Cheverus freshman Julia Kratzer races past Portland senior Delaney Darling during the teams’ early-season showdown Wednesday night. Kratzer scored one of the Stags’ three second half goals as Cheverus prevailed, 3-0.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—Speed kills and the Cheverus girls’ soccer team has speed in abundance.
While other teams can attempt to neutralize the Stags’ attack, doing so for 80 minutes is downright impossible and Cheverus, after a frustrating first half Wednesday evening, pulled away from host Portland, beating the Bulldogs at Fitzpatrick Stadium for the first time since 2012, 3-0.
After Portland sophomore goalkeeper Caroline Lerch and her back line kept the Stags off the board in the first half, Cheverus scored three times in just over seven minutes to start the second half.
The first goal came off a corner kick, as sophomore Alex Hammond’s header bounced off a Bulldogs defender and in to break the ice.
Freshman Julia Kratzer scored her third goal of the young season to double the lead and junior standout Emma Gallant broke away to score another and the Stags went on to a 3-0 victory.
Cheverus improved to 2-0 and handed Portland its first loss in two outings in the process.
“We haven’t won at Fitzy against Portland since I’ve been here,” said Stags coach Craig Roberts. “It’s big for the girls to do that.”
Cheverus got all the way to the Class A South semifinals a year ago and have high hopes this season. The Stags began by downing visiting Kennebunk, 2-0, behind a pair of Kratzer goals Saturday.
Portland missed the postseason a year ago for the first time since 2012, but the Bulldogs expect to return to form this fall. They started with an encouraging 4-0 home victory over Massabesic.
Last year, host Cheverus downed the Bulldogs, 2-0, to snap a three-game skid in the series (see sidebar, below).
Wednesday, on a 77-degree evening, the Stags improved to 10-7-1 all-time in the series, thanks to a second half surge.
In the fifth minute, in a sign of things to come, Cheverus sophomore Helena Bolduc broke in, but Portland junior Annika More knocked the ball away.
After Kratzer, Bolduc and sophomore Mia Kratzer had shots saved by Lerch, junior Hazel Praught broke up a Julia Kratzer rush, Lerch saved a long free kick off the powerful foot of junior Lauren Jordan, Lerch punched away a serve from freshman Hayley Jordan to Gallant and Bulldogs junior back Cecilia Ritter cleared the ball after Lerch was knocked down.
The Stags had a 4-0 edge in shots in the first half, but weren’t able to break through.
That would all change quickly in the second half.
Just 20 seconds in, a Gallant cross was knocked out of bounds to give Cheverus a corner kick.
On the ensuing corner, Gallant sent the ball into the box where Hammond headed it toward the goal and it deflected off a Portland defender and into the goal for a 1-0 lead with 39:02 remaining.
“I thought we played well in the first half and we possessed the ball, but this was our first game on turf, so we had trouble getting used to the pace of the passes and their goalie was really active,” Roberts said. “At halftime, we talked about pace of passes and the kind of ball we needed to hit to make it difficult on them and we did. We looked to play a wider ball with runners running straight on to it. We got a hustle goal off a corner kick and that broke the ice.”
The floodgates then opened, as senior Zoe Mazur passed the ball to Julia Kratzer, who fired a shot to the left of Lerch, off the inside of the right post and in, to make it 2-0 with 37:48 on the clock.
“It was a little frustrating (in the first half),” Kratzer said. “We had a little trouble with the wind, then we figured it out. They were pressuring high, so we had to go wide and up the field quickly. I took a touch outside by the defender and shot it. I thought it would hit the post, but I got a good bounce. I was a little nervous at the beginning (of the season), but the girls are so nice and make it so easy.”
“As we opened them up wide, Zoe was able to slide a really nice ball to Julia,” Roberts said. “(Julia) made a really nice move for any level, especially a freshman, then she launched a nice shot. Julia’s soccer IQ improves each day. She’s really coachable. She’s working on moving without the ball. She finds space and helps us get forward.
“Any time you can scoring from multiple players, it’s huge. Between (Julia) and Helena Bolduc and Alex Hammond playing big and you throw in Lily (Paszyc) and Emma, you have five players who can do damage.”
After the Bulldogs finally mustered their first shot, a long bid from senior Sydney Girsch that Stags sophomore goalkeeper Neve Cawley easily snared, Cheverus made it 3-0 with 32;25 remaining, as Mia Kratzer played the ball ahead to Gallant, the state sprinting champion, who got behind the defense, drew Lerch out of the goal, dribbled around her, then finished to make it 3-0, capping a three-goals-in-six-minutes-37-seconds span.
Cheverus nearly added to its lead, but Lerch twice made diving saves to deny junior Caroline Taylor and the Stags went on to a 3-0 victory.
“We knew we had momentum and we put a couple more away,” Roberts said. “I thought we put 80 solid minutes together.”
Cheverus outshot Portland, 13-2, had a 4-0 edge in corner kicks and got a pair of saves from Cawley.
The Bulldogs got 10 saves from Lerch.
“Caroline had a big job today,” Portland coach Curtis Chapin said. “She had to be quick off her line and she was. She read the game really, really well. I’m happy with her and our center-backs, who had a big job.
“We had a good game plan. I felt in the first half, we did largely what we wanted to do. They have big weapons who are no secrets, For 40 minutes, we took away maybe the best forward in the state. In the second half, they got that flick off the corner and from there, the floodgates opened.”
Portland looks to return to the win column when it goes to Marshwood Friday. The Bulldogs go to highly-touted Gorham Wednesday of next week, then host Kennebunk two nights later.
“It’s early in the season and we’ll learn from it,” Chapin said. “I love my team. I’ve seen some good things. Games like these test you and we’ll see where we go from here. I believe we’ll go forward.”
Cheverus hopes to stay undefeated when it plays at South Portland Friday. After welcoming Massabesic Wednesday of next week, the Stags are at Falmouth Saturday, Sept. 15.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good,” Julia Kratzer said. “We’re coming together as a team. We just have to keep playing balls through and finishing.”
“If we can keep putting together 80 solid minutes and growing as a team, hopefully, we’ll build to where we want to be,” Roberts said. “There’s a lot of parity in the SMAA.”
Cheverus senior Zoe Mazur plays the ball as Portland sophomore Toni Stevenson defends.
Portland sophomores Lydia Stein (19) and Makenzie Bryant keep their eyes on the ball.
Portland sophomore goalkeeper Caroline Lerch makes one of her 10 saves.
Portland sophomore Toni Stevenson and Cheverus junior Sarah Cummings collide.
Cheverus sophomore Lily Paszyc and Portland junior Hazel Praught battle for the ball.
Cheverus sophomore Mia Kratzer eludes Portland senior Sydney Girsch.
Portland junior Cecilia Ritter boots the ball away from Cheverus sophomore Helena Bolduc.
Portland senior Grace Stacey can’t keep up with Cheverus junior Lauren Jordan.
@ Portland 3 Cheverus 1
Cheverus 3 @ Portland 0
@ Cheverus 5 Portland 0
Cheverus 6 @ Portland 0
Portland 1 @ Cheverus 0
Cheverus 1 @ Portland 0
@ Cheverus 1 Portland 0
@ Portland 2 Cheverus 1
Western A quarterfinals
Cheverus 1 @ Portland 0
@ Cheverus 2 Portland 1
@ Cheverus 2 Portland 0
Portland 3 Cheverus 1
Portland 6 Cheverus 0