(Ed. Note: With high school sports currently on hiatus, please join me in a look back at some of the finest teams our coverage area has produced this century. To help us get through the summer, each week, I’ll present the top 10 teams from a different sport…four honorable mentions, then our “Super Six,” These rankings are put together with help from coaches and others, including a Twitter poll each week at twitter.com/foresports, but the final decision is mine. This week it’s girls’ soccer. Field hockey is on deck…)

Girls’ soccer players and teams have dazzled locally for decades and never was that fact more evident than in this exercise of trying to list the top 10 teams over the past two decades. There have been so many excellent squads and even those who made the cut could argue they should be ranked higher.

Here’s one writer’s stab at the finest teams we’ve seen over the past 20 years:

Honorable mentions (in chronological order)

North Yarmouth Academy Panthers, 17-0-1, 2004 Class C state champion

Caty von Brecht and her North Yarmouth Academy teammates soared above the competition and enjoyed an undefeated state championship season in 2004. File photos

The second of the Panthers’ five straight championship teams was the only one to wind up undefeated. NYA featured tremendous athletes up and down the field and they met every challenge en route to the title. The Panthers were led by Class C Player of the Year Caty von Brecht, regional all-stars Alex Mack (who would be named the Class C Player of the Year in both 2005 and 2006) and Molly Moss, underclassman Erin Lachance and goalkeeper Emily Staszak. NYA started strong and never looked back.

The Panthers first 10 games, all victories, saw them score 50 goals and surrender only five. After the only non-victory of the year, a 1-1 draw at rival Waynflete, NYA finished by downing Old Orchard Beach, St. Dom’s and Waynflete by a composite 14-1 margin to wind up 13-0-1, good for the No. 2 seed in Western Class C. The Panthers then made official what everyone suspected, that they were best Class C squad in the state.

In the quarterfinals, NYA got a scare from 10th-ranked Traip Academy, but prevailed, 3-1, behind a pair of von Brecht scores. Mt. Abram was up next in the semifinals and the Panthers pitched a 4-0 shutout, as Moss and von Brecht each scored two goals. NYA barely survived top-ranked Dirigo in the Western C Final, needing two overtimes to prevail, 3-2, on von Brecht’s second goal of the game (Meghan Meintel scored to force OT). The state game was a coronation as the Panthers had no trouble with George Stevens Academy, winning, 5-0, behind two goals from Mack and one apiece from Moss, Hannah Fuller and Kim Morse. A special team made its indelible mark 17 years ago and its memory lives on.

Coach Jeff Thoreck: “A number of players on this team played together in 2003 and gained a wealth of experience that carried forward. The chemistry was very special and that played a huge role in our success. The girls showed a lot of maturity. I think having a competitive schedule in the regular season was really beneficial. One nice part about this team is that we have different people who can score.”

Scarborough Red Storm, 16-1-1, 2012 Class A champion

The second and most recent of Scarborough’s two Class A champions ended their season on the ultimate high note. After a perfect championship season in 2010, the Red Storm lost to Bangor in the 2011 state final, but they would return to the pinnacle, although there were a couple of ties along the way.

Scarborough, boasting regional all-star Maria Philbrick, all-state talents Nicollette Caron and Cortney Hughes and player who had a flair for scoring dramatic goals, Sarah Martens, blanked its first six foes and won by at least three goals every time out in the process. After holding off visiting Deering, 2-1, the Red Storm lost, 1-0, at Thornton Academy, then settled for a 1-1 tie against Windham. Scarborough bounced back and shut out five straight foes to take a 12-1-1 record and the No. 3 seed into the Western A playoffs, where the fun was just beginning.

