CUMBERLAND—Grace Gray simply wouldn’t be denied and as a result, Cape Elizabeth’s field hockey team was able to put the finishing touches on its finest season in a generation with a hard-fought victory Tuesday afternoon at Greely.

The Capers controlled play much of the way, but the Rangers, led by senior goalie Savanna Harvey, held them in check during a scoreless first half.

Then, with 11:36 remaining in the third quarter, Gray had six opportunities to get the ball past Harvey and while Harvey stopped the first five shots, she couldn’t deny the sixth and Gray’s goal, just the latest in her transcendent season, put Cape Elizabeth ahead to stay.

The Capers couldn’t rattle the cage again, but they stymied Greely’s offense and went on to a 1-0 victory.

Cape Elizabeth finished the regular season at 11-2-1, the program’s best regular season record since going 11-2 en route to the state final in 2000 and in the process, the Capers dropped the Rangers to 4-10.

“We talked before the game that the postseason might be defining, but we need to take a step back and be proud of what we’ve done so far this year,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Maura Bisogni. “No matter what happens in the playoffs, our record is great. These girls never, ever give up.”

The end

The regular season has seen the Capers exceed expectations and the Rangers play better than their record would indicate.

Cape Elizabeth surged out of the gate with home victories over Wells (11-0) and Freeport (5-0) before edging visiting Lake Region (2-1) and tying host Yarmouth (1-1). The Capers then blanked visiting Gray-New Gloucester (8-0) and Greely (4-0) before surviving scares from visiting Fryeburg Academy (5-4, in double-overtime), host Lake Region (1-0, in two OTs) and host Freeport (3-2, in double-overtime). After suffering its first loss, 3-0, to visiting York, Cape Elizabeth blanked host Poland and Gray-New Gloucester by 5-0 scores then lost again to York, at the Wildcats Monday, 3-0.

Greely, meanwhile, started with three one-goal losses, 1-0 to visiting Lake Region, 2-1 at Fryeburg Academy and 1-0 to visiting Yarmouth. The Rangers then got in the win column, 2-1, at North Yarmouth Academy/Waynflete. After falling at Freeport (4-2), Greely lost at home to Fryeburg Academy (5-3), at Cape Elizabeth (4-0) and at home to York (3-1). After downing host Gray-New Gloucester (1-0), the Rangers fell at home to Freeport (2-1). A 1-0 win at Poland was followed by a 4-0 setback at York, but Monday, Greely won at Wells, 2-0.

In the teams’ first meeting Sept. 23, Gray scored three times and senior Camden Woods scored the other goal, while registering a pair of assists. Harvey made 21 saves in a losing effort.

Tuesday, a chilly and blustery afternoon, the Rangers gave the Capers all they could handle before Cape Elizabeth finally broke through and found a way to prevail.

Cape Elizabeth senior Camden Woods knocks the ball away from Greely junior Daphne Campo, left, and freshman Maddy Hall during the Capers’ 1-0 victory Tuesday. Hoffer photo.

Greely, on its Senior Day, came out strong, earning a couple of penalty corners in the first minute, but it couldn’t put a shot on goal.

In the fifth minute, the Rangers produced their lone shot of the first quarter, as junior Marisa Crowley unleashed a bid from the side, but it was saved by Capers sophomore goalie Zoe Burgard.

Late in the first period, Harvey broke up a promising feed from Gray to junior Abbie Homicz and the contest remained scoreless.

Cape Elizabeth then roared to life in the second quarter, earning four penalty corners and taking seven shots, but it couldn’t break through.

Gray was especially frustrated, as she had a shot on a corner saved, then sent a rebound wide with 8:15 to go in the half.

Two minutes later, Gray had two shots on a corner, but Harvey saved both.

With 5:55 left, off another corner, Gray tried going up high, but Harvey stopped that bid too.

Then, with 4:28 on the clock, Woods set up Gray for a great look in front, but Harvey robbed her.

Harvey also stopped two shots from junior Meghan Conley and the contest remained 0-0 at the break.

The Capers then got the only goal they would need with 11:36 to go in the third period, thanks to some sensational persistence from Gray.

Gray first tried beating Harvey on a breakaway, but Harvey made the save. The rebound sat free and Gray tried once, twice, three times, then a fourth, but Harvey stopped every one.

Then, finally, Gray tried once more and this time sent the ball into the cage for a 1-0 lead.

“I was just able to put my mind to it,” Gray said. “My teammates were there for me. When we play against tough goalies, that tends to happen. We just try to take as many shots as possible.”

“That’s what Grace has done all year,” said Bisogni. “She creates spaces she can work into and she can set herself up. She can almost get an assist off a rebound. She’s always ready for the next shot. She does pass quite a bit too, so other teams have to mark her honestly.”

Harvey would keep her team within hailing distance in the fourth quarter, robbing both Gray and Woods, giving the Rangers a chance to rally.

With 4:25 to play, Greely earned a penalty corner, but a shot from junior Daphne Campo deflected wide.

Cape Elizabeth was able to run out the clock from there and celebrate its 1-0 victory.

“We knew Greely worked well together and had a good goalie, but we were able to fight through,” Gray said. “We have a really good defense and midfield. They know what’s happening and they work well together.

“I think our team has really good chemistry. We work really well together and our coaches are really fun. We really build each other up. I thought we’d be stronger after last year. We all had high hopes for the season, but I didn’t know we’d be this good.”

“This game, it was hard to get a goal, but we kept going and that’s what we’ve done all season,” Bisogni said. “Greely’s always a struggle. We knew they were stronger than their record and they had a great goaltender. It was a tough team to play to end the season.”

Cape Elizabeth had a 20-2 shots advantage, a 7-4 edge in corners and got a pair of saves from Burgard.

Harvey again excelled with 19 saves, but the Rangers couldn’t produce any offense.

“The way we’re trusting each other now is real,” said Greely coach Burgess LePage.” What we’ve battled against all season is getting offensive opportunities. The defense is so solid and they understand each other well. They can persevere and of course, Savanna is special. I don’t feel stressed when we’re on defense with her back there. She has the mentality that if the other team scores, the game’s not over and we need to move on.”

The beginning

And now, it’s time to think playoffs.

Greely will likely be the nine seed in the Class B South playoffs and will be on the road for a preliminary round contest later this week.

“We need to find the confidence that the team we just were is the team we are and take that momentum,” said LePage. “Cape and York are incredible teams and don’t back down and neither do the teams on the lower end like we are. All the teams have fight. We just need to have fun and when we do, we play better. It’s exciting to have a playoff game after not having a chance last year.”

Cape Elizabeth projects to be seeded second behind York and will host at least one round, perhaps more.

The Capers last played in a regional or state final in 2000 and this year’s squad has the potential to go that far.

“We’re really excited, especially after not having playoffs last year,” Gray said. “We’re glad to have a shot at it and hopefully we’ll perform as well as we did in the regular season. We need to stick to the basics and play as a team and keep having fun.”

“It’s exciting to host a playoff game,” Bisogni added. “It’s helpful for us. We have players who are taking field hockey more seriously in the offseason. They come to work and they’re competitive and they believe they can win. We have to just tighten up our skills and move the ball around the field.”

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

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