Cheverus senior Katie Gordon (15) is congratulated by her teammates after scoring the final goal of the Stags’ 2-0 win over Thornton Academy Friday afternoon.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—Forty eight hours after letting a sure win slip away in an eventual tie with perennial power Windham, Cheverus’ girls’ soccer team made sure it finished the job.
Hosting Thornton Academy, the Stags came out hot, got the lead and unlike Wednesday, held on to it and they completed the best first half of a regular season in five years.
After knocking at the door several times to no avail, Cheverus got the jump in the 12th minute, when freshman Emma Gallant headed the ball to classmate Lauren Jordan at the near post and Jordan rammed it home for a 1-0 lead.
Despite good chances both ways, the score stayed that way for 63 minutes until Gallant set up senior Katie Gordon for the clincher with 5:17 remaining.
The Stags slammed the door from there and went on to a 2-0 victory.
Cheverus improved to 5-1-1 and dropped Thornton Academy to 3-4 in the process.
“The last game was a setback because we could have beaten them, but we didn’t get the result we wanted,” Gordon said. “Today, we came out with a lot of fire for sure. We weren’t going to walk off the field without a win.”
Cheverus began the 2016 season with a 3-0 loss at Portland, but showed signs of life and since then, has impressed mightily. The Stags got things rolling with a 3-1 home victory over Marshwood, then downed visiting Massabesic (3-0), host Westbrook (3-0) and host Noble (3-2). Wednesday, Cheverus and visiting Windham played to a 3-3 draw after the Stags couldn’t hold a two-goal second half lead.
“When the final whistle blew, I looked out on the field and girls had their heads down and their hands on their hips and I liked that because this group wants to win,” said Cheverus coach Craig Roberts. “They want more than ties. The girls have goals. They know to give up two, two-goal leads isn’t good enough.”
Thornton Academy began 2016 with a 3-1 victory at Massabesic. After blanking visiting Westbrook, 3-0, Thornton Academy suffered its first loss, 3-1, at Marshwood, then fell, 1-0, at Portland, the Golden Trojans’ first setback against the Bulldogs in a dozen years, and lost at home, 2-0, to Windham. Wednesday, Thornton Academy returned to form with a 2-0 home victory over Noble.
Last year, Cheverus knocked off host Thornton Academy, 1-0.
Friday, the Stags did it again, this time at Boulos Stadium.
It took a mere 30 seconds for Cheverus to get its first chance, but senior Emily Turner shot just wide.
Gallant and Jordan both just missed wide and on a corner kick, junior Mackenzie Johnston’s feed to Jordan resulted in a shot just high.
After Thornton Academy senior goalkeeper Abigail Cook denied Gallant, the Stags finally broke through.
The goal was set up by a cross from Turner. The ball came up top to Gallant, who headed it toward the goal and Jordan was there to finish the shot for a 1-0 lead with 28:46 to go before halftime.
“I knew the ball would go there, so I was just hanging out there and I put it home,” Jordan said.
Roberts immediately encouraged his charges to avoid a letdown and they responded, thanks to some fine defense and goalkeeping from junior Katie Boynton.
In the 17th minute, Boynton had to dive to rob Golden Trojans junior Adeline Paradis.
After Johnston had a shot saved and Gallant rang a gorgeous shot off the crossbar, the visitors earned a free kick just outside the box, which junior Elizabeth Bell sent on target only to have Cheverus junior back Michaela Jordan head out of harm’s way.
In the 21st minute, Michaela Jordan again came up huge, breaking up a rush by Thornton Academy sophomore Hannah Niles.
With just over 10 minutes remaining before halftime, Niles was on the brink of going one-on-one with Boynton, but at the last second, freshman defender Grace Elwell knocked her off the ball.
After Cheverus couldn’t capitalize on a loose ball in the box on a corner kick, Boynton had to make a save as Niles’ cross to senior Kerrigan Goudreau was headed on target.
With 6:02 left, Gallant again just missed and the score remained 1-0 at halftime.
In the first half, the Stags had six shots on frame to one for the Golden Trojans.
In the second half, opportunities were fewer.
Early on, Cheverus junior Abby Cavallaro broke up Goudreau’s possession in the box and senior Abby Carignan’s header off a corner kick sailed over the bar.