In the quarterfinals, the Red Storm eliminated Sanford, 3-1, as Martens scored twice and Jess Meader added a goal. Scarborough then avenged its regular season setback with a 3-0 win at Thornton Academy, as again, Martens had two goals and Ashley Ronzo added a goal and an assist. The Red Storm didn’t get a chance to avenge their tie versus Windham, as Cape Elizabeth upset the Eagles in the other semifinal, but Scarborough did get an opportunity to host Cape Elizabeth in the regional final and thanks to a goal from Martens (no surprise), it advanced, 1-0, to its third straight state game. Again, Bangor was the final foe and 80 minutes wouldn’t be enough to determine a champion. The Rams took the lead early in the second half, but Meader scored to tie it and after some late game heroics from Red Storm goalkeeper Sydney Martin, the contest would go to overtime. There, in the second extra session, Meader fed Martens for the biggest goal in program history (also Martens’ then-program-record 20th of the season) and Scarborough had a 2-1 victory and an unforgettable championship.

Coach Mike Farley: “Two years ago, it felt different. There was a lot of pressure on that team after losing four years in a row in the first round. This year, the team felt like they were good and mentally strong enough to win. They were mentally stronger than any team I’ve had. I just had the feeling they’d come up with something and they did. This is a tough group to lose. To lose this many superstars, it’s tough to survive.”

Greely Rangers, 16-2, 2015 Class B state champion

After so many close calls, these Rangers overcame a late-season slump and scored 20 goals in four postseason games to roar to an elusive championship.

Greely, which had lost to Cape Elizabeth in both the 2013 and 2014 regional finals, won its first 12 games, as all-state selections Izzy Hutnak and Jocelyn Mitiguy and a freshman named Anna DeWolfe paced a prolific offense, regional all-star Ellie Schad anchored the midfield and regional all-star Maggie Reed helped the Rangers’ defense shut down the opposition. Greely made an early statement with a 6-3 win over a Yarmouth team which would win state titles in 2016 and 2017. The Rangers also beat rival Falmouth twice and downed the nemesis Capers by scores of 1-0 and 4-1. Greely got a pair of wakeup calls late in the season, falling at both Yarmouth (2-1) and York (1-0), but the Rangers managed to earn the top seed for the Western B playoffs, where they would erupt and avenge both setbacks en route to the championship.

In the quarterfinals, Hutnak began her epic postseason with three goals in a 7-0 win over Lincoln Academy. The semifinal round versus Yarmouth was much more difficult, but Greely managed to advance, 2-1, as Schad and Hutnak scored to produce an early lead and the Rangers held on from there as goalkeeper Maddie Cyr made eight saves. Hutnak produced another hat trick in the regional final, in a 5-1 win over York. She also had an assist and DeWolfe and Schad scored the other goals, giving Greely its first regional title since 2004. The state game saw the Rangers dominate Hermon, 6-0, as Hutnak scored two more goals (giving her nine in the playoffs alone), Mitiguy added a pair and both Lily Black and Courtney Sullivan also found the net. Greely hadn’t just captured the Gold Ball. The Rangers did so in overwhelming fashion.

Coach Josh Muscadin: “The girls really wanted it. We wanted to take the monkey off our backs. The key part this year was the bonding. There was no nit-picking. They focused on being one. That was most important. It’s been fun. I wish you were there during training. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Yarmouth Clippers, 16-1-1, 2016 Class B champion

Yarmouth’s first championship team in 13 seasons ran roughshod over all foes but one and found that three goals was the charm in four straight postseason victories. The Clippers boasted all-New England star Sara D’Appolonia, the Class B Player of the Year, as well as All-State selections Katie Clemmer and Abby Condon and regional all-star Cory Langenbach. Yarmouth scored 61 goals and surrendered only a dozen.

After opening with an impressive 5-1 win at Cape Elizabeth, the Clippers settled for a 1-1 tie against York, but they would win their next 10 games, beating Falmouth twice and Cape Elizabeth and defending state champion Greely once apiece. Yarmouth stumbled at York, 3-1, in the penultimate game of the regular season, but closed with a 1-0 home victory over Greely (on Callie Decker’s goal) to wind up a program-best 12-1-1 and earn the top seed for the tournament, where the Clippers wouldn’t be denied in their quest for an overdue championship.

