Yarmouth's still perfect…barely; Clippers edge Cape to punch state game ticket

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Yarmouth sophomore Ehryn Groothoff, left, is congratulated by classmate Ella Caruso after scoring the lone goal in the second half of the Clippers’ 1-0 home win over Cape Elizabeth in Thursday’s Class B South Final. Yarmouth stayed undefeated and will look for a second straight Gold Ball Saturday afternoon when it meets Presque Isle.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

YARMOUTH—Six weeks ago, Yarmouth’s girls’ soccer team crushed rival Cape Elizabeth by seven goals.

Thursday evening, in the Class B South Final, the Clippers found the going much, much tougher against the Capers.

But Yarmouth is the defending state champion for a reason and after digging deep, it earned the opportunity to play for another Gold Ball.

The seventh-ranked Capers, riding the momentum from a surprising playoff run, gave the top-seeded Clippers everything they could handle in an even first half, which saw just seven total shots on frame and no goals scored.

Yarmouth came out hot in the second half, but couldn’t finish and Cape Elizabeth had its chances to seize the lead and perhaps go on to an upset, but with 18:21 to play, the Clippers benefited from a fortuitous bounce to score the game’s lone goal.

After senior Sophia Harpool sent the ball into the box, sophomore Ehryn Groothoff had a shot blocked, but Groothoff got it back and buried the rebound for a 1-0 lead.

Yarmouth’s defense and senior goalkeeper Meredith Lane did the rest and after the Clippers avoided some harrowing free kicks from Capers sophomore standout Prezli Piscopo, they prevailed, 1-0.

Yarmouth won the region for the second year in a row, improved to 17-0, extended its two-year win streak to 22, ended Cape Elizabeth’s season at 11-7 and in the process, advanced to meet Northern B champion Presque Isle (14-3) in the Class B state final Saturday at 5:30 p.m., at Deering High School in Portland.

“I knew we’d be in for a fight, but we got through it,” said Clippers coach Chris Coleman. “It wasn’t the best first half, but we looked more comfortable in the second half and did enough to deserve the 1-nil win. Just enough.”

Coronation, part one

After a 13-year wait, Yarmouth won an elusive Class B Gold Ball last fall. The Clippers then lost several key contributors to graduation and coach Josh Thornton left to take a job at Bates College.

The 2017 edition hasn’t missed a beat, however, putting together the most dominating regular season in program history, outscoring the opposition, 80-4, in going 14-0 (see sidebar, below, for previous game stories). Yarmouth won 13 of its games by at least two goals and 11 times scored four goals or more.

As the top seed in Class B South, the Clippers found the going much tougher in the playoffs, scoring just once in eliminating eighth-ranked Wells in the quarterfinals, then getting pushed for 80 minutes before ousting No. 4 York, 2-0, in Saturday’s semifinal round.

Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, opened with a loss at Freeport, won five straight, then lost four in a row to sit .500 after 10 games. The Capers won three of their final four and as the No. 7 seed, peaked for the postseason.

After eliminating 10th-ranked Gray-New Gloucester, 3-1, in the preliminary round, Cape Elizabeth, after three days of rainouts, had its way at No. 2 Oak Hill, 6-0. Tuesday, after yet another postponement, the Capers went to third-ranked Greely and in a thriller, edged the Rangers, 3-2, behind Piscopo’s three goals (see sidebar, below, for previous game stories).

The teams played two very different games in the regular season. On Sept. 22, host Yarmouth scored five first half goals en route to a 7-0 romp. The rivals then met again Oct. 14 in Cape Elizabeth where the Capers became the only team in the regular season to hold the Clippers to one goal, but it held up.

Heading into play Thursday, Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth had met just twice in the playoffs. In the 2014 Western B semifinals, the Capers prevailed, 1-0. Last year, again in the semifinals, the Clippers won, 3-1.

While virtually everyone else in the state played their regional final Wednesday, Cape Elizabeth’s many postponements allowed it an extra day of rest and the teams took the field with all eyes on them.

Thursday evening was chilly (57-degrees at kickoff at it dropped from there) and it took the prolific Clippers awhile to get things going.

First half chances were infrequent for both teams. 

In the fourth minute, Prezli had the game’s first shot, but missed wide.

A minute later, at the other end, Yarmouth senior Hannah Merrill had a left-footed shot saved by Capers sophomore goalkeeper Lilia Membrino.

After Lane made a save on a Piscopo shot from the side, Piscopo took a free kick from about 30-yards out, the same distance she scored her first goal against Greely Tuesday, but this one, she sent high.

