FRYEBURG — The Fryeburg Academy boys’ soccer team (7-7-1, 11th seed) pulled off the biggest upset of the Maine Class B South preliminary round of tournament play, going on the road and coming home with a convincing 3-0 win over Gardiner (7-6-2, sixth) on Saturday.
The victory earned the final tournament qualifier Raiders a quarterfinal date at Greely (8-2-4, 3rd) in Cumberland, Maine, this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Coach Bob Hodgman-Burns (H-B) described his team's effort as "a pretty dominant performance. We controlled the run of play from the start."
Estimating Raider ball control advantage as 80 percent to 20 percent, HB felt that Gardiner was surprised by the Raider talent and possession game right from the opening whistle. Played on the turf surface of Thomas College in Waterville, Maine, due to the unplayability of the Gardiner grass field due to recent downpours, the true play of the ball and the game pace fit the Raiders style and tactics.
With the host Tigers rarely possessing the ball in the Raiders’ half, the guests took a 1-0 lead 18 minutes into the match when Louis Sehr found some space after an extended series of Fryeburg passes and lofted a well-placed shot from 18 yards out to the upper right corner of the net which left the Tigers goalkeeper no chance at all.
Throughout the match, HB cited his central midfielder, Kenyi Musembi, as having "a great game. He was all over the field. Whenever we lost it (the ball), he was right there to win it back."
Myriad Raiders' chances were on target, and game statistics credited Tiger goalkeeper, Sean Doyle, with 17 saves. With 20 minutes remaining in the game, the difference was still only one goal. Then, Gil Sehr took advantage of a Tiger defensive blunder, when a defender inexpertly dribbled within his own goal area, only to have the ball toe-poked into the back of the net by the alert Raider striker.
With just three minutes remaining, Tigers fans had some excitement when the Raider goalkeeper Chandler Adams was forced to pull the ball out of the back of his own net. The play was quickly, and accurately, ruled off-sides. With just three saves and stifling defense in front of him, Adams' and the Raider's shutout was preserved.
A minute later, the Raiders sealed the match with a beautiful finish creating the final 3-0 scoreline. Deceptive and creative, attacker Pablo Lozano back-heeled a ball directly on to the run of Gil Sehr just outside the Tiger penalty area. Sehr went in alone and finished cleanly.
The Raiders quarterfinal opponent, the Greely Rangers, defeated Fryeburg by 5-1 on Sept. 19 at Fryeburg. However, the Raiders lineup has been bolstered by several international student-athletes who have more fully integrated into the lineup since then. For example, the Sehr brothers, Louis and Gil, from the Ivory Coast, had not yet received MIAA clearance to play and did not participate in the first Greely match at all.
HB notes that his team has tremendous individual attacking talent, flair and passing skills to maintain ball possession. The added depth allowed the shift of early-season veteran front six players, Will Galligan and Caden Daigle, to shift to the back four. Their added speed, tenacity and experience have made the Raiders a much tougher defensive team to score upon.
HB remarked, "There is no pressure on us now, as the underdog. If we just go out there and have fun, and focus (defensive) attention on their studs, we will have a good chance (to win)."
Greely had five different scorers in the September match at Fryeburg. HB is confident his Raiders will create their own chances. A focus of training leading to the quarterfinal match will be finishing with accuracy. The Raiders' first-round three-goal victory, albeit as an underdog, could have been by an even wider margin with more clinical precision on the final shot.
The winner of Wednesday's Ranger-Raider matchup will advance to the semifinals against the winner of York (7-7-1, seventh) at Medomak Valley (12-0-2, second) on Saturday, Nov. 2, at the field of the highest remaining seed.