In the quarterfinals, Yarmouth dispatched Gray-New Gloucester, 3-0, as Gretchen Barbera scored twice and D’Appolonia added a goal. Cape Elizabeth posed a challenge in the semifinals, but the Clippers got a tie-breaking goal from freshman Caroline Grant early in the second half and Clemmer and D’Appolonia scored as well in a 3-1 victory. Greely (which knocked off Yarmouth’s nemesis York in the other semifinal) tried to defend its title in the regional final, but Yarmouth ended the Rangers’ reign, again by a 3-1 score, as Langenbach played the hero, scoring twice and assisting on Clemmer’s goal. Only Waterville stood in the way of the Clippers quest for the Gold Ball and the Purple Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the first half, but Yarmouth tied it in the 63rd minute on Clemmer’s goal, went ahead for good with 8:01 to play, when D’Appolonia (on her 17th birthday) finished, then clinched it 24 seconds later on another Clemmer goal. The Clippers prevailed, 3-1, and had their elusive crown. There would be even more greatness to come in 2017.

Coach Josh Thornton: “I wanted us to play as a team, not as individuals. When we play as a team, no one can touch us. I’m delighted with the girls. They bought in and did it and I couldn’t be more proud. The seniors were special.”

The Super Six

6) Falmouth Yachtsmen, 15-0-3, 2006 Class B champion

The only of Falmouth’s 11 state championship teams to finish undefeated, these Yachtsmen were in the midst of a 38-game unbeaten streak and consistently found a way to come up clutch in close contests. Falmouth had won the Class B title in 2005, Deb LeBel’s first season as coach, and wound wind up atop the pinnacle again, but not without a series of challenges. The 2006 Yachtsmen boasted New England all-star midfielder Olivia Rowse, all-state selection Carly Applebaum and all-region all-star Cara Kilroy on offense, and Rachel Bennett, an all-state goaltender.

Falmouth started the year with draws versus Yarmouth (2-2) and Cape Elizabeth (0-0), then ran off seven consecutive victories by a composite 32-4 margin, capped by a 2-0 win at Yarmouth. The Capers tied the Yachtsmen a second time, 1-1, but four consecutive victories to close the year, highlighted by a 2-0 home win over Greely (Kilroy and Lindsay Lanouette scored) and a 1-0 overtime victory over St. Dom’s (Sarah Bachman had the only goal) completed an 11-0-3 campaign and gave Falmouth the top seed for the Western B playoffs. In the postseason, the Yachtsmen allowed just one goal and went on to a repeat championship.

In the quarterfinals, Falmouth blanked Oak Hill, 3-0, behind goals from Applebaum, Taylor LaBrecque and Katy Vogt. York gave the Yachtsmen fits in the semifinals, but an early Applebaum goal was enough for a 1-0 victory. Yarmouth paid a visit in the regional final and after Falmouth went on top early on a Haley Jordan goal, the Clippers tied the score, but early in the second half, Sarah Girouard scored on a header off a Rowse corner kick and the Yachtsmen went on to a 2-1 win. For the second year in a row, Falmouth met Winslow in the championship game and after only beating the Black Raiders 1-0 the year before, this time around, the Yachtsmen dominated, 5-0, allowing just one shot, while Applebaum had two goals and Girouard, Kilroy and Rowse each struck once. Falmouth finished undefeated and produced arguably its most impressive championship run.

Coach Deb LeBel: “This is a really hard-working group of girls. So intense. They don’t get complacent and they continue to work hard. Our experience showed. They never let up.”

5) Greely Rangers, 15-1-1, 2002 Class A state champion

After a nearly perfect regular season, Greely was pushed to the brink on three occasions in the postseason, but with their season on the line, the Rangers found a way to prevail in a heroic championship run that is still hailed nearly two decades later. Greely won the Class A crown in 2000, but was ousted by Edward Little in the 2001 quarterfinals. The Rangers, featuring some of the finest athletes in school history, then returned to the pinnacle in 2002, but it certainly wasn’t easy.

