Yarmouth's offense comes alive in prelim win

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YARMOUTH—All season, the young, but promising Yarmouth girls’ soccer team has made life miserable for more experienced foes.

Problem was, the Clippers were lacking just one thing.

A finishing touch.

Friday afternoon, in a Western Class B preliminary round playoff game, the offense showed up with abandon.

Seventh-ranked Yarmouth matched its season high in goals, two, in the game’s first 19-plus minutes, and went on a 4-0 victory over No. 10 Oak Hill on a day in which the rain held off until the final moments.

The Clippers got two strikes apiece from senior Tess Merrill and freshman Lilly Watson and improved to 5-6-4, ending the Raiders’ year at 7-7-1 and advancing to a quarterfinal round showdown at nemesis and two-time defending state champion Falmouth Tuesday.

“Scoring goals has not been easy, but the girls have stayed positive and have worked hard,” said Yarmouth coach Rich Smith. “They finished up tonight. It was nice to get a lead at home with the rain coming in. It was good to get a couple early goals.”

Early dominance

Yarmouth has held its own this fall against traditional rivals and powerhouses Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Greely and York, but the Clippers got off to a 2-5-4 start, scoring just eight goals in the process. A 1-0 home win over Fryeburg got things going in the right direction and despite a 2-1 home loss to Greely in the penultimate game of the regular season, Yarmouth led much of the way, which set the stage for the breakthrough contest, a 2-0 home win over traditional power York, in the finale. The Clippers earned the No. 7 seed for the playoffs.

Oak Hill started the season 3-0 and was 6-3 at one point before settling for a 7-6-1 regular season record, good for the No. 10 seed in Western B.

The teams don’t play in the regular season and had no prior playoff history.

Friday, Yarmouth wasted little time making some, taking command from the get go, but was initially frustrated as senior Julie Kameisha shot just high in the box, Merrill hit the post and a floater from senior Olivia Conrad was bobbled by Oak Hill junior goalkeeper Kelsey Collins, leaving senior Megan Decker with a rebound opportunity, but Decker’s shot was wide.

Then, with 26:38 to go before halftime, the Clippers struck as freshman Eavan O’Neill’s cross was one-timed home by Watson (with her left foot) for a 1-0 lead.

It took less than five minutes for Yarmouth to double its lead as Merrill took a pass from junior Alexa Sullivan and broke in alone on Collins. Merrill beat the goalie and with 21:43 left in the half, the Clippers were up, 2-0.

“(The goals are) finally happening,” Merrill said. “An early lead was important. The first five minutes is the most important part of the game.”

Goal number three nearly came in the 21st minute, but Sullivan’s shot was denied by Collins, with a fingertip save.

With 13:41 remaining in the half, Watson finished a cross from Merrill and Yarmouth was in command, up, 3-0.

Merrill nearly made it 4-0 with 6 minutes to go in the half, but her shot hit the post.

The final goal came with 36:05 to play, when Kameisha sent a floater on goal and after a save, Merrill was there to bang home the rebound.

The Clippers ran out the clock from there and advanced, 4-0.

“We executed,” Merrill said. “Once you score, you can’t let down.”

“It’s really exciting,” Watson said. “Our team has so much potential. Our record hasn’t shown how well we can play. We’re turning it on for playoffs. The win against York pushed us. We’re riding that wave.”

Here we go again

Yarmouth has been ousted by Falmouth in each of the past two postseasons, 1-0, as the higher seed in the 2010 semifinals, and 3-0 at the Yachtsmen last fall. Falmouth went on to win Class B each of those seasons.

In the regular season, the Clippers battled visiting Falmouth to a 0-0 tie, then lost at the Yachtsmen, 3-1. Falmouth has won five of the previous six postseason encounters, but Yarmouth likes its chances going in.

“It’s good to be the underdog,” Merrill said. “We’ve lost to them last year and the year before. That will get us pumped up even more.”

“We all really want it,” Watson said. “I think we have a really good chance.”

“We’ve played some really good teams tough,” Smith added. “The girls have done a good job sticking together through tough losses. We’ve been in every single game. I thought it would be a matter of time before we scored goals and we’re doing that now. If we can put the ball on goal and find a corner and score early, it would improve our chances and give us a shot.”

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

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