Yarmouth junior Sara D’Appolonia, left, is congratulated by sophomore Olivia Feeley (19) and senior Cory Langenbach after scoring the first goal of the Clippers’ 4-1 victory at Falmouth Thursday night.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—Stopping Katie Clemmer or Sara D’Appolonia individually is hard enough.

Trying to hold them both at bay when they’re threatening up top is darn near impossible.

Falmouth learned that lesson Thursday night when it hosted longtime rival Yarmouth in an early season girls’ soccer showdown, where the Yachtsmen hung with the Clippers for a half, but couldn’t stop the onslaught the final 40 minutes.

D’Appolonia, the junior playmaker extraordinaire, opened the scoring in the 15th minute after getting set up by sophomore Olivia Feeley, but the hosts drew even with 14:03 to play in the first half, when a blast from sophomore Madison Wolf got through the hands of Yarmouth junior goalkeeper Meredith Lane.

Clemmer, the senior standout, then gave her team the lead for good with 36:53 to play, somehow winning the ball from a defender before finishing.

Three minutes later, D’Appolonia struck again after taking a nice lead pass from senior Cory Langenbach.

Then, with 8:35 left, D’Appolonia’s corner kick found the foot of junior Callie Decker, who finished to complete the impressive attack and the Clippers prevailed, 4-1.

Yarmouth enjoyed its biggest win over Falmouth in a dozen years, improved to 3-0-1 on the season and dropped the Yachtsmen to 1-3 in the process.

“We have some weapons up top,” said Clippers first-year coach Josh Thornton. “We’re very lucky to have the two best forwards in the state. They move and play well together and we only need one opportunity.”

New era

Falmouth and Yarmouth’s rivalry dates to the start of the Yachtsmen’s varsity program in 1990 and until this year, there was one constant, the coach on Yarmouth’s sideline, Rich Smith. Smith stepped down after last season, however and was replaced by Thornton, the erstwhile NYA girls’ coach, who has gotten the Clippers off to a fast start.

Yarmouth opened with a decisive 5-1 win at Cape Elizabeth, then, after a 1-1 home draw against York, the Clippers blanked host Lake Region, 4-0.

Falmouth’s season began with a controversial 3-2 overtime home loss to defending Class B champion Greely. After a 3-1 home victory over Cape Elizabeth, the Yachtsmen lost at home to York Tuesday, 2-0.

For most of the 21st Century, Falmouth has had the edge in the rivalry. Entering Saturday’s game, since 2001, the Yachtsmen enjoyed a 15-4 advantage with eight other games ending in ties (see sidebar, below)

Last fall, the teams played to a 1-1 draw in Yarmouth before Falmouth eked out a 1-0 victory at home in the regular season finale.

Thursday, on the first chilly night of the fall sports season, the Clippers, led by a pair of fantastic finishers, continued to live up to their preseason hype.

Yarmouth was denied on its first few chances, as a long shot from Langenbach was saved by Yachtsmen senior goalkeeper Adelaide Cooke, D’Appolonia’s first bid was also saved and a shot off a corner kick from junior Sophia Harpool sailed high.

With 25:08 to go in the half, the Clippers got another chance and this time, they finished.

Feeley won possession and fed D’Appolonia on the left side of the box, D’Appolonia took a touch, then fired just inside the near post as Cooke’s dive came up short and Yarmouth had a 1-0 lead.

“I tried to create some space for myself,” D’Appolonia said. “Olivia played a beautiful ball. She’s such a key player for this team.”

The Clippers were carrying play, but the hosts suddenly drew even with 14:03 remaining before halftime.

Falmouth senior Lucy Mahoney got the ball to Wolf, who rifled on a shot on target from about 25 yards away. Lane appeared primed to make the save, but she couldn’t hold on to the ball and it crossed the line to make it 1-1.

Late in the half, Cooke prevented D’Appolonia and later Clemmer from breaking in free and with a minute to go, Mahoney shot high to send the game to the half still deadlocked.

Yarmouth’s near-misses turned into goals in the second half.

After Clemmer was denied by Cooke just 35 seconds in, she got battled a defender for the ball in the box, somehow won it, then turned and buried a shot with her left foot to put the Clippers on top to stay, 2-1, with 36:53 remaining.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Clemmer said. “I was just trying to play it as quickly as I could. They crash (on defense) quickly, so I was trying to be fast. I thought the whole team did that really well.”

“Katie just finds her way,” said D’Appolonia. “I don’t know how. She’s got the mentality and I can always count on her to finish.”

It took all of 3 minutes, 10 seconds for Yarmouth to score again and firmly seize control of the game.

The third goal was set up by Langenbach, who played a perfect ball up the right side where D’Appolonia ran it down with a defender failing to keep up. This time, D’Appolonia fired a shot high and Cooke couldn’t make the save. The ball tickled the twine and the Clippers led, 3-1.