Greely’s offense was led by Kim Alexander, who earned every postseason honor a girl from Maine can win: All-American, All-New England, All-State, regional all-star, even Greely’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year from The Forecaster. She was joined by the likes of All-State forward Erica Gagne, regional all-star goalkeeper Bri Googins (who surrendered only five goals all year) and a terrific supporting cast. The Rangers ran an early gauntlet which saw them defeat Scarborough (3-0), Cape Elizabeth (5-1), Yarmouth (3-1), Gorham (7-0) and North Yarmouth Academy (4-0). Greely had to settle for a 2-2 home tie versus Cape Elizabeth, then won four more games before falling in the regular season finale, 1-0, at eventual Class B champion Falmouth. The Rangers’ 11-1-1 mark gave them the No. 2 seed in Western Class A and they began their title run.

First up was a grudge match versus Edward Little in the quarterfinals where Greely earned a measure of revenge with a 3-0 victory, as Rachelle Doucette scored early and Mary Skahan and Hallie Vail added second half tallies. That was the last victory that the Rangers managed by more than one goal. In the semifinals, Cape Elizabeth made Greely sweat, but Alexander scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory. Alexander did it again in the regional final, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Scarborough. When the state final versus Brunswick was scoreless late, all eyes were on Alexander, who didn’t disappoint, scoring her 18th goal of the season with two minutes left and behind Googins’ 13th shutout of the season, the Rangers had a 1-0 victory and a memorable championship.

Coach Kevin Harvey: “That team was arguably one of the best in Greely teams in its long history. The team worked hard to get back to the top of Class A. The team was led by a very talented and successful senior class. Their leadership and focus were inspirational in getting to the state final. This was a very easy team to coach because they were so focused and driven.”

4) Cape Elizabeth Capers, 18-0, 2018 Class B state champion

The best team (record-wise) in Cape Elizabeth girls’ soccer history was a perfect champion, but got pushed to the brink on a couple of occasions on the road to the Gold Ball. The Capers had made a spirited playoff run in 2017 and nearly knocked off eventual repeat champion Yarmouth in the regional final. A combination of seasoned stars and promising newcomers, featuring All-New England forward Prezli Piscopo, big-game performer Karli Chapin, all-region back Grace Gillian and freshman sensation Maggie Cochran in the midfield, spelled a team that no one could beat in 2018.

In the quarterfinals, Cape Elizabeth got past Gray-New Gloucester, 3-0, behind two goals from Chapin and another from Tori McGrath. Yarmouth wasn’t about to relinquish its crown in the semifinals and took an early 1-0 lead, but Piscopo tied it and Cochran scored the winner to produce a 2-1 victory. In the regional final, York held the Capers scoreless until just over eight minutes remained, when Piscopo broke the tie, then Chapin added a goal to produce a 2-0 win, sending Cape Elizabeth to the state final, where upset-minded Presque Isle awaited. The Capers hit the post four different times in the first half, then fell behind early in the second, but Chapin headed home a Cochran feed to tie it, then, in overtime, Chapin (who would score a championship-winning goal in lacrosse later in the school year) again scored (again from Cochran) to give Cape Elizabeth a 2-1 win and an exhilarating title. And if you thought that they couldn’t improve on perfection, just wait and see what the Capers did next…

Coach Graham Forsyth: “The girls set their goal on winning the championship and fought when things didn’t go their way. We trust the girls and they trust us. We had the heart and desire and they wanted it so bad since the first session of summer. We kept trying when things didn’t go our way. The girls were excellent all year. I could rely on them. It was a very good relationship.”

3) Cape Elizabeth Capers, 17-1, 2019 Class B state champion

While the 2019 Capers stumbled once, by the end of the season, they were such a powerhouse, and Maggie Cochran had turned into such a superstar, that the argument can be made that they were better than the previous year’s champion. Cape Elizabeth went from vulnerable in September to unstoppable in November and were the Capers ever impressive when the games mattered most. 

