Falmouth sophomore Lexie Bugbee, center is congratulated by junior Kelly Yoon, left, and sophomore Maggie O’Brien after scoring the go-ahead goal in the Yachtsmen’s 2-1 win over Thornton Academy in Saturday afternoon’s Class A South preliminary round playoff game. The Yachtsmen go to Cheverus in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

Joel Page / Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—Falmouth’s sixth-ranked girls’ soccer team has been terrific defensively all season and now that the offense has come around, the Yachtsmen are going to be a very difficult team to knock out of the Class A South playoffs.

Thornton Academy (ranked 11th) had an opportunity to do so Saturday afternoon at Falmouth’s turf field in a preliminary round playoff contest, but the Yachtsmen grabbed a lead, gave it back, refused to buckle, then made a pair of huge plays late to make the difference.

After freshman Natalie Howard scored off a corner kick in the 27th minute for a 1-0 Falmouth lead, the Golden Trojans drew even in the 29th minute, when senior Hannah Niles finished.

The score remained tied until 12:11 remained, when Yachtsmen sophomore Lexie Bugbee, who saves her best for Thornton Academy, scored to put Falmouth on top to stay.

After Yachtsmen freshman goalkeeper Jordan Wolf made a highlight reel save, the defense slammed the door and Falmouth prevailed, 2-1.

The Yachtsmen improved to 9-3-3, ended the Golden Trojans’ season at 7-8 and advanced to visit No. 3 Cheverus (12-2) in the Class A South quarterfinals Wednesday at 3 p.m.

“I’m so happy for the girls,” said Falmouth coach Andrew Pelletier. “We’re so young. We’re probably way ahead of the rebuilding than we should be.”

A team to watch

Falmouth struggled putting the ball in the net early in the season and won just two of its first six games (losing two and tying two others), scoring a mere three goals in the process, but the Yachtsmen went 6-1-1 down the stretch (finding the net 20 times in that span) to earn the No. 6 seed in Class A South (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories).

Thornton Academy started 0-3, but remained competitive throughout and wound up 7-7, good for the No. 11 spot in the region.

The teams met Oct. 13 in Falmouth, where the Yachtsmen prevailed, 1-0, on Bugbee’s goal.

Prior to Saturday, the Golden Trojans had won both playoff meetings (see sidebar, below), by 1-0 margins in the 2013 Western A semifinals (in overtime) and the 2015 Western A preliminary round.

This time around, on a beautiful late-October afternoon (62 degrees at kickoff), Falmouth had the last laugh.

The game was billed as a contest between two teams who struggle to create offense, but both teams had good looks in the first half.

In the second minute, Thornton Academy got the ball into the Falmouth box before it was cleared from harm’s way.

After Niles had a shot blocked and senior Shannon Roche missed wide, The Yachtsmen’s first shot came with 34:31 to play, when Bugbee served the ball in on a corner kick and sophomore Devin Quinn headed it just over the crossbar.

After senior Madison Wolf’s shot was saved by Golden Trojans sophomore goalkeeper Grace Mears, Jordan Wolf denied junior Sara McCallum and Mears came out at the last moment to break up a chance by freshman Chelsea Gravier.

With 14:47 on the first half clock, Jordan Wolf had to leap to deny a left-footed bid from junior Alyanna Beaudoin.

Falmouth broke through on a set piece with 13:48 remaining in the half.

Bugbee served the ball in on a corner kick and after Thornton Academy failed to clear it, Howard banged it into the net for a 1-0 lead.

Back came the Golden Trojans, who drew even with 11:18 on the clock, when Niles stole the ball from a defender and fired a shot which Wolf couldn’t stop.

Late in the half, Niles missed wide and had a shot saved by Wolf and at the other end, Bugbee sent a shot high and Madison Wolf was taken down in the box with no call made, sending the game to the break deadlocked at 1-1.

In the first 40 minutes, Falmouth had a 5-0 advantage in corner kicks, while Thornton Academy held a 4-3 edge in shots. 

There would be little separation in the second half as well, but the Yachtsmen did what they had to do to prevail.

With 35:26 left in regulation, off a corner kick, sophomore Allie Cunningham got the ball from junior Kelly Yoon and missed just wide.

With 29:29 on the clock, a long free kick from Falmouth sophomore Izzy Dyer just missed finding the onrushing Madison Wolf.

At the other end, Niles missed just high, freshman Mia-Claire Kezal had a shot saved by Jordan Wolf, sophomore Kylie Bedard sent a shot wide, Niles took a long free kick which Wolf saved and with 17:56 remaining, Wolf dove to deny a low blast off the foot of Beaudoin.

