
At the other end, Torres shot wide, but England rushed back into the Clippers’ zone and split two defenders. When she got to the end line, however, she couldn’t get the ball to anyone and the opportunity passed.
After Cooke saved a shot from Clemmer and Torres and sophomore Cory Langenbach both sent shots high, Clemmer crossed the ball into the box where it was cleared by Falmouth junior Marcy Kittredge.
After freshman Hannah Corey had a long shot saved by Cooke with 7:53 left, it looked like Yarmouth was going to be left frustrated again, but the goal was coming.
D’Appolonia, so adept at setting up her teammates, found some room and even though she was 30 yards out, she struck the ball perfectly. As it floated toward the upper 90, Cooke went back, but she had no chance to get a hand on the ball, which ripped into the net.
With just 3:35 remaining, the Clippers had a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t know if it was going in or not, but I was open, so I took it,” said D’Appolonia. “I thought I hit it pretty cleanly. We’ve been working on shooting a lot. I took more shots in this game than I took in others and finally it came. That goal gave us an extra boost. We really needed this game and that goal gave us confidence we could get it.”
D’Appolonia said that coming into the season, her aspiration was modest.
“I really wanted to make varsity as a freshman,” she said. “I’m really fortunate to play as much as I do. It’s definitely different from middle school, playing against girls a foot taller than you, stronger than you. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve become a strong soccer player and a stronger person playing with these upperclassmen.”
Suffice it to say, the freshman has made quite an impact on her teammates and coaches.
“It was incredible to have Sara float that shot in there,” Torres said. “She’s our center-mid, doing everything. She works so well with Cory, Hannah, me, whoever’s in the middle. She’s so good with off-ball movement. That’s the most important thing. Her shot is impeccable. She’s persistent and she finally got it. I’m so happy for her.”
“Sara’s not the biggest kid stature-wise, but she’s unbelievably skilled and has a lot of poise,” Smith said. “She’s a real competitor. She controls the pace of the game and can slot passes. Tonight, she took the big shot when we needed it.”
Not surprisingly, Falmouth refused to go quietly.
Just 11 seconds after the goal, Mahoney fired a shot that Fallon bobbled and while sprawled on the ground, the goalie managed to scoop up the loose ball.
With 32 seconds remaining, sophomore defender Abby Condon, who blanked Yachtsmen junior standout Tyler Spence all night, cleared the ball.
“Abby Condon has been immense for us the last few games,” Smith said. “We put her on the other team’s best player and she’s been excellent at shutting people down. She focuses and plays hard and runs through every ball. She’s done a great job. I’m sure nobody likes to see her coming because she’s such an intense player. “
Falmouth had one more chance, but a through ball was snared by Fallon and that brought the curtain down on Yarmouth’s 1-0 victory.
“We won this game for the seniors,” D’Appolonia said.
“It’s incredible,” Torres said. “It’s always nice to beat Falmouth. This was the most ideal game ever.”
“It’s nice,” Smith added. “I thought we played well again tonight. We had a lot of really good scoring opportunities. Falmouth’s a scary team. They’re good.”
Yarmouth outshot Falmouth, 26-5 (11-4 on frame) and had a 9-0 advantage in corner kicks (with seven coming in the second half). Fallon made four saves.
The Yachtsmen got 10 saves from Cooke, but they couldn’t score.
“Yarmouth plays so direct, so to be honest, we sat back and defended lower,” said Falmouth coach Andrew Pelletier. “We probably had better quality chances in the second half. Two or three from the 6-yard line. I was happy with the intensity and passion tonight. I was hoping to get a result, but the girls worked hard.”
Falmouth, after falling in the Western A semifinals last autumn, hopes to return to its accustomed championship perch, but there are many strong teams, including defending champion Windham, perennial powerhouse Scarborough and last year’s nemesis, Thornton Academy, standing in the way. The Yachtsmen (sixth in the Western A Heal Points standings at press time) will host a preliminary round game Friday or Saturday against a foe and at a time to be announced.
Falmouth plans to be up for the challenge.
“We’ll be ready against whoever we play,” Pelletier said. “The girls will be healthy. Hopefully we’ll make a long run. We can score more effectively than we did last year. Last year, we kind of put everything’s on (Megan Miller’s) shoulders. We’re more dangerous on offense this year. We have to tweak things defensively a little bit, but I think we’ll be alright.”
Yarmouth believes it boasts the necessary ingredients to win its first Class B championship since 2003, but the likes of Cape Elizabeth, Greely and York won’t make things easy. The Clippers (who project to be the No. 2 seed behind Greely, their best ranking in four years) will open the postseason Wednesday of next week at home against a yet to be determined foe.
Yarmouth knows it has a golden opportunity awaiting it.
“‘Smitty’ always says that October’s our month,” D’Appolonia said. “We really started focusing in practice and dedicating ourselves and it shows now. I think we’re capable of competing. I want nothing less than to win a title.”
“In my four years, we’ve never been this close as a team and we’ve never been this good,” Torres said. “We’re ready to go. We’re fired up. We’re ready for anything. We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We have to keep making each other better. We’re ready and we’re excited.”
“Confidence-wise, the girls know that if we play well, we can expect to win,” Smith added. “They’re all playing for each other. We have great team chemistry. They believe in themselves. That’s great to have going into playoffs.”
Yarmouth sophomore Katie Clemmer heads the ball.
Falmouth sophomore Meghan Dye sends the ball forward.
Falmouth junior Marcy Kittredge shields the ball from Yarmouth junior Eavan O’Neill.
Falmouth sophomore Lucy Mahoney and Yarmouth sophomore Cory Langenbach battle for a 50-50 ball.
Yarmouth senior Lane Simsarian and Falmouth sophomore Olivia Tapley collide while going for the ball.
Falmouth junior Tyler Spence boots the ball while under pressure from Yarmouth sophomore Abby Condon.
Yarmouth senior Emma Torres kicks the ball away from Falmouth senior Georgia Babikian.
Falmouth senior Emma Van Wickler plays the ball as Yarmouth junior Lilly Watson defends.
Falmouth junior Hannah Donovan chases down a loose ball.
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
@ Yarmouth 0 Falmouth 0 (tie)
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 1
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western B quarterfinals)
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0 (OT)
Yarmouth 1 @ Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B quarterfinals)
Falmouth 2 @ Yarmouth 1 (OT)
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0
Falmouth 3 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 2 (tie)
Falmouth 2 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 1 (Western Class B Final)
@ Yarmouth 0 Falmouth 0 (tie)
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0 (2 OT)
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0 (OT) (Western Class B Final)
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 1
@ Yarmouth 3 Falmouth 0
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 1 (Western Class B semifinals)
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 3
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 1 (Western Class B semifinals)
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0 (2 OT)
Yarmouth freshman Sara D’Appolonia launches a shot during Monday’s home tilt versus rival Falmouth. D’Appolonia scored on a similar shot with 3:35 to play, giving the Clippers a 1-0 victory in the teams’ mutual regular season finale.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.