With three teams finishing in a tie for second place during the regular season, and a mere two points separating the No. 2 and 7 seeds, parity seemed written all over this year's Fairchester Athletic Association girls soccer tournament.
Apparently, top-seeded Greenwich Academy never got the memo.
The Gators put on a clinic in the FAA semifinals Tuesday afternoon, scoring on four of their first six shots en route to a dominating 5-0 victory over fourth-seeded Rye Country Day School at Ridgeview Avenue Field.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw in the regular season last month, but the sequel was much different than the original.
Greenwich Academy, which was missing three key players the first time around, controlled the midfield and used precision passing combinations to set up one scoring opportunity after another.
Senior Hannah Maynard took full advantage, netting her second hat trick of the season as the Gators (15-1-3) reached the league title match for the fifth straight year.
Next up for GA is a rematch with St. Luke's on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Ridgeview Avenue Field. The Crusaders ended the Gators' two-year run on top of the FAA with a 3-1 victory in last season's championship game. This will be the third straight year the rivals will clash for the league crown.
"Everything came together today," sophomore center back Caroline Vaughan said. "We played really well in the midfield. Our goal from the beginning were to work together and just to succeed. We've come pretty far."
Ironically, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Gators. If that's the case, the transition is complete because GA goes into the finals playing its best soccer of the season.
"I'm really proud of the girls," first-year coach Alistair Lonsdale said. "They were up for this game. We had three girls out the first time against Rye, but I think that shows our depth in that we still played them to a 1-1 tie on their home field. We're passing the ball very well now. I can't ask for anything more, and now they've got a chance to regain their title."
The Gators opened the scoring in the sixth minute on a cross from sophomore Hannah Withiam to Maynard, who was parked in front of the net and one-timed a shot into the side of the net.
Maynard scored her second goal less than three minutes later to make it 3-0, and the Gators added another first-half score for good measure in the 31st minute. Hompe, who had strong game up front, was the catalyst as she sent the corner kick into the middle of the box before Withiam headed it in.
The first half was so one-sided that GA had already scored three times before RCDS (8-6-2) mustered its first shot 14:20 before the intermission.
"They really brought their `A' game," said Wildcats coach Dick Pike, whose squad was coming off a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Greens Farms Academy in Monday's quarterfinal round. GA, by contrast, was enjoying the merits of its first-round bye.
"It was a physical game yesterday and we just didn't have much gas this afternoon. The FAA had a lot of parity this year, but GA was in another league today."
The Wildcats gave a spirited effort in the second half, but they never could light the scoreboard against a Gators defense spearheaded by Vaughan and senior co-captain Reynolds Ostrover. Sophomore Katie Grant made five saves to preserve the shutout.
Only one goal was scored in the second half, but it was a beauty as Hompe crossed the ball to Maynard, who put the finishing touches on her hat trick -- and one of the Gators' biggest routs of the year.
"Being on our home field and having a full squad definitely helped in this game," Maynard said. "We really played well as a team. Hannah in the midfield and our center backs Reynolds and Caroline were great. I guess it would be fitting if we play St. Luke's again. It's a familiar match."
The decisive victory allowed the Gators coaches to substitute the starters late in the second half and get everyone some playing time. As mainstays like Katherine Coe, Lucy Williams, Alyssa McCloskey and Christine Kiernan ran off the field to warm ovations from the fans, it was only a matter of time before GA could start to focus on yet another trip to the FAA finals.
"We knew what we needed to do," senior Mary Katherine Leary said. "We're grown a lot as a team. After what happened in the championship game last year, we want it pretty bad."