Cochran, an All-New England selection, who was also named the Class B Player of the Year, All-State, all-region and The Forecaster’s choice for Cape Elizabeth’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year, moved from a set-up role to lead goal-scorer. She was joined by Chapin, whose big-game legend had already been fully established, Liv Cochran, a tremendous team leader, and a tremendous supporting cast.

The Capers opened in style with a 5-2 win over Greely, but the next time out, at Yarmouth, their 19-game win streak came to an end with a 2-1 setback. What could have been demoralizing instead became galvanizing and Cape Elizabeth shook off that defeat and quickly became the best team around. Again. In their final 12 regular season contests, the Capers scored 54 goals and gave up just four and didn’t stumble once. Cape Elizabeth was pushed by Freeport and York, but eked out one-goal wins, then turned the tables on Yarmouth with a 4-1 victory and wound up the top seed for the Class B South playoffs again. And there, Maggie Cochran and Company put on a memorable show.

In the quarterfinals, the Capers blanked Greely, 6-0, as both Chapin and Maggie Cochran scored twice and Liv Cochran and Sami Olsen each had one goal. Next up was Freeport in the semifinals and Cape Elizabeth pitched another shutout, this one, 4-0, as Maggie Cochran had three goals and Laura Ryer also scored. Yarmouth hoped to give the Capers all they could handle in the Class B South Final, but Cape Elizabeth’s defense didn’t surrender a single shot while Chapin scored two goals and Liv Cochran produced the other in a 3-0 triumph. The state final versus Hermon proved to be the Maggie Cochran Show, as the super sophomore scored three goals and Chapin added one more for good measure in a decisive 4-0 victory. The Capers had their first repeat championship in over two decades and they proved without a shadow of a doubt that it’s not about how you start, but how you finish.

Coach Graham Forsyth: “We had a lot to work on at the start of the season. (Our success is) all because of the girls and their heart. The attitude and desire they have turned it around and all the credit goes to them. The seniors have stepped up. They’re unbelievable role models. We were confident and we knew what we had to do. There were a lot of challenges this year. The aim at the beginning was to get in the playoffs. To get to states and win it is a very good feeling. It was all the girls. It was a special group.”

2) Scarborough Red Storm, 18-0, 2010 Class A state champion

After several close calls, Scarborough finally ascended to the Class A pinnacle in 2010 and did so in a fashion we’ll likely never see again, by not surrendering a single goal in the normal run of play. While this team, led by all-state back Nicollette Caron and all-state midfielder Cortney Hughes, will forever be known for its smothering defense, the offense was pretty good too and the end result was a season for the ages.

The Red Storm weren’t tested in their first three outings, defeating Massabesic, Portland and Marshwood by a combined 19-0 score. Scarborough then had to go to a second overtime to survive host Gorham, 1-0, on Sarah Little’s goal with 10 seconds remaining. After blanking Westbrook (4-0), Cheverus (2-0, on goals from Hughes and Erica Meader), South Portland (4-0), Kennebunk (2-0) and McAuley (8-0), the Red Storm were taken to OT by Windham, but again prevailed by a 1-0 score on Meghan Tyson’s tally 46 seconds in. Down the stretch, Scarborough was pushed by Deering (3-0), rolled past Bonny Eagle (8-0), then survived both Sanford and Thornton Academy by 1-0 scores to finish 14-0 and first in Western Class A. The Red Storm continued their dominant ways in the postseason as well, although they did eventually give up one goal.

In the quarterfinals, Tori Armishaw and Haley Carignan each had a goal and an assist to produce a 2-0 win over Cape Elizabeth. Cheverus, thanks to a penalty kick, finally scored against Scarborough in the semifinals and handed the Red Storm their first and only deficit of the season, but goals from Tyson and Jessica Broadhurst rallied Scarborough to a 2-1 victory. Carignan then scored the only goal of the regional final as the Red Storm beat Thornton Academy to make it to the Class A state final for the first time. Bangor awaited on the big stage and Scarborough’s defensive greatness carried the day again, as the Red Storm held the Rams without a goal while scoring three of their own, from Emma Bagley, Hughes and Little, to spell a 3-0 victory, a long-awaited state title and undeniable status as a team for the ages.