“I tried to half-volley it into the net and place the ball well,” D’Appolonia said. “It was a tough shot, but it was a good ball by Cory.”

After Lane stopped bids from Falmouth junior Lauren Wendland and senior Mia Cooney, Clippers junior back Hannah Corey made a big play, breaking up the rush of freshman Aimee Muscadin in the box.

Late in regulation, Langenbach and Clemmer both shot wide before Yarmouth earned a corner kick with 8:35 to go.

D’Appolonia served the ball perfectly in front and Decker buried the shot to stretch the lead to three.

“Callie just found her foot right on the ball,” said D’Appolonia. “That was an unbelievable finish. I don’t think anyone on the field saw that coming. She came out of nowhere. She’s a good player.”

The Clippers ran out the clock from there and celebrated their 4-1 victory, which was their largest margin in the series since a 3-0 home win over the Yachtsmen Oct. 14, 2004.

The Clemmer/D’Appolonia combination proved too much to handle.

“Sara and I have been switching back and forth and it’s really paid off,” Clemmer said. “Once we switched the formation, we found gaps in the corners and Sara and I could play even better. Every practice and every game we just seem to find each other.”

“Playing up top is different than playing in the midfield,” D’Appolonia said. “Katie and I read each other so well and create so many opportunities for each other and our teammates and we’re able to finish. We’re playing a bit of a different formation and it’s changed the dynamic of the team. Josh has a different coaching style than ‘Smitty’ did. Everyone has adapted nicely. He’s been a great addition to the team.”

“We made a little change in formation and credit to the girls, they work so hard,” Thornton added. “Their relentlessness is dangerous. We usually play Sara deeper, but they give defenders a lot of problems. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I came into a fantastic group and add to that a phenomenal freshman group. I don’t even need to coach.”

Falmouth coach Andrew Pelletier knew his team would have to play a flawless game Thursday and that wasn’t how it played out.

“In the first half, we did exactly what we wanted to do,” Pelletier said. “I expected them to change their shape in the second half. We just made silly mistakes. We made four mistakes and you literally have to play perfect soccer for 80 minutes to not give up a goal to Sara D’Appolonia in some way, shape or form. We went away from individually marking her. No doubt about it, they were the better team tonight. They’re the better team probably, but with four mistakes, you’ll never beat them.”

Challenges keep coming

Falmouth’s brutal season opening crucible continues Saturday when it travels to St. Dom’s. The Yachtsmen then have two tough tests next week, at Greely and Yarmouth.

“Now we’re battle tested,” Pelletier said. “Hopefully we’ll stay healthy and compete.” 

Before hosting Falmouth next Saturday, the Clippers play three times, hosting Gray-New Gloucester Saturday and Cape Elizabeth Tuesday and going to Kennebunk Thursday.

This team hopes to keep getting stronger and be primed for glory later in the season.

“We go into every game knowing we have to go in with the same intensity and I think we’ve done that,” Clemmer said. “We still need to improve some of the middie and forward movement.”

“Defensively, we still need a little work,” Thornton said. “Our forwards have to press smarter. It’s baby steps right now, but I’m proud of how the girls are playing.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Falmouth senior goalkeeper Adelaide Cooke beats Yarmouth senior Katie Clemmer to the ball as Falmouth sophomore Sydney Williams goes flying. Clemmer did score the go ahead goal early in the second half.

Falmouth junior Lauren Wendland battles her way past Yarmouth freshman Caroline Grant.

Falmouth sophomore Sydney Williams has the unenviable task of trying to slow Yarmouth junior Sara D’Appolonia, who scored twice and had an assist.

Yarmouth senior Katie Clemmer and Falmouth sophomore Delaney Goodell fight for the ball.

Falmouth senior Lucy Mahoney shields the ball from Yarmouth freshman Caroline Grant.

Yarmouth senior Ella Antolini kicks the ball away from Falmouth senior Mia Cooney.

Recent Falmouth-Yarmouth results

@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 1 (tie)
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0 

@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0

Falmouth 3 @ Yarmouth 1
@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)

@ Yarmouth 0 Falmouth 0 (tie)
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 1
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western B quarterfinals)

Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0 (OT)
Yarmouth 1 @ Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B quarterfinals)

@ Yarmouth 3 Falmouth 2
@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

Falmouth 2 @ Yarmouth 1 (OT)
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)

@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0

@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0
Falmouth 3 @ Yarmouth 0

@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 2 (tie)
Falmouth 2 @ Yarmouth 0 
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 1 (Western Class B Final)

@ Yarmouth 0 Falmouth 0 (tie)
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0 (2 OT)
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0 (OT) (Western Class B Final)

@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 1
@ Yarmouth 3 Falmouth 0

@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 1 (Western Class B semifinals)

Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 3
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 1 (Western Class B semifinals)

@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0 (2 OT)