PORTLAND—Even on days when it doesn’t produce its finest effort, Cheverus’ girls’ soccer team still finds a way to win and as the season passes its midway point, the Stags continue to demonstrate that they’re as dangerous as anyone in a deep and balanced Class A South.
Friday afternoon at Shea Field, Cheverus took a 1-0 lead over visiting Thornton Academy when senior Zoe Mazur scored off junior Lauren Jordan’s throw in the 20th minute.
When junior speedster Emma Gallant added to the lead with 27:15 to play, it appeared the Stags were en route to an easy victory, but the Golden Trojans kept fighting and were rewarded with 18:16 on the clock, when senior Hannah Niles buried a direct kick.
That’s as close as Thornton Academy would get, however, as Cheverus held on to prevail, 2-1.
The Stags won their fourth game in a row, improved to 7-1, ended the Golden Trojans’ three-game win streak and dropped them to 3-4 in the process.
“We pushed back and we held them off,” said Cheverus coach Craig Roberts. “We showed some resiliency which is good to see as a coach.”
One goal was all that separated Cheverus from a perfect record entering play Friday.
The Stags blanked Kennebunk, 2-0, in the opener, then won at Portland (3-0) and at home against Massabesic (4-0). After a 1-0 home loss to Gorham, Cheverus bounced back with a 9-1 home victory over Massabesic, a 2-0 win at Falmouth and an 8-0 victory at Westbrook.
Thornton Academy, meanwhile, started 0-3 after losses at home to Marshwood (2-1) and at Gorham (2-0) and Scarborough (4-0), before turning things around to defeat visiting Sanford (3-1), visiting South Portland (2-1) and host Massabesic (7-0).
Last year, Cheverus beat the Golden Trojans, 3-1, in Saco.
Friday, Thornton Academy sought its first win over the Stags since 2014, but instead, Cheverus won its fourth straight in the series.
Early in the contest, Gallant missed just wide, sophomore Mia Kratzer was just off-target and Gallant twice forced Golden Trojans sophomore goalkeeper Grace Mears to make sprawling saves.
The Stags then broke through with 20:42 to play in the first half. Off a throw from Jordan, Mazur handled the ball beautifully, deadening it with her first touch before turning and striking the ball with her left foot and sending it just past Mears and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
“We practice the throw-in practice,” Mazur said. “I tapped it and I had extra room and I just took (the shot).”
“Zoe is a target, but usually it’s with her head,” Roberts said. “She did a nice job to take a touch and play left-footed. That was a really nice goal.”
Mears kept the score 1-0 by denying freshman Julia Kratzer, Gallant and freshman Hayley Jordan and Cheverus sophomore goalkeeper Neve Cawley stopped a shot by junior Alyanna Beaudoin to preserve the lead heading into the half.
In the first 40 minutes, the Stags enjoyed a 6-2 edge in shots on frame, but the lead was still tenuous.
The game would remain taut in the second half as well.
After Thornton Academy tried to pull even on a corner kick, which saw Cawley make a save, and Niles fire a long shot which Cawley also cradled, Cheverus doubled its lead with 27:15 on the clock.
It would be Gallant doing the honors, finding space, fighting through a pair of defenders, then launching a left-footed shot past Mears and into the net for a 2-0 advantage.
“I saw space in the middle between their defense and midfield and I kept attacking that space,” Gallant said. “I fought my way through and that was my first OK strike of the day.”
That goal awakened the Golden Trojans and with 18:16 remaining, after a foul, Niles lined up a free kick from 25 yards out and sent it over the defensive wall and beyond Cawley’s outstretched hands, into the upper 90 on the right side to cut the deficit to 2-1.
“That was just a nice goal they had,” Mazur said. “There wasn’t much you could about that.”
“It was just a good shot,” Roberts said. “She hit it well.”
Thornton Academy then looked to draw even and extend the game, but sophomore Hazel Stoddard missed wide, Beaudoin sent a shot just wide, Cawley saved a long shot off the foot of sophomore Kylie Bedard and Niles missed a shot late.
Cheverus then cleared the ball and ran out the clock on its 2-1 victory.
“We had to communicate and keep our shape to hold them off,” Mazur said. “We have good team chemistry and work well together.”
“I thought that Thornton Academy played hard for 80 minutes and I give them all the credit in the world,” Roberts said. “For stretches of the game, they wanted it more than us. We had stretches where we played hard too and we didn’t back down. It’s a well-deserved win and we’ll take it certainly.”
Cheverus out-shot Thornton Academy, 8-7, and got six saves from Cawley.
The Golden Trojans had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks and got six saves from Mears, but fell just short.
Thornton Academy is home with Windham Wednesday and travels to Kennebunk Friday.
Cheverus, meanwhile, hopes to keep the wins coming when it has a key test at Bonny Eagle Wednesday. The Stags play at Deering next Friday.
“We have to take it game-by-game,” Gallant said. “We just want to go as far as we can.”
“We’re starting to click, but we’re not completely there,” Roberts said. “We have to be able to attack in a variety of ways and we’re really close. We have a chance to get better and prove we deserve to be in the discussion with the top teams.”