When the games matter the most, so do those key moments that happen in the playoffs.
Gary Trafton and his Monmouth girls’ soccer team know a little bit about that.
The Mustangs won a preliminary game 1-0 last fall by stunning North Yarmouth Academy in overtime, despite the Panthers controlling much of the game. Days later, Monmouth’s luck went the other way. St. Dom’s got the break it needed in a 1-0 quarterfinal win.
“Every game there’s going to be some kind of opportunity,” Trafton said. “Last year against NYA, we had very few opportunities and we cashed in on one corner kick and we moved on. You’re going to get those and you have to take advantage when you get them.”
Trafton’s Mustangs enter the postseason ranked second in Western C with a 12-1-1 mark. Monmouth is one of the favorites entering the playoffs, but they may not be alone in that regard.
“I told the girls that looking at the teams, there’s really no clear cut favorite this year,” Trafton said. “In the past, you had Waynflete or St. Dom’s with the teams they had. This year, there’s six or seven teams that could really go to the states.”
Madison is the top seed in Western C with a 12-1-1 mark of their own. The Bulldogs provided Monmouth its only loss. Mountain Valley (11-3) is coming off its best regular season in years and earned the third slot while St. Dom’s, featuring the MVC Player of the Year in Faith Grady, is fourth at 11-3. Add in Maranacook (10-3-1), Waynflete (8-1-5), Sacopee Valley (9-2-3) and the prelim pairing of Lisbon (8-3-3) and Hall-Dale (9-5), there’s a deep field of quality teams.
The first round of games begin Saturday. Mt. Abram, seeded 12th at 5-8-1, play at Maranacook while 13th-ranked Dirigo (6-8) play at St. Dom’s. Eighth-seeded Lisbon also hosts Hall-Dale.
Monmouth outscored opponents 78-14 this fall and have proven to be potent, led by MVC first teamer Haley Fletcher and second-teamers Syndey Wilson and Sammy Grandahl.
Many of Trafton’s Mustangs have playoff seasoning. He hopes that will prepare them for a tourney with a small margin for error. They’ll also get another look at Madison before next week’s quarterfinal. Thursday’s Mountain Valley Conference championship game was postponed until Saturday at 3 p.m. at Madison.
“Every team is going to make mistakes in every game,” Trafton said. “The teams that capitalize on those mistakes are going to move on to the next round.
In Eastern A, Edward Little earned the second seed at 10-1-3. Bangor (12-0-2) secured the top spot. It was the best regular season for EL in years. EL and Bangor were supposed to meet in the KVAC championship game Thursday but that was cancelled. No makeup date is planned.
“We wanted to make the playoffs,” said EL coach Craig Latuscha. “We wanted to keep the (Maca Roddy) trophy and we wanted to make the playoffs. We wanted to beat the teams that we didn’t beat last year. So all our goals have been met. We had a pretty successful year. Our girls’ really bought a lot of the things were were doing.”
It gives EL a home quarterfinal game next Wednesday. The Red Eddies will host seventh-ranked Lewiston (6-7-1). EL beat the Blue Devils 3-0 and tied them 1-1 in the regular season.
“It’s like another season now,” Latuscha said. “We had a great regular season. Now we’re preparing for the quarterfinals on Wednesday.”
Lewiston surpassed most of its expectations this year as well. The Blue Devils had a five-game winning streak during the regular season and made great strides this fall. Rallying for a 1-1 tie with EL in the regular season finale showed the Blue Devils are playing with confidence.
Bangor is a favorite entering the postseason, but tradition powers like third-ranked Brunswick (9-3-2), Hampden (9-4-1) and Mt. Ararat (8-4-2) will be threats. Sixth-seeded Messalonskee (7-5-2) finished the year 4-1-1 amidst the tragic death of teammate Cassidy Charette.
Lewiston had been eyeing a likely prelim game down the stretch, but the Blue Devils avoided that.
“Our first goal was to win a few games,” Lewiston coach Brant Remington said. “Then the playoffs started to look like the real deal, and we wanted to get in. Then last week, with two games left, we wanted to secure that preliminary game and go from there. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Ninth-ranked Mt. Blue (4-8-2) was clinging to the final tourney berth down the stretch. Though the Cougars went 2-7 after a strong start, including two straight losses, Mt. Blue managed to hang on. The Cougars play a preliminary at Brewer (7-5-2) Saturday night. The Cougars tied the Witches 1-1 earlier in the year.
“We’ve been playing a little better the last few games,” said Mt. Blue coach Fred Conlogue, whose team gave Bangor a battle in the regular season finale before the Rams scored twice late in a 4-2 win. “I wouldn’t mind one more chance. We peaked in the 8-9 spot last year.”
In Western B, Leavitt finished 4-6-4 to earn the eighth seed and a home preliminary game Saturday. The Hornets host Fryeburg (5-7-2). The Hornets have a seasoned group that reached the quarterfinal last fall and had eight games this fall determined by one goal or less.
The top of the standings has some familiar teams. Greely (11-2-1) is the top seed followed by Yarmouth (8-3-3) and Cape Elizabeth (9-4-1).
Gray-New Gloucester (7-6-1) got the final tourney spot in the field. The Patriots play a prelim at Lake Region. The Lakers (7-6-1) beat the Patriots earlier in the year 4-3.
In Western D, Buckfield (10-3-1) had won eight in a row before losing to Richmond in the regular-season finale 3-1. The Bucks earned the fourth seed and will host Rangeley in the quarterfinals. The Lakers finished 7-5-1 and split with the Bucks in the regular season. Rangeley won the first game 3-2 while the Bucks took the rematch 1-0.
Top-seeded Richmond finished unbeaten at 14-0 while Searsport claimed the second spot at 9-3-2.