Yarmouth’s girls’ soccer team celebrates at the final horn of Saturday’s 3-1 win over Cape Elizabeth in a Class B South semifinal. The Clippers will host Greely in the regional final Wednesday.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

YARMOUTH—The top seed got a challenge, but responded like the champion it hopes to become.

Saturday afternoon, in a Class B South semifinal, Yarmouth’s girls’ soccer team had to deal with the cold, rain and a spirited effort from underdog No. 4 Cape Elizabeth, but the Clippers met the challenge and earned their first trip to the regional final in nine seasons.

The Clippers controlled play most of the first half, dodged a bullet when Capers sophomore Prezli Piscopo sent a shot off the post, then went ahead, 1-0, in the 28th minute, when senior Katie Clemmer finished a feed from sophomore Olivia Feeley.

Cape Elizabeth remained confident, however, and just 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the second half, Piscopo set up senior Mariah Deschino for a gorgeous equalizer.

With the Capers seemingly having all the momentum, Yarmouth answered and the go-ahead goal came from a most unlikely source, freshman Caroline Grant, who rebounded her own shot off a corner kick for a 2-1 lead with 27:10 remaining.

A rebound tally from junior Sara D’Appolonia seven minutes later gave the Clippers some breathing room and they went on to a 3-1 victory.

Yarmouth improved to 14-1-1, ended Cape Elizabeth’s season at 8-6-2 and advanced to host No. 2 Greely (12-4), the defending state champion, Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Class B South Final.

“It was a character test,” said Clippers first-year coach Josh Thornton. “We knew Cape was better than the last two times we played. They’re well coached. They put a lot of pressure on us. We had to stay focused on the game. I’m delighted we came through with a win.” 

Chasing history

Yarmouth has been a perennial playoff team since winning the 2003 Class B state title, but has been vanquished by Falmouth and York on multiple occasions and by Cape Elizabeth and Greely once apiece.

Last fall, the Clippers played the Rangers closer than anyone in the postseason, but lost by a goal in the semifinals.

This season, Yarmouth was viewed as the favorite and hasn’t disappointed, winning a program best 12 games in a regular season, losing only at York and settling for a home tie versus the Wildcats. The Clippers’ 12 wins came by a composite 47-5 margin.

Yarmouth earned the top seed in the region for the first time since 2010 and handled No. 9 Gray-New Gloucester, 3-0, in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round.

Cape Elizabeth had some tough losses during a 7-5-2 regular season, but still wound up ranked fourth in Class B South. Wednesday, in the quarterfinals, the Capers ousted No. 5 Morse, 3-0.

The Clippers won the season opener, 5-1, at Cape Elizabeth Sept. 2, then blanked the visiting Capers, 3-0, Sept. 20.

Entering play Saturday, the teams had only met once in the playoffs, a 1-0 Cape Elizabeth victory in the 2014 semifinals.

This time around, on a chilly and raw day (44 degrees with a light rain at kickoff), the Clippers got the job done.

Yarmouth put a lot of pressure on Capers sophomore goalkeeper Alison Ingalls early, but she managed to deal with the shots and the weather conditions.

In the sixth minute, D’Appolonia skidded a 40 yard free kick on target. Ingalls bobbled the ball, but managed to make the save.

After Clemmer shot wide, Grant won the ball and played it ahead to D’Appolonia, who fired a low shot that Ingalls had to sprawl to save.

With 28:02 left in the first half, freshman Abi Hincks had a shot saved by Ingalls.

After a D’Appolonia rush was broken up in the box by Cape Elizabeth freshman Karli Chapin, D’Appolonia had a free kick saved. 

Grant sent a blast just wide of the far post, the Capers had a couple good looks.

With 22:32 remaining in the half, Deschino passed to Piscopo on the side, Piscopo got around a defender, then sent a shot wide of Yarmouth junior goalkeeper Meredith Lane, but the ball rang off the far post. 

Deschino then sent a shot just wide.

The Clippers returned to the attack and were eventually rewarded.

After Ingalls snared a Feeley corner kick, Clemmer shot wide.

Finally, with 12:33 to go in the half, Yarmouth broke through.

The play began innocently, as Feeley sent a long pass ahead toward Clemmer, who was blanketed by two defenders. Clemmer managed to turn on the jets and outrun them to the ball and with Ingalls coming out, she blasted a shot which the keeper touched with her right hand, but couldn’t stop and it rolled into the net for a 1-0 lead.

Late in the half, Yarmouth had a couple looks on a corner, but couldn’t finish, a 40-yard rocket by Feeley forced Ingalls to leap to make the save, a free kick from Capers sophomore Grace Gillian skidded through the box untouched and Ingalls punched away a corner kick.

Yarmouth had a 7-1 edge in shots, but six Ingalls shot kept Cape Elizabeth very much alive.

And 2:15 into the second half, the Capers drew even.

Piscopo got the ball to Deschino on the edge of the box, Deschino then made a move to get around a defender to her right for some room, then shot low to a diving Lane’s right and the ball got past the keeper and rolled into the net to tie it, 1-1.

The Clippers could have been fazed, but instead, dialed back up the offensive pressure.

With 35:12 to go, D’Appolonia had a great chance to put Yarmouth back ahead, when she got to senior Cory Langenbach’s free kick in the box, but she chipped her shot over the crossbar.

Five minutes later, Cape Elizabeth had its lone chance to go ahead, but Deschino’s header on a corner was easily saved by Lane.

With 27:35 left, a shot from the side by Feeley forced Ingalls to dive and save, but she couldn’t hold the ball and it went out for a corner kick.

Enter Grant.

On Langenbach’s ensuing serve, Grant headed the ball, but it was blocked by a defender. The ball was then knocked around in front before Grant touched it past Ingalls and inside the far post for a 2-1 lead with 27:10 to play.