Coach Mike Farley: “I would have never thought that in a million years think you can put a season like this together. All the credit to these players. They did an amazing job of staying focused in every game. It was 25 players. Two goalkeepers and players off the bench. They all earned it.We came out and played really well and it was awesome. I have 12 seniors and I felt so bad for them the last couple years. For them to come out this year and lead this team the way they did is so awesome. I’m so happy for them. The whole town of Scarborough will love it. It’s good to see these kids earn it. They deserve it.”

1) Yarmouth Clippers, 18-0, 2017 Class B state champion

The team that produced perhaps the most potent girls’ soccer offensive onslaught our coverage area has ever seen and one that was most prolific when it mattered most, the Clippers were also stellar on defense en route to a repeat title. Yarmouth also featured the best season in program history from the best player in program history, Sara D’Appolonia, who earned All-America, All-New England, All-State and Forecaster Athlete of the Year honors before taking her talents to the University of Delaware. When you put it all together, this team gets the nod on this list and was chosen first in our Twitter poll as well.

Yarmouth had won a long-awaited Gold Ball the year before and was the favorite entering the 2017 campaign, but despite wearing a bright bulls-eye, the Clippers, who also featured All-State selection Hannah Corey and all-region selection Olivia Feeley on defense, outscored the opposition, 93-4, and only three times were held to a single goal.

Yarmouth opened with a 2-0 victory at Gray-New Gloucester, then got things going with a 4-0 win at Greely (D’Appolonia, Feeley, Hannah Merrill and Ellie Purgavie all scored) before romping at Fryeburg Academy by a 12-1 score. After blanking Freeport (5-0) and  York (3-0), the Clippers dispatched Greely again, this time by a 6-1 score, as Hannah Dwyer had three goals. The fun continued with a 9-0 victory over Poland and a surprisingly decisive 7-0 victory over Cape Elizabeth (D’Appolonia scored three goals and set up two others). Yarmouth then finished the regular season by beating York (4-0), Freeport (6-0), Gray-New Gloucester (7-2), Fryeburg Academy (9-0), Cape Elizabeth (1-0, on D’Appolonia’s early goal and a shutout effort from goalkeeper Meredith Lane and her defense) and Lake Region (5-0). The Clippers had gone undefeated for the first time in program history and earned the top seed in Class B South, but getting through the regional tournament field would prove to be grueling.

In the quarterfinals versus No. 8 Wells, Yarmouth got a much tougher game than expected, but Feeley’s second half tally allowed the Clippers to avoid disaster, win, 1-0, and move on to the semifinals. There, versus No. 4 York, the Clippers’ attack was again relatively held in check, but D’Appolonia scored once and set up Merrill for another goal in a 2-0 victory. Cape Elizabeth then gave Yarmouth fits in the regional final, but with 18:21 to play, Ehryn Groothoff scored and the Clippers held on for a 1-0 win to get back to the state final where all of their offensive frustrations were taken out on Presque Isle. Groothoff scored three goals in the first half, Merrill scored three times in the second half and Eva Then, Dwyer and D’Appolonia (her program record-setting 33rd goal of the season) found the net as well as Yarmouth won by a record margin of 9-0. The Clippers hadn’t just gone 18-0 and repeated as state champions for the first time. They were transcendent in the process and will be a team others measure themselves against for a long, long time.

Coach Chris Coleman: “We were at our best when we needed to be. I’m just so proud of the girls for what they’ve achieved this year. The girls don’t take anything for granted. They knew they were the team to beat and that everyone wanted to beat them, but they worked hard. They were a handful in only good ways. They’re such a likable group. The senior class was special. Phenomenal leaders.”

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

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