FREEPORT – It’s no secret that the midfield will be a strong point this season for the Cape Elizabeth girls’ soccer team. But here’s a tip for opponents: Keep an eye on the backs, particularly on set pieces.
Left back Elise Flathers had a goal and three assists Saturday to lead Cape Elizabeth to a 5-0 victory over Freeport in a Western Maine Conference opener.
Kickoff was in question moments before its 3:30 p.m. scheduled start, as a crew scrambled to firm up a 3-by-3-foot circle of soft dirt near midfield. Earlier in the day, workers replaced a leaking sprinkler head beneath the surface of the field, which was already soft from heavy rain last week.
Officials deemed the field suitable, the game began, and the Capers’ back line stepped up.
“We’ve been trying to get the girls confident that they can join the attack,” said Craig Fannan, Cape Elizabeth’s first-year coach. “The old belief that defenders have to stop at the halfway line is long gone.”
After Kathryn Clark’s strike opened the scoring about 12 minutes in, the Capers started to settle into a rhythm.
“We have six girls who can play midfield,” Fannan said. “We want to come out strong but have bodies behind the ball. We want to possess it, find our forwards’ feet, then it’s a go to the goal.”
With an eye on the Capers’ strong foot skills, Freeport came in hoping to defend with patience. But the skills of Cape’s midfielders — particularly Lizzy Raftice, Addie Wood and Katherine Briggs — shone through.
“When we were playing well, we were patient,” said Freeport Coach Elayna Girardin. “When we started to dive in, they stepped around us and that got us into trouble.”
Flathers made it 2-0 with the first goal of her varsity career. Her 40-yard shot dropped under the crossbar and eluded the grasp of Freeport keeper Livvy Dimick (10 saves).
“We started slow but we recovered when subs came in,” Flathers said. “(Freeport) has a few girls who are good on the fast break but we were able to step up and stop it. And we started passing a lot better.”
Most everything got better for Cape Elizabeth in the second half. About 17 minutes in, center back Phoebe Shields got her head on a Flathers corner kick for her first varsity goal.
“I noticed some of the balls were going closer to the near post,” Shields said, “so I got in there and it went off the top of my head, skimmed it.”
“We’ve been telling Phoebe that the center back is the hardest one to track (on corners),” Fannan said. “She’s going to be huge for us this season. She’s fierce.”
Kate Breed converted a free kick by Flathers and Kristen Rudburg made 5-0 with three minutes left.
Ashley Richardson gave Freeport its best chances on goal, racing behind Cape’s back line. That’s when Cape goalie Mary Perkins (four saves) stood tall.
“We had a few errors; they were just little mistakes, and (Cape) capitalized on them,” Girardin said. “But they’re fixable things and we’ll work on them.”