Cheverus blanks Windham to continue fast start

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Cheverus junior Olivia Adams beams as she congratulates junior Hannah Abbott (14) after Abbott scores the first goal of the Stags’ 3-0 home win over Windham Saturday. Abbott is also congratulated by senior Carrie Hight (11) and sophomore Sophia Pompeo (3).

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—There are a lot of new names and faces on the sidelines and the field this fall, but the Cheverus field hockey team’s ability to win remains a constant.

After opening with a 3-0 victory at Westbrook Thursday, the Stags hosted a Windham squad Saturday morning at Shea Field which erupted for seven goals in its opener.

But this time around, the Eagles didn’t even muster a shot on goal until less than 15 minutes remained, thanks to a solid effort from Cheverus’ midfield and defense and the Stags proved pretty potent on offense too.

In the game’s seventh minute, junior Hannah Abbott rattled the cage to give her team all the offense it would need.

After being frustrated the rest of the first half, the Stags returned to their scoring ways in the second half, as with 17:14 to go, junior Caroline Ford scored on a rebound off a penalty corner and with 3:36 left, sophomore Sophia Pompeo did the same and Cheverus went on to a 3-0 victory.

The Stags started 2-0 for the eighth year in a row, beat the Eagles for seventh consecutive time and dropped Windham to 1-1 in the process.

“Everyone has brought their ‘A’ game the past two games, it’s really exciting,” said Abbott, who already has three goals in two games. “We miss our (graduated) seniors, but we have a ton of returning players and the girls who are new are stepping it up.”

Fast start

Cheverus has been a playoff regular for over a decade and is coming off a season which saw it win 14 games and reach the Class A South Final before losing to Thornton Academy, 4-1.

During the offseason, however, the program was hard-hit by graduation and compounding matters, longtime coach Amy Ashley (who guided the Stags to 97 wins and a regional title in her eight seasons) left the program to take over Yarmouth’s field hockey team.

Cheverus had to scramble to find a coach and selected Sally Cloutier, a one-time key member of the South Portland juggernaut of the 1980s, who brought immediate optimism to a team with its fair share of uncertainty.

“Our new coaches bring so much energy and support everyone,” Abbott said. “We miss ‘Coach Mac,’ but we’re happy with the coaching staff.”

Abbott scored two goals in Thursday’s 3-0 win at Westbrook and junior Mallory Leighton added her first varsity goal.

Windham was 2-12 in 2015 and missed the playoffs, but Thursday, the Eagles enjoyed a 7-0 home victory over Bonny Eagle.

Saturday, under sunny skies and a pleasant 72 degrees with light winds, Windham hoped to beat the Stags for the first time since Oct. 6, 2008 (1-0 in Windham), but Cheverus came out sizzling and carried play almost throughout.

Abbott broke the ice with 23:07 to play in the first half, as she wouldn’t be denied, driving through the Windham defense before beating junior goalie Grace Sawyer.

“I made a few moves and had an open shot,” Abbott said. “That was exciting.” 

The Stags had five penalty corners in the first half and a few more great scoring chances, but Sawyer denied Pompeo on a breakaway and turned aside three consecutive shots off a corner from junior Sydney Pfeffer before Pompeo shot just wide keeping it 1-0 at halftime.

At the break, Cheverus talked about the importance of getting another goal.

“We talked at halftime about putting the pressure on and finishing,” Cloutier said.

The second goal came with 17:14 left, as on a corner, Abbott fired a shot that was saved, Pompeo got a piece of the rebound and Ford finished off the goal to make it 2-0.

With 14:10 to play, the Eagles finally managed their first shot on goal, but Stags junior goalie Kat Kane made the save.

If any doubt remained, Pompeo ended it with 3:36 remaining, as she took a pass from Abbott, raced in, then lined up a shot from an impossible angle which bounced off a Windham defender and in for a 3-0 lead.

“We have some power out front and we’re capitalizing,” Cloutier said. “Hannah and Sophia have really good  sticks, they see the goal, they get there and they execute. I have them playing different positions, so they’ll just bring it.”

Cheverus ran out the clock from there and celebrated its victory. 

“We couldn’t capitalize at the end of the first half, but we really brought it in the second half,” Abbott said. 

The Stags finished with a 13-4 shots advantage and had nine penalty corner opportunities to just three for the Eagles. Kane made four saves, while Sawyer stopped 10 shots for Windham.

What didn’t make it into the box score was the play of senior captains Carrie Hight and Charlotte Noyes and junior Olivia Adams in the midfield. The reason the Eagles managed so few shots is because they couldn’t possess the ball.

“Charlotte, Carrie and Olivia really stepped it up today,” Abbott said. “(Juniors) Taylor (McDermott) and Celia (Migliaccio) brought their ‘A’ game and (junior) Anna (Smith) picked up a ton of balls, so it never really got to Kat. We can count on Kat, but we’d rather not have to.”

“Everyone is stepping up,” Cloutier said. “They all brought their ‘A’ game. It’s a team effort. The midfield was strong and we stopped them. The girls are working well together. I can’t ask for more out of these kids. I’m not surprised. I knew what  kind of program Amy Ashley put together. I knew these girls. They believe in themselves.”

More triumph awaits

Windham looks to bounce back Wednesday when Biddeford pays a visit.

Cheverus seeks a 3-0 start when it plays at 0-2 South Portland Wednesday. The Stags are back home Friday to battle Thornton Academy in a rematch of last year’s regional final.

“We just need to work on our team chemistry, spend more time together, and keep our sticks down,” Abbott said. “Other than that, we’re looking good.”

“Our passing and ball control can still be better and our finishing in the circle and corners can be better,” Cloutier said. “We’re still figuring it out. We’re young and we have a lot of potential. We have a goal of getting a playoff berth. We’re having lots of fun.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Cheverus junior Mallory Leighton sends the ball up the field.

Cheverus sophomore Sophia Pompeo races past Windham freshman Chloe Wilcox.

Cheverus junior Hannah Abbott pokes the game’s first goal past Windham sophomore Carlee Richmond and goalie Grace Sawyer.

Cheverus junior Caroline Ford, who scored the game’s second goal, tries to get past Windham senior Taylor Tibbetts.

Cheverus senior Charlotte Noyes sends the ball up the field.

Windham goalie Grace Sawyer falls on the ball in front of junior defender Jessica Meyer and Cheverus junior Hannah Abbott.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.