After Merrill missed wide and senior standout Sara D’Appolonia did the same, Cape Elizabeth earned a corner kick with 23 minutes left before the break and Piscopo’s serve drifted just wide of the back post.

After Piscopo missed just high on a long free kick, the Clippers went on the attack and senior Hannah Corey set up sophomore Ashlyn Feeley for a chip which Membrino saved.

After Yarmouth junior Olivia Feeley just missed high on a 35-yard free kick, Piscopo took a pass from sophomore Karli Chapin and raced down the right flank before shooting on target, only to have Lane make the stop.

The Clippers then earned their lone corner kick of the half and Groothoff got her head on the ball, but Membrino made the stop.

Late in the half, the Capers tilted the field, but Lane sprawled to deny Piscopo, a rush from junior Tory McGrath was broken up in the box and a last-minute corner resulted in a shot by Piscopo which Lane denied, sending the game to break still scoreless.

In the first 40 minutes, Cape Elizabeth had a 4-3 advantage in shots on frame and a 2-1 edge in corners. Lane made four saves, while Membrino stopped three shots. 

The second half would see both squads continue to be frustrated, before Yarmouth got the one break it needed to survive and advance.

The Clippers came out strong and earned three straight corner kicks, but couldn’t convert, as they only managed one shot, a bid from Corey, which went wide.

With 33:25 to go, Piscopo nearly broke free, but Harpool broke up her rush at the last second and while that led to a corner kick, Piscopo’s serve bounced through the box untouched.

After Piscopo shot wide, then had a shot blocked, Chapin had a rush broken up and a corner kick was headed over the bar by McGrath.

Yarmouth then returned to the attack and after D’Appolonia set up freshman Parker Harnett for a shot which bounced off the top of the crossbar, Corey had a shot saved, Olivia Feeley’s free kick was denied, senior Ellie Purgavie shot high and Membrino robbed D’Appolonia with a highlight reel diving save, the hosts finally found the net.

With 18:21 on the clock, Harpool played the ball in to Groothoff, who attempted a shot only to have it blocked. Groothoff stayed with it, however, got the ball back and with some room in front, fired it past Membrino and into the net for a 1-0 lead.

“I had the rebound and the ball came back to me,” Groothoff said. “We’ve been practicing finishing and I knew I really had to finish. It felt good when the ball went in.”

“We had a good talk at halftime and we knew we had to come together as a team and we did,” Harpool said. “I saw Ehryn open. I played it to her. She always finishes. She’s a good player.”

“(Ehryn) has an unbelievable soccer IQ,” D’Appolonia said. “She listens well, learns quickly and it’s been awesome playing with her. She found the net and that was awesome. That got the adrenaline going.”

“I don’t know of any pretty goals in playoffs,” Coleman added. “Ehryn has come a long way. It was great to see her fight in the penalty box. We needed her desire. She was in the right place at the right time and finished.”

Piscopo nearly answered 21 seconds later on a rush, but she shot wide.

“Prezli is a superstar,” Capers coach Craig Fannan said. “She’s so laid back about it. In games like this, she shows everybody how good she is. I’m sure next year, you’ll see her fired up and scoring even more goals.”

With 11:02 to go, D’Appolonia nearly doubled the lead with a 35-yard rocket, but Membrino got her fingertips on the ball to send it out for a corner kick, which resulted in nothing. 

With 6:15 left, Piscopo sent a 40-yard free kick on frame, but Lane made the save.

With 2 minutes remaining, Piscopo took a free kick from just inside the midfield stripe, but it was headed out by a defender back to Piscopo, who shot again, only to have Lane make the save.

Piscopo got one final chance with 22.5 seconds to go, but her long free kick was headed out and Yarmouth was able to run out the clock and celebrate its 1-0 victory.

“It feels amazing, especially as a senior,” Harpool said. “We’ve worked for this all season. We came in with a lot of intensity because we knew Cape would come in with emotion and it feels great. We just had to want it more.”

“We expected to have to fight really hard today,” Groothoff said. “They’ve definitely gotten better over the course of the season. Sometimes we get in our own heads, we worry too much. We just had to play our own game. At halftime, we talked and realized we were getting frustrated. We talked about what we could do better and we picked each other up. We had to keep fighting after the goal. It wasn’t easy, but we pulled it out. Everybody picks each other up. We have seniors, but everyone is a leader.”

“We’re finding a way, but it’s a little scary,” D’Appolonia said. “This is third game in a row we haven’t been up in the first half. Chris has great motivational halftime speeches and we picked each other up and played for each other. They had Prezli missing when we beat them 7-0, but they’ve come together. They played a really good game tonight.”

