The Thornton Academy and Falmouth High girls’ soccer teams may have to make some slight adjustments in their approach for today’s tournament games.

For the second time this season, second-seeded Thornton Academy will play on artificial turf when it travels to play top-seeded Scarborough for the Western Class A championship.

After playing all of its home games on its new turf field for the past month, fourth-seeded Falmouth will play on natural grass when it plays at No. 2 York for the Western Class B title.

As part of its preparation for the unbeaten Red Storm, Thornton Academy, the defending regional champion, practiced indoors Monday on the artificial surface at the Sports Zone in Saco.

“We just kind of looked to speed up the play,” Coach Chris Kohl said. “Get the kids to put the ball on the ground and get some touches. We tried to get them to make quick decisions.”

Falmouth did exactly the opposite. The Yachtsmen spent their last two practices on the natural grass field behind the school.

“For us, we’ve probably practiced and played on grass surfaces more than we have on artificial surfaces this season,” Coach Jon Meek said.

“Our turf field wasn’t quite ready when the season started, so we played most of our early games on the road, mostly on grass surfaces.”

Coaches of the home teams in the Western Class A and B finals aren’t sure that their players’ knowledge of the playing surface constitutes much of an advantage.

“The field is less of an issue,” Scarborough Coach Mike Farley said.

“It will be more about the level of the talent on the field.”

At Scarborough, the artificial surface could be a boon to both teams.

“The bounces are truer and the surface is flatter,” Farley said. “It allows players to have more time on the ball, as opposed to a natural surface where players are trying to get control of the ball while under pressure.”

Kohl said it won’t take long for his players to adjust.

“A lot of our kids play premier soccer, and they’ve played on turf,” he said.

“Once they get past the first 10, 15 minutes, the kids will be all right.”

Two weeks ago, Scarborough ended the regular season with a 1-0 victory against Thornton Academy on its turf field.

At York, the narrow width of the field may be more of an advantage to the defending state champion Wildcats than the fact the game is being played on natural turf.

The Wildcats haven’t lost at home since Falmouth came away with a 1-0 victory in the 2008 regional final.

“It’s a little bit tighter and the players aren’t going to have as much time,” York Coach Wally Caldwell said.

The soccer field at York is 63 yards wide, just 3 yards more than the minimum width allowed by the Maine Principals’ Association for tournament play.

“We work on restricted space, regardless of where we can play.” Meek said. “We practice in tight spaces throughout the course of the season just to stay sharp. Good players can play where they have time and space, and great players can play where they don’t have much space.”

Caldwell said his team plays the same style no matter where it plays.

“We’re a possession-oriented team,” he said. “We try to maintain possession, move the ball from side to side and play darn good defense.”

During the regular season, York beat Falmouth twice in less than a week.

On Sept. 29, the Wildcats earned a 1-0 victory against the Yachtsmen at York. On Oct. 5, York recorded a 2-1 victory against Falmouth at Falmouth.

To get to today’s regional final, the Yachtsmen pulled off a 1-0 upset of top-seeded Yarmouth in a semifinal Saturday night.

“I wasn’t totally surprised that Famouth beat Yarmouth,” Caldwell said.

“They’re a great team and they have some fantastic athletes.”


Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]