Yarmouth’s golden girls erupt to capture repeat championship

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After leaving no doubt of its pre-eminence, Yarmouth’s girls’ soccer team celebrates at the conclusion of Saturday’s 9-0 win over Presque Isle in a record-setting Class B state final.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—The finest girls’ soccer team in Yarmouth history can now stake its claim for immortality.

After the most overwhelming performance in state game history.

Regardless of gender.

The Clippers didn’t just defend their championship Saturday evening against Presque Isle at Deering High School’s Memorial Field, they put on a breathtaking offensive display that left those on hands shaking their heads in wonder.

Yarmouth, which scored 80 goals in the regular season, but just four in a three-game slog through the regional field, got the only tally it would need in the eighth minute, when senior standout Sara D’Appolonia served a corner kick on to the head of sophomore phenom Ehryn Groothoff, who sent the ball in to the goal for a 1-0 lead.

Groothoff and her teammates were just warming up.

Groothoff scored on a rebound in the 11th minute, then converted a pass from freshman Parker Harnett to complete her hat trick in the 31st minute and the Clippers took a 3-0 advantage to halftime.

If Yarmouth’s first half efficiency was impressive, what the Clippers did in the second half was absolutely astonishing.

After seeing Groothoff score three times in the first half, Yarmouth senior Hannah Merrill got in on the fun, as she also found the net three times in less than six minutes, with a score from senior Eva Then mixed in, to completely end all doubt and extend the lead to 7-0.

Late in regulation, D’Appolonia scored the final goal of her nonpareil career and sophomore Hannah Dwyer got in the scoring column as well as Yarmouth went on to a 9-0 victory.

The Clippers produced the most goals ever scored in a state final, by a boys’ or a girls’ team, enjoyed the largest winning margin in a state game, finished the season a program-best 18-0, extended their two-season win streak to 23 and in the process, ended Presque Isle’s campaign at 14-4.

“We were at our best when we needed to be,” said Yarmouth first-year coach Chris Coleman. “Tonight, we made a big deal about not playing with pressure or fear and just going out and enjoying the night. I’m just so proud of the girls for what they’ve achieved this year.”

A joy to watch

After putting together a dominant season in program history a year ago, going 16-1-1 and winning an elusive Class B title after a 13-year wait, the 2017 Clippers cemented their status as not only the finest team in Yarmouth history, but one of the best ever in state history.

The Clippers never trailed for a solitary second in the regular season and outscored the opposition by a whopping 80-4 margin (see sidebar, below, for previous game stories). Thirty-one of those goals came from the unstoppable D’Appolonia, but several other players tickled the twine with abandon as well.

As the top seed in Class B South, Yarmouth got much more of a challenge in the regional playoffs, as it only beat eighth-ranked Wells, 1-0, in the quarterfinals, scored twice in the second half for a 2-0 win over No. 4 York in the semifinals, then got a goal with just over 18 minutes to play Thursday to edge No. 7 Cape Elizabeth in the regional final to go back-to-back as regional champs for just the second time in program history (1995-96).

Presque Isle, meanwhile, went 11-3 in the regular season, losing only to Caribou, Fort Kent and John Bapst. As the No. 2 seed in Class B North, the Wildcats advanced by virtue of wins over No. 7 Brewer (3-1) in the quarterfinals, No. 6 Waterville, the defending regional champion (4-0), in the semifinals and ninth-ranked Hermon (1-0) in the regional final.

Presque Isle got to the Class B state game in 2008 and 2011, losing both times to Falmouth (1-0 and 2-0).

Yarmouth, meanwhile, was making its fifth state final appearance (see sidebar, below, for previous results) and was seeking its fourth Gold Ball.

Saturday evening, with darkness descending and the temperature in the 40s, the teams met for the first time and it didn’t take long for the Clippers to end all doubt.

Yarmouth’s first shot came in the second minute, but senior Ellie Purgavie had it saved by Wildcats junior goalie Savannah Rodriguez, who would be very busy on the evening.

After D’Appolonia set up junior Olivia Feeley for a shot that Rodriguez saved in diving fashion, Feeley was denied again, but with 32:55 left in the first half, the Clippers earned a corner kick and 14 seconds later, were on the board.

D’Appolonia served the ball in front and Groothoff leaped and headed it into the net for a 1-0 lead.

“Sara’s corners are amazing,” Groothoff said. “I think she does look for me sometimes. I just have to be in the right place. That was very important. It set the tone for the rest of the game and the goals kept coming.”

Did they ever.

After Yarmouth senior Hannah Corey had a long shot saved, Groothoff struck again, as sophomore Ella Caruso played the ball in to Merrill, whose shot deflected to Groothoff, who knocked it into the net again for a 2-0 lead.