Falmouth then went back on the attack and with 12:11 to go, the ball came to Bugbee about 25 yards out. Bugbee turned, shot and after the ball initially appeared to be sailing high, it dipped, just got over the outstretched fingertips of Mears and tickled the twine for a 2-1 lead.

Bugbee, who had the game winner against the Golden Trojans in the regular season, also had a winning goal against them last year in Saco.

“(Thornton Academy is) just my lucky team (to play against), I guess,” Bugbee said. “I’ve been in the right place at the right time. Andrew tells me to shoot and I don’t shoot as much as he wants me to, but that just worked. I just sent it on goal. I thought it was going over and I was saying, ‘Please get down!’ It felt good.”

“Our forwards were really strong all game and our defense was good about getting the ball to the forwards, so I was confident we’d score,” Jordan Wolf said.

“Lexie has scored game-winners in the last three times we’ve played (Thornton Academy),” added Pelletier. “She’s never played midfield in her life, but she’s stepped into her role. She’s filled the void of Sarah Wuesthoff very nicely.”

As was the case in the first half, Thornton Academy looked to quickly answer and appeared primed to do so with 10:39 to go, as Niles ripped a promising 30-yard rocket, but Wolf leaped and punched the ball over the crossbar.

“It was a reaction save,” Wolf said. “It was also helpful she was far out, so it was lofted over.”

“Jordan’s really stepped up this season,” said Bugbee. “She does so much for us.”

“I don’t want to jinx it, but I really think Jordan is one of the best keepers around,” added Pelletier. “She’s very poised, she has great feet and she makes saves. She’s won some games for us for sure.”

Down the stretch, the Golden Trojans had three corner kick opportunities, but couldn’t finish.

“(On corner kicks) I keep an eye on the people in front of me mostly and (senior) Sydney (Williams) was helpful staying on the 6 and clearing,” Wolf said.

Wolf then saved a shot by senior Samantha Twombly and Niles and sophomore Hazel Stoddard missed wide.

Falmouth’s defense didn’t allow another chance and the Yachtsmen were able to hold on and celebrate their 2-1 victory.

“I think the momentum we’ve gained with the wins we’ve gotten has given us momentum and helped us a lot,” Bugbee said. “We lacked confidence last year, but we’ve improved so much and everyone wants it so bad. We’ve been tied several times this season, so we know how to deal with it.” 

“We played last weekend and it was the same type game and we came out, 1-0, but I thought we were better than last week and they were better than last week too,” Pelletier added. “They’re not your typical 11 seed.”

Thornton Academy finished with 10 shots to Falmouth’s eight, but Wolf had nine saves to Mears’ six.

“I had some pressure on me being a freshman playing in a playoff game, but the team is really supportive,” Wolf said. “We shook that goal off quickly. My defense helps me bounce back. Everyone works hard. We have the urge to win.”

The Yachtsmen had a 8-5 edge in corner kicks.

A trip to Cheverus

Falmouth battled Cheverus for 80 minutes on Sept. 15, but the Stags scored a pair of second half goals to prevail.

The Yachtsmen took the lone prior playoff meeting, 1-0, in the 2014 Western A preliminary round.

Falmouth likes its underdog status and likes its chances Wednesday.

“We just have to work hard again and keep in mind that everything is on the line,” said Jordan Wolf.

“I think we have to keep our confidence and keep working hard,” Bugbee said. “Everyone wants it so bad. We just need that fire in our stomachs and we can do it.”

“We’ve lost one game in our last 10 and I don’t think people realize it,” Pelletier added. “Our games aren’t always clean, but Jordan and our backs, I wouldn’t trade them for anybody. We’ll give them a much better game than the first time. We weren’t good at all. We’ll go over there and give it our best.”

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

Falmouth senior Madison Wolf plays the ball as Thornton Academy freshman Lily LeBlanc defends.

Falmouth junior Aimee Muscadin and Thornton Academy senior Shannon Roche keep their eyes on the ball.

Thornton Academy junior Alyanna Beaudoin prepares to shoot as Falmouth sophomore C.C. Cohen defends.

Falmouth sophomore Lexie Bugbee gives the ball a ride.

Previous Falmouth stories

Season Preview

Scarborough 1 Falmouth 0

Cheverus 2 Falmouth 0

Previous Thornton Academy story

Cheverus 2 Thornton Academy 1

Previous Falmouth-Thornton Academy playoff results

2015 Western A prelim
Thornton Academy 1 Falmouth 0

2013 Western A semifinal
Thornton Academy 1 Falmouth 0 (2 OT)