“We changed our shape for the second half,” Coleman added. “It provided a little more balance in all areas of the field. From there, we defended smarter and when we connected through the thirds, we were more dangerous going forward.”

The Clippers finished with 12 shots on frame to just six for the Capers. Yarmouth had a 6-4 advantage in corner kicks, Lane made six saves and the Clippers were able to shut down a potent offense.

“We’ve tried a new formation in the back, which is a little nerve-wracking, but I’m confident in our back line and we pulled it off,” Harpool said.

“We defended extremely well,” said Coleman. “We were clumsy in tackles and gave them too many direct kicks. That was us being anxious and wanting the ball. Hopefully we won’t have too many of those Saturday.” 

See you in 2018

Cape Elizabeth got nine saves from Membrino, but couldn’t get the ball in the net as a valiant effort fell just short.

“We went out on a high,” Fannan said. “The girls are upset at losing, but we won’t come off saying, ‘What if.’ We played a good game, but unfortunately the bounces weren’t with us today. The important thing for us was to not give them anything easy. We made them work for it. They didn’t get anything clean. (Sara) was pretty quiet. They stuck a goal off a rebound. That was an unfortunate bounce for us. We didn’t get anything clean on goal, but we had shots. Meredith has improved a lot.

“That 7-0 loss was a real eye-opener for us. It definitely made us re-evaluate things. We proved ourselves. It’s a great group of girls with a lot of heart. Hopefully we gave a spectacle for the fans today. It all came together. Our end product wasn’t far away from taking it even further.”

Coleman paid tribute to how far the Capers came this fall.

“Craig’s done a fantastic job with them,” Coleman said. “You can’t write him off or any team he coaches, whether it’s high school or premier. He’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”

Cape Elizabeth graduates seven seniors, but returns a lot of talent as well and could be viewed as the favorite when the 2018 season dawns.

“Good teams keep getting better and we have to improve as well,” Fannan said. “The juniors will be as hungry as ever next year. We’ve proved we can play with anybody and with what we’ll pick up and with what other teams graduate, next year could be the one.”

Coronation, part two?

Yarmouth, meanwhile, will take part in its fifth-ever Class B state final and will seek its fourth championship Saturday against a Presque Isle squad the Clippers have never faced.

Yarmouth plans to go in confident, play its game and hope it’s enough to culminate in another championship celebration.

“We just have to play the Yarmouth way,” Groothoff said.

“We have to continue to play our game, play with heart and just go for it,” Harpool said.

“It’s weird to think it’s my last high school season,” D’Appolonia said. “I ran out there in tears tonight. Going to states again means a lot. We just have to play Yarmouth girls’ soccer. If we do, they won’t stop us. I’m excited. We’re hungry. If we come out wanting it more, there’s no question we’ll get the Gold Ball.”

“I don’t know a thing (about Presque Isle),” Coleman added. “I don’t even know where they are on a map, but they’ve achieved a lot and have scored some goals. We won’t write them off. We’ll come out swinging.”

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

Yarmouth freshman Parker Harnett plays the ball as Cape Elizabeth junior Grace Gillian defends.

Cape Elizabeth junior Tory McGrath tries to recover as Yarmouth sophomore Ehryn Groothoff chases the ball.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore goalkeeper Lilia Membrino leaps to catch the ball in front of Yarmouth freshman Parker Harnett as Capers senior Bridget Brett looks on.

Cape Elizabeth senior Sarah Knupp gets her head on the ball.

Yarmouth senior Sara D’Appolonia and Cape Elizabeth junior Tory McGrath chase after the ball.

Yarmouth junior Olivia Feeley plays the ball away from Cape Elizabeth senior Sarah Knupp.

Yarmouth sophomore Ashlyn Feeley heads the ball away from Cape Elizabeth sophomore Karli Chapin.

Yarmouth sophomore Ehryn Groothoff (28) is hugged by freshman Parker Harnett after scoring with 18 minutes to play.

Cape Elizabeth coach Craig Fannan, along with senior captain Bridget Brett and junior captain Tory McGrath, receives the runner-up trophy.

Yarmouth senior captains Sara D’Appolonia, left, and Hannah Corey show off the regional championship plaque.

Previous Yarmouth stories

Season Preview

Yarmouth 4 Greely 0

Yarmouth 6 Greely 1 

Yarmouth 7 Cape Elizabeth 0

Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 0

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Previous Cape Elizabeth stories

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Previous Yarmouth-Cape Elizabeth playoff results

2016 Class B South semifinals
Yarmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 1

2014 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 1 Yarmouth 0

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