The hosts had a golden opportunity to double their lead with 31:39 remaining, but on a throw from Elwell which bounced in the box, Gallant shot just wide.
In the 56th minute, Carignan got her foot on a corner kick, but sent the ball wide.
The Stags then returned to the attack, but a shot from Gordon was saved and an apparent breakaway by Turner was stymied by junior defender Alana Pettaway.
With 18:29 remaining, Paradis sent a shot on goal, but Boynton fielded it on a hop.
Thornton Academy had a good chance with 14:56 to go, when Niles fired a bender through traffic, but Boynton calmly made the save.
Cheverus again had a bid to put the game away with 12:42 left, when Gallant headed the ball ahead to Lauren Jordan on the right flank, but Jordan’s shot rolled just wide of the far post and seconds later, a long shot from Gordon was saved by Cook.
With 11:53 remaining, Niles sent a through ball into the box for Goudreau, but Boynton beat her to it.
Gordon tried to clinch it in the 72nd minute, but her shot barely cleared the crossbar.
Two minutes later, on a free kick from Johnston, Cook punched the ball out to Lauren Jordan, who headed it wide.
Then, finally, with 5:17 to go, the Stags got that all important second tally, as Gallant set up Gordon in space and Gordon ripped a shot past Cook to the goalie’s left and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
“One thing about these girls is that they’re resilient, really smart and they adapt quickly,” Roberts said. “We’ve talked about when teams play deep, we have to play in front of their backs and our midfielders have to join and combine. That’s exactly what we’ve been working on. It was nice to get an insurance goal late and see what we’ve been working on come to fruition. Katie is big and strong and she’s been there. That was a nice finish.”
Down the stretch, Cheverus’ defense didn’t allow the Golden Trojans to have a good scoring chance and the Stags were able to celebrate their victory.
Cheverus finished with a 11-3 shots advantage. Boynton made three saves.
“Katie Boynton has been outstanding for us,” Roberts said. “I told her at the beginning of the season that we just need her to stay focus and stop the shots we need her to shot. She’s done that.”
The Stags continued to get excellent efforts from their freshmen players.
“They’re all good athletes and they’re soccer players,” Roberts said. “Julia Ryan has been outstanding. She’s poised with the ball. She’s technically good on the tackle. Sam Belaire, Grace Elwell, they don’t get the attention Lauren and Emma get for scoring goals, but having them step in has been big and combined with Michaela Jordan and Abby Cavallaro, who are veteran leaders.”
Cook stopped eight shots for Thornton Academy.
Corner kicks were even, 5-5.
The Golden Trojans have a big week upcoming, hosting Bonny Eagle and Gorham. Thornton Academy was ranked 13th in the Class A South Heal Points standings at press time, but only 12 teams qualify for the playoffs.
Cheverus (which currently sits third) faces a daunting road challenge against Scarborough Wednesday. The Stags then host Bonny Eagle Friday and play at Gorham Wednesday, Oct. 5.
The sky is the limit for this squad.
“I’m not surprised we’re playing this well,” Lauren Jordan said. “I look forward to all the games. I haven’t played in high school so they’re all the same to me.”
“Our whole team has come together as one,” Gordon said. “We’ve really connected on the field. The freshmen have been good additions. We have to keep playing hard and we can’t take any games for granted.”
“I want the girls to get to the next level,” Roberts added. “We need to play an entire 80 minutes and we haven’t done that yet. We need to be better organized defensively. We’re giving up too much space. Teams that play well out of the back will connect and put pressure on our back four. That’s going to be a focus of ours moving forward.
“All the teams we have left are tough. We can’t have letdowns. We could win the rest of our games, or lose the rest of our games. We can’t get too high or too low.”
Cheverus junior goalkeeper Katie Boynton cradles the ball on the ground next to prone Thornton Academy senior Kerrigan Goudreau after breaking up Goudreau’s rush.
Cheverus freshman Lauren Jordan handles the ball between a pair of Thornton Academy defenders.
Cheverus junior Mackenzie Johnston heads the ball away from Thornton Academy junior Elizabeth Bell.
Thornton Academy senior goalkeeper Abigail Cook punches the ball away from Cheverus senior Meredith Cilley.
Cheverus senior Emily Turner pushes the ball up the field.
Cheverus senior Katie Gordon boots home the game’s second goal.