“It’s so important to set an early tone,” Coleman said. “Getting an early goal was vitally important for the girls’ mentally. That allows nerves to calm down, but tonight we didn’t play with any nerves.”

Presque Isle’s first shot came in the 11th minute, but a free kick from junior Madison Michaud was saved by Clippers senior goalkeeper Meredith Lane.

Merrill then had a frustrating few minutes, which would be completely forgotten by game’s end, as she shot wide, had Rodriguez sprawl to stop her shot and chipped a shot off the top off the crossbar.

After Corey shot wide, sophomore Ashlyn Feeley had a shot saved and Groothoff missed just wide in a bid to complete the hat trick, D’Appolonia was denied in close, Dwyer was robbed by Rodriguez and Rodriguez made a terrific stop on a D’Appolonia left-footed blast.

You can only hold Yarmouth in check for so long, however, and with 9:02 to play, Harnett crossed the ball to Groothoff at the top of the box and Groothoff, the younger sister of Clippers standouts Jon and Luke Groothoff (who combined for a mere two state game goals in four outings), fired a shot that Rodriguez couldn’t reach for a 3-0 lead.

“Everyone has helped me feel comfortable,” Groothoff said. ‘The seniors help all of the younger kids.”

“It was awesome to score those goals early,” Merrill said. “Ehyrn is an amazing player. She has been all season.”

“Ehryn is an awesome player,” D’Appolonia said. “It must run in the family. It was cool to see her come out tonight and perform the way she did. She set the tone for the game.”

“Ehryn is incredible,” Coleman added. “She doesn’t realize how good she is. She’s a multi-sport athlete and she’s come on so much this year.”

Rodriguez kept the Wildcats within hailing distance late in the half by denying senior Callie Decker, junior Isabel Brennan and Harnett, but Yarmouth was firmly in control at the break, riding a 15-1 shots advantage to a 3-0 lead.

While the Clippers were seemingly in control, the message at the break was to keep the pedal to metal.

“At halftime, we talked about not letting up, how that 3-0 was still close,” Groothoff said.

“Coach has had some powerful halftime speeches, but tonight, he didn’t have much to say at halftime except to keep playing our game,” D’Appolonia said.

“I’ve lost games as a player when it was 3-0 and as a coach, I’ve lost, 4-3 and 5-4, so it was important we kept building and we did that,” Coleman added.

In the first 6 minutes, 37 seconds of the second half, Yarmouth exceeded its first half goal production in an absolutely dizzying display of ball movement and finishing.

One minute into the second stanza, Merrill got to a loose ball and shot it off a defender and in for a 4-0 lead.

Fifty-four seconds later, Purgavie crossed the ball in front and Merrill tipped it in for a 5-0 advantage.

With 36:50 remaining, Merrill set up a goal, crossing to Then, who finished.

Then, with 33:23 on the clock, Merrill finished unassisted for a hat trick of her own and a 7-0 lead.

“It feels surreal,” said Merrill. “Everything we worked on all season developed in this game and it showed. Those goals, I felt composed and I put them in. It feels pretty awesome to score in a state game. I worked all season for this.”

“Hannah seems to be in the right spot at the right time,” D’Appolonia said. “She had some great finishes tonight.”

“Hannah is one of our hardest workers,” Coleman added. “Whatever we needed her to do, she did. She didn’t always get rewarded, but she got rewarded tonight. If there was a stage when she deserved to score three, it was tonight.”

The seventh goal set a new record for goals in a girls’ Class B state game, but the Clippers had more offense in them.

After Michaud missed just wide, Yarmouth pulled Lane in favor of freshman backup Kate Siegel.

At the other end, Rodriguez denied Brennan and Purgavie and D’Appolonia missed just wide on an open net, but with 12:50 remaining, D’Appolonia would score her 33rd goal of the season, rebounding Harnett’s shot, for an 8-0 lead.

“I wanted to score badly in the state game,” said D’Appolonia said. “It’s my last high school game.”

With 5:50 to play, Dwyer produced the ninth goal and after three Harnett bids for goal number 10 were denied by Rodriguez, the Clippers ran out the clock and at 7:42 p.m., celebrated their second straight state title and the program’s fourth overall.

“It was very thrilling,” Groothoff said. “We just came out with our best and got the result we wanted. We had the right mindset tonight. We knew their goalie was good, but we wanted it badly. At halftime, we talked about not letting up, that 3-0 was still close.”

“Our community and our coaches push us so much,” Merrill said. “We pushed each other through the tough opponents we play. I came here freshman year and it’s been awesome being part of this program.”

“I’m not sure there’s an explanation,” D’Appolonia said. “We didn’t think we could win by nine. We thought it would be much closer, but I won’t complain. It all came together. It’s pretty special. Everyone stepped up and did their part.”