“It was a great cross by Cory,” said Grant. “I found the ball with my head, then there was a scramble and I managed to get my foot on it. It was awesome. The seniors and the upperclassmen are so nice and supportive. They inspire me to work hard so I can get to where they are now.”

“Caroline has brought a different dimension to the team,” D’Appolonia said. “She has a lot of energy and I can count on her to be in the right place at the right time like she was on that goal. I could see the big smile on her face. She’d been waiting for that all season.” 

“Caroline has been phenomenal this year,” Thornton added. “She has been a solid player. She’s great in the air. She’s a fighter. She’s not afraid of physicality. To boot, she’s the nicest kid ever and wants to do well.”

After Clemmer missed just wide, the Capers got a corner kick, but couldn’t get a shot on goal.

With 21:13 remaining, Lane beat freshman Zoe Preble to Piscopo’s feed.

At the other end, Yarmouth struck again.

The goal came on a rebound, as Clemmer launched a shot which Ingalls stopped, but couldn’t save it and the ball sat free for D’Appolonia to race in and pound into the net for a 3-1 lead with 20:16 remaining.

“I got a nice rebound,” D’Appolonia said. “It’s unfortunate for the goalie, but I just followed up. Being up, 2-1, wasn’t comfortable.”

Down the stretch, Cape Elizabeth got a free kick from sophomore Riley Dall that was cleared by Clippers senior back Ella Antolini and Antolini broke up a rush by Piscopo.

Yarmouth then ran out the clock and celebrated its 3-1 victory.

“We were a little nervous after they scored, but it gave us a boost and we got fired up, then Caroline scored and we didn’t let up,” D’Appolonia said. 

The Clippers finished with a 12-4 advantage in shots on frame and took nine corner kicks to two for the Capers. Lane made three saves.

Look out next year

Cape Elizabeth got nine saves from Ingalls as its season came to a close despite a valiant effort.

“We had them on the ropes for awhile,” Capers coach Craig Fannan said. “We didn’t give them a game last time, so we wanted to come in and put them under pressure. We wanted to get them riled up and we did. We started to believe. It’s unfortunate that a set piece and a rebound did us in, not free-form football. We had some bad fortune, but we made them work for it.”

Despite a big roster turnover and a lot of youth, the Capers made great strides over the past two months.

“I have nothing but pride for our girls and what we’ve done this season,” Fannan said. “I don’t know if anyone expected this, myself included. They’ve been outstanding. To get to the semis was about right. If we had a little better fortune in the season, we might have been 2 or 3 and gotten Greely or York today. I’d have liked to have seen Yarmouth in the final instead.”

Cape Elizabeth graduates five seniors, led by Deschino.

“Mariah is a superstar and she has been since she came in as a freshman,” Fannan said. “She’s been a great captain for us. She demonstrates what we’re about as a team, hard work and staying positive. She had a great performance to finish up her high school career. I’ll look forward to seeing her play in college.”

The Capers will be a force to be reckoned with in 2017, as an abundance of players return who saw valuable minutes this fall.

“Next season looks bright,” Fannan said. “A lot of girls are more experienced now. I look forward to it already.”

One step away

Yarmouth won’t have an easy time of it Wednesday, but will be at home.

The Clippers swept the Rangers for the first time this fall, winning, 4-1, at Greely Oct. 1 and 1-0 at home in the finale Oct. 17, and are 0-1 all-time against the Rangers in the playoffs, a 2-1 setback in last year’s semifinals. 

Yarmouth is ready to punch the program’s first ticket to states since the 2003 squad won it all.

“We talk about staying composed and we’ve managed to do that,” Grant said. “I hope we can continue to do that. It’s been such a fun season and I’m so excited. It’s going to be awesome.”

“It’s incredible to get to a regional final,” D’Appolonia said. “We’ve worked so hard all season. I think we deserve it. We have so much talent and we work so hard. I think we just have to play our game and keep our composure. If we do that, I don’t think there’s anything that can stop us.”

“We’re trying to ignore the pressure of being the number one seed,” added Thornton. “We let the pressure be on the defending champion. We want to win it for the seniors, but I’m delighted with the season no matter what. We’ll take whatever we can get from now on. It’s huge to have homefield. It’s nice to be here. There are no distractions when we’re here. We take care of business. We’ll be excited to play.”

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

Yarmouth junior Sara D’Appolonia tries to get through Cape Elizabeth junior Catherine Morrisey, left, and sophomore Tory McGrath.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Prezli Piscopo plays the ball up the field as Yarmouth freshman Ella Caruso tries to keep pace.

Yarmouth senior Gretchen Barbera can’t quite reach the ball after Cape Elizabeth sophomore goalkeeper Alison Ingalls knocks away a corner kick.

Yarmouth sophomore Olivia Feeley eludes Cape Elizabeth senior Caroline Paclat.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Grace Gillian heads the ball away from Yarmouth junior Eva Then.

Yarmouth sophomore Olivia Feeley, junior Sara D’Appolonia and junior Eva Then form a defensive wall on a Cape Elizabeth free kick.

Yarmouth junior goalkeeper Meredith Lane dives in vain for Cape Elizabeth senior Mariah Deschino’s tying goal early in the second half.

Cape Elizabeth senior Mariah Deschino, center, is congratulated by sophomore Prezli Piscopo and senior Caroline Paclat after tying the game early in the second half. 

Yarmouth freshman Caroline Grant kicks the go-ahead goal past Cape Elizabeth sophomore goalkeeper Alison Ingalls.

Yarmouth freshman Caroline Grant is mobbed by her teammates after her rebound goal put the Clippers ahead to stay.

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