“We got three quick goals in the second half and that took away the opposition’s game plan,” Coleman added. “The girls don’t take anything for granted. They knew they were the team to beat and that everyone wanted to beat them, but they worked hard. They were a handful in only good ways. They’re such a likeable group.”

Yarmouth out-shot Presque Isle, 28-1 and had a 5-0 edge in corners.

Rodriguez dazzled with 25 saves for the Wildcats.

While it appeared the Clippers had no trouble repeating as state champions, they had to replace some top-notch talent and undergo a coaching change in the offseason, as 2016 coach Josh Thornton left the program to take an assistant’s job at Bates College.

“Josh and I are good friends, so it’s good to say I went 18-0 when he only went 16-1-1,” Coleman joked.

Top of the world

Prior to the girls’ win Saturday, the Yarmouth boys won their fourth straight championship, 2-1, over Winslow, to also finish 18-0 and without question, assert that Yarmouth is Soccer Titletown until further notice.

“I think it’s the coaches, the athletic director (Susan Robbins), the support in the community and the people on the teams,” D’Appolonia said. “We all love each other. We’re family and you can see our passion for the game.”

“You have to look as the program’s foundation,” Coleman said. “The Colts (feeder) program is incredible and the boys’ program Mike Hagerty’s built is great.”

Why stop now?

Yarmouth will again be a factor in 2018, even though the Clippers will be hard-hit by graduation.

For starters, the loss of D’Appolonia, the program’s most prolific scorer, who will play next year for the University of Delaware, will be seismic.

“I’m so excited to play in college for four more years, but it’s been unbelievable playing for Yarmouth’s great soccer program,” D’Appolonia said. “I’ve had great coaches and the girls are special. We wanted nothing less than a state championship and I’m so happy we got it. I couldn’t have done it with a better group of girls.”

“There are no words to describe what Sara can achieve,” Coleman said. “She’s a leader and she’s an incredible player and she deserves to be going where she’s going.”

Corey, Decker, Lane, Merrill, Purgavie, Then and Sophia Harpool, who all played critical roles, will also depart.

“The senior class is a special group,” Coleman said. “They’re so close. They worked for each other. They’ve been phenomenal leaders. We had two captains (Corey and D’Appolonia), but they all could have been captains.”

Next fall, Yarmouth will return several players who were integral contributors to this title team and will welcome others who figure to step right in and make an impact.

Another celebration could be the end result.

“I’d love to make another run,” Groothoff said. “It would be very exciting.”

“It’s ours to lose,” Coleman said. “We’ll have to live up to the name again. We’ll see what next year holds for us.”

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

Yarmouth sophomore Adriana Whitlock plays the ball as Presque Isle junior Elizabeth Collins defends.

Yarmouth senior Sara D’Appolonia sends a shot on frame. D’Appolonia scored her 33rd goal of the season in the victory.

Yarmouth sophomore Ashlyn Feeley lines up a shot.

Yarmouth sophomore Ehryn Groothoff heads the ball away from Presque Isle sophomore Clara Kohlbacher.

Yarmouth senior Hannah Merrill goes one-on-one with Presque Isle junior goalkeeper Savannah Rodriguez.

Yarmouth freshman Parker Harnett races past Presque Isle junior Emma Kohlbacher.

Yarmouth sophomore Ella Caruso blocks the shot of Presque Isle junior Madison Michaud.

Yarmouth sophomore Ehryn Groothoff is mobbed by sophomore Hannah Dwyer, left, senior Callie Decker, sophomore Audrey Goessling and freshman Parker Harnett after completing her first half hat trick.

Yarmouth senior Hannah Merrill (7) receives congratulations from seniors Hannah Corey (2), left, Ellie Purgavie and Eva Then after one of her three second half goals.

Yarmouth senior Eva Then, left, is congratulated by senior Sara D’Appolonia after scoring the Clippers’ sixth goal.

Yarmouth senior captains Sara D’Appolonia, left, and Hannah Corey, accept the Gold Ball.

After receiving the trophy, Yarmouth makes sure its fan section gets a good look at the prize.

Previous Yarmouth stories

Season Preview

Yarmouth 4 Greely 0

Yarmouth 6 Greely 1

Yarmouth 7 Cape Elizabeth 0

Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 0

Yarmouth 2 York 0

Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 0

Previous Yarmouth state game results

2016
Class B
Yarmouth 3 Waterville 1

2003
Class B
Yarmouth 2 Belfast 1 (6-5 PKs)

1996
Class B
Mt. View 3 Yarmouth 2 (4 OT)

1995
Class B
Yarmouth 2 Houlton 1

Previous Presque Isle state game results

2011
Class B
Falmouth 1 Presque Isle

2008
Class B
Falmouth 2 Presque Isle 0

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